As the Ekiti State Governorship election holds tomorrow, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared its readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
Credible poll depends on many variables and top on the list are safety and security of voters, election materials, electoral officials and freedom of voters to make their choice without let or hindrance, including financial inducement.
Contesting the poll for the governorship seat at Oke-Bareke in Ado-Ekiti are 16 political parties. Most of the parties have traversed the nooks and crannies of the state selling their candidates and manifestos to the people.
Prominent among the gladiators are Abiodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress, APC: Olusegun Oni of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Others are Wole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; Reuben Famuyibo of the Accord; Debo Ranti Ajayi of the Young People’s Party, YPP; and 10 others.
Worth mentioning is the first female governorship candidate in the state, Erelu Kemi Elebute-Halle of the Action Democratic Party, ADP. From the blast of the whistle for this race, she has been consistent and very visible, holding her own and fighting her way into reckoning in the male-dominated race. Despite the fact that all her party executive members from ward to state level decamped to the ruling party, she has been defiant and still on her feet.
The stake in this election is high. It is a three horse race. The coming of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, has changed the calculations from what could have been a straight fight between the two traditional rivals, APC and PDP. The two parties had hitherto maintained a seemingly balance of power, with almost equal followership but the reality on ground today is different. Segun Oni’s SDP draws followers and supporters from both parties and is presently a serious contender.
Ekiti and Osun governorship elections precede the 2023 presidential election, and both will serve as a litmus test of the popularity and general acceptability of the APC presidential flagbearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and it will also signify the political relevance of the outgoing Governor, Kayode Fayemi.
To underscore the importance of Ekiti election, no fewer than 14 APC governors accompanied Tinubu to Ekiti, for the grand final mega rally to campaign for the governorship candidate of the party, apart from the National Chairman and Secretary of the party and other party bigwigs, including the former National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande.
Segun Oni, a former Governor of the state, between 2007 and 2010 is having his last shot at the governorship seat, having failed to stage a come-back on two different occasions through APC and PDP before finding an abode in the SDP.
Former Governor Ayo Fayose’s investment in this race is a fight for political relevance, since all politics is local, a successful enthronement of his protégé in Ekiti, will signpost a big come-back and a significant role in 2023 presidential election.
Signs preceding Saturday’s election are very ominous. Already two lives have been lost. Momentary peace, akin to the peace of grave yard has pervaded the state. Skirmishes, violent clashes among the three prominent political parties are being recorded on daily basis.
Since Monday, June 13 June, detachments of heavily armed soldiers have taken over strategic areas and flashpoints in the state, while combined forces, made up of men from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Police and Army constantly embark on patrols of major roads and highways in the state.
Undeterred by the tension in the state, the INEC has told the people of the state of its readiness to conduct a credible election.
Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday, disclosed that four national commissioners and eight resident electoral commissioners had been deployed to Ekiti State ahead of the poll.
He said that 749, 065 voters representing 76 per cent out of the 988,923 registered voters in the state have collected their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs.
He said: “Let me assure political parties and voters that the task of electing a new governor will be left in the hands of Ekiti voters. We won’t take any action that would put any party and candidate in a vantage position. We are going to do everything according to the constitution and provisions of the Electoral Act.
“To underscore how prepared we are, we have provided magnifying glasses and braile ballot papers for visually impaired citizens while the Bimodal Voters Authentication System Machines, BVAS, will be used for accreditation.
Similarly, Ekiti INEC Resident Commissioner, Dr Adeniran Tella, said the Commission would be deploying 10,269 personnel, and 3,346 BVAS equipment for the election.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, did not mince words when he declared that any threat to the nation’s bourgeoning democracy would not be tolerated.
Baba said 17,374 police personnel would be deployed to provide security cover for the June 18 governorship elections in Ekiti State.
The police Chief said: “All the 177 wards and 2,445 polling units will be manned by appropriate manpower. Let me say this, the massive deployment is not to scare the citizens, but to protect the sanctity of the ballots and the provisions of the Electoral Act.
This is apart from personnel from the National Security and Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies.
Baba dismissed the insinuation that the heavy security presence would create voters apathy saying that it would rather ensure large turnout of voters during the election
He assured the voters that adequate security personnel are on ground to ward off any security threat that can hinder them from exercising their franchise rights during the poll.
Political watchers are concerned that beyond rhetoric, the electoral umpire and the security agencies are not disclosing measures put in place to prevent financial inducement of voters, a development, which has gained currency in the recent political trajectory of the country. They said if the practice is not nipped in the bud, it could affect the outcome of the election.
Analysts Downplay Tinubu, Atiku Educational Certificates Controversy
The controversies surrounding the educational certificates of some presidential candidates who will be contesting the 2023 presidential election, have been described as a non-issue by some lawmakers and activists.
Those who spoke with The Tide over the issue, noted that such controversy was not new to the political system of Nigeria.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had claimed in the forms he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his primary and secondary school certificates were stolen by unknown persons, who invaded his home during the military junta of the ‘90s when he fled the country over his support for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
For that, many Nigerians who had raised concerns over the development called for the disqualification and prosecution of the former Lagos State governor, whom they alleged lied under oath over academic qualifications.
A non-governmental organisation, Centre for Reform and Public Advocacy recently issued an ultimatum to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector General of Police to arrest and prosecute Tinubu for allegedly supplying false information to INEC.
Legal Adviser of the group, Mr Kalu Agu, at a press briefing in Abuja, said that the alleged offence committed by the former Lagos State governor breached both the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
In the same vein, Tinubu’s running mate, Kabiru Masari told INEC that his original certificates are missing.
Reports had it that Masari in particulars submitted to INEC deposed to an affidavit on the loss of his primary and secondary schools certificates.
He, however, said that he attended Masari Primary school, Katsina State between 1972 and 1978 and obtained a Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College in 1982 and a Higher Certificate in 1995.
Masari in the sworn affidavit for ‘Loss of Some Original Documents’, obtained from Divisional Police Headquarter, Wuse Zone 3, Abuja attached to the particulars he submitted to INEC, said, in January 2021, that, while on transit within Wuse, Area FCT, Abuja, he lost his Certificate of Grade 2 Certificate from Katsina Teachers College and First Leaving Primary School Certificate issued by Masari Primary School, Katsina State, (1972-78).
He also said that all efforts made to trace the items proved abortive.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, had a few questions raised about his academic credentials.
Atiku, who served as the country’s Vice President from 1999 to 2007, was said to have not provided information on his primary education.
The 1965 West Africa School Certificate (WASC) result presented by him, allegedly identified the student as Siddiq Abubakar.
While reacting to the issue, a member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Olanrewaju Oshun said the issue of certificates as far as he was concerned, is a non-issue and unfounded.
Oshun, the member representing Lagos Mainland Constituency 2, said, “This is a man that worked with Mobil and he was recruited from his school. If he didn’t have that qualification, how was he recruited from the school? Are we saying Mobil didn’t check his qualification?
”He was a Senator and he was governor of Lagos State for eight years. All these shouts about him not having certificates are mere political gimmicks.
“If you say he doesn’t have primary and secondary school certificates, how was he able to attend a prestigious university abroad.
“You can’t be admitted into any university in Nigeria without a secondary school certificate not to talk of attending a university abroad. This is not new. They said the same thing in 2015 about Buhari.”
A United States based public affairs analyst, Prof. John Oshodi said, “At no point did Tinubu say he had no primary or secondary school education.
Even if he is not able to show the concrete certificates, whether due to being lost or accidentally damaged, how does that show he has no basic educational background?
“One thing is certain: He is a Nigerian-educated person who earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business and Administration with a major in accounting from Chicago State University in 1979.
“In past election seasons, through media hysteria, President Buhari, also an American trained military scientist with post-secondary education, was said not to have a WAEC certificate and, so, he is not eligible to vie for any elective position.
“Let’s say that Buhari’s basic educational certificates were with the military, like he said, or they could not be located, what cannot be denied by the American government is that Buhari holds a diploma from the United States Army War College.
“On the part of Atiku Abubakar, the media has it that he holds a secondary school education, although not of the highest level.
“He has post-secondary education in hygiene science and a diploma in law, and in recent times, he has worked hard and now has a master’s degree in International Relations from the United Kingdom.
“What is most stunning about the current uproar is that a basic education such as a primary or secondary school certificate is required to be president, as in the case of Tinubu.
”In 2019, it became a settled matter when the Supreme Court held that Buhari, per the constitution, is not required to possess a secondary school certificate to be qualified to run for the presidency and does not have to submit it to INEC to run for the presidency.
“Yet in a society where lawlessness and lack of respect for operating laws are rampant, you in the media and the people should be asking the presidential candidates about how they will handle monumental problems like crime and security, poverty, unemployment, poor electricity, infrastructure and road hassles, illegal substitution of candidates’ names, and human rights abuses,” Oshodi added.
INEC Laments Poor Turnout For CVR In Katsina
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says some newly registered polling units in Katsina State have not recorded any registered voter. In July 2021, INEC upgraded 1,750 voting points to polling units in Katsina State.
Speaking in an interview with journalists on Friday, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Jibril Zarewa, said there has been low turnout for the continuous voter registration (CVR) exercise across more than 60 percent of the new polling units.
He, however, said one of the reasons for the poor turnout could be the suspension of telecommunication services in some LGAs of the state due to insecurity.
“In May 2022, when we did analysis, we realised that out of the 1,750 newly established polling units, about 1,200 units did not have more than 50 people who registered in each of them,” The Tide source quoted him as saying.
“This registration involved transfers. Some of the polling units have zero registration; some have only one; some five, while some have not more than 50 people who registered.
“Although this can be attributed to the suspension of telecommunication networks in 17 of the 34 LGAs for about five months due to the security problem.
“Since the resumption of the exercise in March, out of the 1,750 polling units created, about 1,200 don’t have up to 50 people that registered in each of them.
“We are appealing to the people of those areas where the new polling units were created, to go and register, as INEC is always ready for them.”
Zarewa said initially, there were 4,902 polling units in Katsina, but with the creation of new ones, there are now 6,652 polling units in the state.
“The reasons for the creation of additional polling units are to serve the areas and decongest the congested polling units,” he added.
My WAEC Certificate Is Missing, Okowa Tells INEC
The Vice Presidential Candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections and Governor of Delta State, Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, has told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that his WAEC certificate is missing.
Okowa, in an affidavit, said he enrolled and sat for the West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 but the original certificate issued can no more be found.
The affidavit of loss of original certificate was obtained from the High Court of Justice, Delta State, in the Asaba Judicial Division on October 3, 2006.
Okowa, however, attached a Higher School Certificate obtained in 1976. According to the certificate, obtained at Edo College, Benin City, in 1976, the governor sat for four subjects, namely, General Papers (Grade B,) Physics (Grade B), Chemistry (A) and Biology (B).
The affidavit read in part, “I, Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa, adult, male, Christian, medical doctor and Nigerian citizen of House No. 4, Commissioners’ Quarters, Asaba, Delta State, do hereby make oath and state as follows:
“I personally enrolled and sat for the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) West African School Certificate (WASC) examinations in the year 1974 at Edo College, Benin City, in now Edo State.
“That I passed the said examinations and was subsequently issued the said certificate therefore. That the original of the said certificate issued to me is now missing, lost and cannot be found.
“That I make this oath for the records and do so knowing and believing the same to be true and in accordance with the Oaths Law of the Bendel State as applicable to Delta state” according to a document sighted by The Tide source.
Okowa will be the fourth politician running for the 2023 presidential election that could not present his WAEC certificate to the electoral umpire for verification and eligibility.
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