Thursday, 1st June 2023

Ekiti awaits new helmsman

By Muyiwa Adeyemi, Seye Olumide and Ayodele Afolabi, Ado Ekiti
19 June 2022   |   4:03 am
After months of intense politicking and electioneering across Ekiti State, residents, yesterday, turned out in large numbers to elect a new helmsman to steer the state’s affairs for the next four years.

PHOTO: TWITTER/Ekitidecides2022

After months of intense politicking and electioneering across Ekiti State, residents, yesterday, turned out in large numbers to elect a new helmsman to steer the state’s affairs for the next four years.

In a largely peaceful process, voters who thronged the polling units to cast their ballots expressed optimism that the best man would emerge as the next governor.

From Efon Alaaye to Ifaki, Ikogosi, Ado, and Oye Ekiti, praises were showered on the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) for the smooth conduct of the election, and its introduction of the Bimodal Voter Authentication System (BVAS) into the electoral process.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the poll, Bisi Kolawole, cast his vote in Ward 008, Unit 001 in Efon Alaaye, Efon Local Council, at about 8.35 am.

Speaking with newsmen afterward, Kolawole said the BVAS technology introduced by INEC has improved the credibility of the poll and imbued political actors and voters with more confidence in the electoral system.

He said: “There is a great improvement with the application of BVAS. The accreditation and voting were done simultaneously. The process has been accelerated by this. There is an improvement by INEC.”

The All Progressives Congress Governorship candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, who was accompanied by his wife, Olayemi, cast his vote at Okelele Ward 06, Unit 003, in Ikogosi Ekiti, Ekiti West Local Council.

Speaking after casting his vote, he expressed confidence that victory was his in the election. He also praised INEC for improving the electoral process through the BVAS technology innovation, stating that it has made the process faster and more credible.

He equally hailed the voters for enthusiastically trooping out en masse to cast their votes, saying that with the reports he had received across the 177 wards, there was no voter apathy

“This is an improvement. I am happy that there was no case of apathy. The security build-up was also impressive, so the process has been good and fine,” Oyebanji said.

The candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Segun Oni cast his vote at Unit 6, Ward 2, Uro, Ifaki, at exactly 10.22 a.m. along with his wife, Kemi.

Among the voters who turned out en masse at the unit was 105-year-old Mama Felicia Fayomi, who was accompanied by one of her grandchildren.

While addressing the media after casting his vote, Oni alleged that there was vote-buying in Ado and Oye Ekiti, and urged security agents and other agencies to step in to stop the shenanigans.

After casting his ballot at Ward 2, Ogilolo Unit 9, in Isa-Ekiti, Governor Kayode Fayemi told residents that, “regardless of our partisan allegiances, we are all sons and daughters of this great state. Ekiti is ours to dwell in and build together. Let us vote to perpetuate our land’s heritage of honour and harmony.”

The state Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Prof Adio Folayan, who voted at Ward 04, Unit 004 in Efon Alaaye, also praised INEC for the exercise.

“You could see people exercising their voting rights unhindered. The situation is calm. There is efficiency in the application of BVAS. I voted within five minutes,” he said.

At Ifaki Ekiti Ward 1, Unit 3, the senator representing Ekiti Central, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, lauded the INEC for the introduction of BVAS, saying any technology deployed to enhance the electoral process and guarantee the sanctity of election is welcomed.

He noted that the process has been peaceful and orderly, praying that the best candidate emerges at the end of the election.

MEANWHILE, voting commenced early in most polling units in Ado Ekiti, Ilawe, Igede, Iyin, and Ifaki Ekiti, with voters queuing up to exercise their franchise peacefully. There were complaints in some of the units regarding the slow pace of the BVAS, a development that kept some voters in the queue for too long.

However, the presiding officers in the affected areas complained to INEC and got prompt attention.

The two senators representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District, Opeyemi Bamidele, and the Ekiti South Senatorial District, Biodun Olujimi respectively, and the Member representing Ekiti South Federal Constituency 2 in the House of Representatives, Femi Bamisile also expressed satisfaction with INEC over the conduct of the election.

They noted that the new technology had removed thuggery, and incidents of ballot box snatching while urging INEC to improve on the BVAS in the next election.

Bamidele said there was a need for technological innovation to encompass all facets of electoral processes, including accreditation, voting, and electronic transfer of votes.

In like manner, Senator Ayo Arise said that the BVAS had enhanced the electoral process. He commended the electoral body for coming up with the technology.

He said: “The whole process is well put together, the election has been peaceful so far, people have been conducting themselves peacefully. Reports reaching me indicate that there is a large turn out of voters in my community, and from what I have seen, the security arrangement has been excellent.”

THE Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, (NYSC), Brigadier General Muhammad Fadah, on his part, expressed delight with the adequate security provided for corps members who worked as ad hoc staff at the various polling units in the 16 local councils during the election.

Addressing newsmen at a polling unit at Ajilosun in Ado-Ekiti, Fadah noted that the election was peaceful, adding that corps members in various polling units were safe. “I have been round to see my corps members; they are all safe and the election has been going calm so far,” he said.

WHILE military personnel were stationed at entry ports between Ado, Iyin Ekiti, and Ifaki Ekiti, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) were also seen parading to ensure orderliness and peaceful conduct of the poll in all the towns. This did not, however, deter cases and complaints of vote-buying.

Following the allegation of inducement of voters, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were also seen in large numbers in some polling units where some agents of some parties were alleged to have engaged in what is known in local parlance as “see and buy.”

It was alleged that a particular party offered as much as N10, 000 to each voter that voted for its candidate, while other parties offered between N2, 000 and N5, 000.

Efforts to speak to operatives of EFCC were not successful as they declined to confirm arrests alleged to have been made. The Guardian had earlier gathered that a party agent was allegedly arrested for inducing voters at Ola Oluwa Secondary School in Ado Ekiti.

But YIAGA Africa, a civil society organisation that monitored the governorship election, commended the EFCC for the arrests of people buying votes.

This was contained in a Mid-Day Situational Statement on the 2022 Ekiti Gubernatorial Election released by the organisation yesterday.

Briefing newsmen in Ado Ekiti, the Executive Director of YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, called on the officials of EFCC deployed to ensure full prosecution of individuals caught in the act of vote-buying/voter inducement.

YIAGA Africa noted that some voters were prevented from voting despite holding INEC-issued PVCs in areas observed by the organisation.

“YIAGA Africa also received reports of ballot box snatching in Ilawe Ward IV, near St. Patrick’s School. The incidents were reported in two polling units with codes 13/05/06/005 and 007.”

He commended the people of Ekiti State for their peaceful conduct during the voting process.

The Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), also yesterday, said the passage of the New Electoral Law, and the guidelines of INEC have encouraged more Nigerians to vote judging from the turnout in the Ekiti governorship elections.

The Coordinator of the NBA observers, Victor Giwa, who disclosed this while monitoring the election in Ifaki Ekiti, said that BVAS, which has to do with the process of accreditation and voting was posing a serious challenge in terms of the speed.

He said: “I have visited five local councils personally, and from what I have seen, the turnout is impressive. The people are now confident in the system, perhaps because of the passage of the electoral act.

“The new electoral act 2020 and probably the fact that the youths have been orientated about the fact that they can have confidence in the system to the extent that their votes will count. Before now, there was this despondency that if you vote, it won’t count but by virtue of the new electoral act and the INEC’s guidelines, section 47, 2, 3, and section 38, it has provided a situation where you cannot announce results when the numbers of accredited voters are less than the number of vote cast.

“So, people can know if there is an issue. I am sure that has informed thelarge turnout of voters. However, the issue of BVAS, which has to do with the process of accreditation and voting is posing a serious challenge in terms of speed. You know the BVAS does verification, accreditation and confirmation. Putting everything together, I think the process is encouraging and the voter turnout is very massive. It is free from violence and has no fear of rigging. It has also built a lot of confidence of electorates.

“The issue of vote-buying cannot be seen physically. I was here four years ago and the vote-buying at that time was very visible. Though we have the report of EFCC arresting some persons for vote trading, but the incidences have reduced.”