Ekiti election may have come and gone but there is a lot to reflect upon ahead of future elections. This was why YIAGA Africa hosted a high-level round table discussion on the just concluded Ekiti Governorship Elections.
YIAGA AFRICA’s Watching The Vote on Tuesday hosted National Commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Civil Society Organisations, Security agencies and media to highlight the prospect and challenges of the just concluded Governorship Elections in Ekiti.
As expected, the issue of Vote buying took centre stage as various stakeholders took time out to condemn reported voter inducement during the just concluded Governorship Elections in Ekiti State. Speaking during the round table held in Abuja, National Commissioner of INEC in charge of South-west, Prince Adedeji Soyebi condemned the issue of vote buying which he described as a monster which should not continue.
According to Prince Soyebi, tracking Vote buying is becoming difficult for the commission as over 80% of vote buying takes place after citizens cast their votes. He said, “we need to come to a level of criminalizing both Vote buying and selling”.
Soyebi said that though INEC did a good job in conducting credible election in the Ekiti state, the only thing people remembered about the election was the issue of vote-buying.
The national electoral commissioner said that the menace had eaten deep into the political system of the country and needed to be stopped.
“It makes it very difficult for the commission to really have a say because the moment the person casts his or her vote, he or she goes somewhere to collect his or her money.’’
He said that the commission had been talking about vote-buying since the Anambra election and would continue to do so through increased sensitisation of voters, through voter education for them to shun the act.
Soyebi said that when it became impossible for politicians to snatch ballot boxes, they resorted to buying votes.
During the discussion, Commissioner in charge of Operations Hajiya Amina Zakari lauded YIAGA AFRICA for successful deployment of the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) methodology in the Ekiti elections and other elections in recent times. Hajiya Zakari said, early deployment of INEC Personnel and materials was due to proper planning which has become a norm in the commission saying it took recommendations from CSOs like YIAGA AFRICA.
Hajia Zakari, said that INEC did not rig the election in any way because the same template it used in Ekiti state was what it had been using since the Kogi governorship election.
“Deployment of technology has improved the quality of our elections but has also increased the cost of elections”, she said. “After every election, we debrief and identify challenges and factors corrections into the next elections”, Hajiya Zakari said.
She further commended deployment of security which according to her has reduced ballot box snatching and stuffing to the barest minimum. The only issue according to the National Commissioner, is Vote buying which she condemns strongly. According to her vote buying not only undermine the legitimacy of the elected but also affects quality of governance saying we need to continue to speak against the monster while urging security to rise to the challenge of arresting and prosecuting offenders.
While appreciating the contribution of major election stakeholders towards advancing our democracy, Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, Samson Itodo said, though the election went well, there was need for INEC to address voter inducement, a development he noted had reached “astronomic and very embarrassing heights “and undermining the country political legitimacy.
He described the act as a mockery of Nigeria democratic process which needed to be addressed with critical input of everyone in the country. Mr Itodo also said that the results declared by INEC during Ekiti state governorship election reflected the votes counted.