Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ekiti: A post-mortem

The contentious and hotly-contested Ekiti State gubernatorial re-run elections ended on a controversial note last week with the declaration of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Engineer Segun Oni, as winner. The state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mrs Ayoka Adebayo, who announced the result, said Oni polled 111,140 votes against Action Congress (AC) candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi’s 107,017. She advised anybody who was not happy with the results to go to the elections petitions tribunal. Oni has since been sworn in as governor.

The AC immediately rejected the result. Its spokesman, Alhaji Lai Muhammed said the party would contest the verdict in court. Specifically, the party maintained its earlier rejection of the results from eight wards in Ido Osi, that were not collated at the designated Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in the area before it was set ablaze. The REC was alleged to have initially rejected the results prior to her initial withdrawal from the elections, but later accepted them.

The earlier postponed re-run election in two wards in Oye Ekiti, however, witnessed poor voter turnout, with Oni scoring 1,239 to Fayemi’s 830, in an area that had been touted to have 18,000 registered voters. However, the election was peaceful, with both parties commending the security arrangement.
It is unfortunate that the re-run polls, which had generated so much tension and drama before it held, still ended on a controversial note. The contentions that led to the re-run still abound.

With the declaration of Oni as governor, however, INEC has passed the ball to the court of AC. The party may consider taking up the REC’s challenge and contest the result at the elections petitions tribunal, if it genuinely believes it has been robbed of victory, and has sufficient grounds to call for the nullification of Oni’s victory. But the party should eschew violence and other illegal tactics. It should pursue its case within the bounds of the law.

In this regard, we urge the elections petitions tribunal to be quick and fair in adjudging the case whenever it is brought before it. The tribunal should not compound the unsavoury situation at hand with undue subjectivity and partiality, which are anathema to democracy.
The lingering controversy on the Ekiti gubernatorial polls is, indeed, worrisome. It does not give any cause for cheer. Apportioning blame at this point by the two parties is unhelpful. The electorate and the parties should leave the matter for the tribunal, which is empowered to address it and ensure that justice is done.

However, Nigerians will do well to learn useful lessons from the Ekiti saga. One of these is the negative impact of violence and intimidation on voter turnout in elections, as happened in Oye Ekiti.
Another burning issue is that of the failure of the REC to reveal the manner of pressure on her Christian conscience which made her withdraw from the elections, to go into hiding initially. Her allegations of pressure, and the latter volte-face have cast aspersions on the genuineness of the results she has declared. She needs to open up on this matter to give credibility to the result, and to convince Nigerians that she was not unduly influenced by the self-confessed pressure on her to compromise the outcome of the polls. Her acceptance of the contentious Ido-Osi results also calls for explanations.

In addition, the advice Mrs Adebayo gave to those who are not happy with the polls to contest it at the tribunal is both escapist and inappropriate. It is suggestive of prior admission of improper conduct of the election. It would have been better if she had assured Nigerians that the polls were conducted in a free and fair manner, rather than the open challenge to aggrieved persons to contest its outcome.

The unending Ekiti polls debacle is yet another confirmation that our politicians do not learn from history. Their desperation for public office questions their motives. The battle for public office should not be a do or die affair if, indeed, the motive is to serve the people. Our politics needs to reach a stage where elections will not only be free and fair, but candidates are both legally and morally qualified to hold the offices they occupy.

The bastardisation of democracy and public service in Nigeria under the excuse that we are in a learning process is no longer acceptable. For how long will Nigeria be under this interminable learning process?
One other fact that has emerged from the Ekiti re-run polls is the remarkable strength of the AC in the state. The PDP, according to the REC, won the election by only 4,123 votes. The import of this is that AC has a strong following in the state, even if the PDP genuinely won the election.

What this should tell Oni and the PDP, or whoever emerges winner at the elections tribunal, is the wisdom of carrying the other candidate and party along. It will be in the interest of the winner of the contest to win the other party over and collabrate for the sake of peace and stability in the state. A unity government will not be out of place under the present circumstance. The sooner this electoral dispute is permanently resolved, the better for peace and good governance in the state.