Today, March 9, Nigerians have gone to the polls to elect governors in 29 states of the federation for the next four years. They will also elect members of the states House of Assembly across the 36 states of the country until 2023. There will be no governorship elections in about seven states, including Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo and Kogi. But in those states, there will be state assembly elections. Already, there are indications that some states are going to pose problems both for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies.

Such states include Ogun, Imo, Kwara, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Benue and Sokoto. In those states, the battles are expected to be fierce because of the desperation of some governors on the one hand to hold onto their seats, to install their stooges or to ensure that their godfathers do not have their ways in the elections. In Ogun and Imo, for instance, the battle is between the outgoing governors – Ibikunle Amosun and Rochas Okorocha – and their party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). The governors are bent on installing their successors on another platform at all cost. The ambition of the two governors has pitched them against APC, with the tendency that their ambition might either ruin them or their party’s chances.

In Akwa Ibom, the desire of the former governor of the state and ex-Minority Leader of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, to install Nsima Ekere over the incumbent governor, Udom Emmanuel, is the issue. Akpabio is still reeling in the pains of losing the senatorial election to Dr. Chris Ekpeyong.

There is also the desperation of the Federal Government to have a hold on one of the core oil producing states, of which Akwa Ibom has become a prime target, ostensibly because of Akpabio’s famed strength. In Rivers, APC is excluded from the elections. But from the violence recorded in Akoku Toru Local Government Area of the state in the February 23 presidential elections, there is the possibility of a repeat of the lawlessness. That is owing to the rivalry between Governor Nyesom Wike and the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. In Sokoto State also, the battle is to ensure that the incumbent governor, Aminu Tambuwal, does not return. Again, APC is bent on snatching the state from Tambuwal to pay him back for defecting to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last year.

It is the same case with Kwara State, where APC is engaged in a battle of supremacy with the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. Saraki, like Akpabio, lost his Senate seat on February 23. He is hurt and the battle is expected to be fierce. We have no doubt that the stakes are higher this Saturday as politics is local. The implication is that both INEC and the security agencies need to brace up manning the elections.

There is need for more vigilance on Saturday as there are more likelihood of violence and acts that are not in line with democratic growth. At the last presidential and National Assembly elections, not less than 30 Nigerians met their untimely deaths at different states of the federation. We do not expect such figures this time. We are opposed to the idea of sacrificing the lives of Nigerians for elections they are not even contesting. We did not hear of any contestant that died on February 23. It is only ordinary Nigerians who had come out to exercise their civic rights that paid the price with their lives. Elections are not war.

They are meant to elect decent men and women who will run the affairs of the country for the next four years. At the end of the day, after all the noise, only one person is elected to occupy a particular position. We therefore insist that elections should be kept decent if they are meant to elect decent people to man different positions in the interest of the people. We say no to politics of do-or-die. We also implore INEC and the security agencies to plug the gaps identified in the February 23 elections.

We expect that by now, INEC would have completed its internal assessment of the conduct of the elections with a view to covering whatever lapses that were observed at the last elections. That is the same message to security agencies. A situation where the Army particularly meddles in civil elections is objectionable and unacceptable. They should be kept out of the election process.

We are of the belief that all the candidates have the interest of the country and their states at heart. We also believe that their motivation for coming out is to offer service to the country and their states towards their betterment. It is neither a personal ego trip for the candidates nor a competition for their personalities. It is the interest of the people that is at stake.

That is why we expect INEC, the umpire of the elections, to be at its best. It must not only be fair, but must be seen to be fair. INEC has no business being partisan or favouring one candidate or the other against the wishes of the people. We, therefore, expect free, fair and credible elections today.

Source: New Telegraph

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