Ekiti Elections: What If?

It started like a rolling thunder. But it ended almost like a lullaby. Lyrics of democracy on the mend.

It could not have been predicted that the gubernatorial election in Ekiti state would end the way it did. No, it is not the loss by Governor Fayemi. Not even the victory by Governor-elect Fayose. It is the genteel, no-victor-no-vanquished, I-am-your- brother and you-are-a -saint embrace of both Fayemi and Fayose that has created this surreal atmosphere. Even Labour Party gubernatorial candidate Bamidele Opeyemi, despite his mega loss, had no anger.

Just a few days prior to the election, the campaign leaders of the political parties could not find words harsh enough to describe their opponents. Violence, unrelenting and ascending, continually seized Ekiti, and tension enveloped a people who were well known for their hard headedness. Incumbent Governor Fayemi cried out that even his life was threatened when police bullets were shot  in his direction whilst in a convoy.

Applause has greeted the comportment of Fayemi for his acceptance of defeat with no rancor. He has even said that he would not contest the election. It is an unusual departure from after-act of political elections of which he profited in a court decision against his immediate predecessor, Governor Oni. Shortly after the recent election, Fayemi met with Fayose and they appear to be orchestrating a smooth, hugging-friendly transition of power.

Analysts have gone to town to explain why Fayemi lost and Fayose won, or to assert that actually it was Ekiti people who won in their decision, and that democracy is the real victor.

Whilst democracy is desirable and people should freely express their wish and will, some of the events and happenings in Ekiti just before and during the election raised questions on how democracy is nurtured. Democracy may be universal in meaning but its application is not  the same in each setting. Nor does it follow a preset plan in all cases. Where visible signs of un-democratic tenets appear,  it behoves the people to point it out and correct it, lest it becomes a cankerworm that afflicts society and ruins it.

The election in Ekiti should not be remembered only for the smooth transition that appears to be underway. There is more to it, and its lessons should not be buried in the ovation, much as it is welcomed.

The fighting that accompanied the electoral campaigns was massive and it kept growing. Killings were reported. The state was heated up and scare stories were many. Some opinion formers wrote that certain of the major contestants in the gubernatorial election were arming  seriously to disrupt the election and make it impossible. A situation would be created where government could no longer function and constitutional measure would be taken to declare a state of  emergency and impose alternative administration in Ekiti state. Others said that massive rigging apparatus had been embedded in the electoral process and the outcome of the election was already a foregone conclusion. Interestingly  PDP  and APC were cited respectively by various analysts as intended beneficiaries of the two dire scenarios.

None of the horrific expectations happened on election day. There was massive presence of military and police and other security services in Ekiti state prior to, and during the election. Reports spoke of some 12,000 security personnel in the state. They took unprecedented security measures. At least two governors were confirmed to have been prevented from attending a political rally by APC. Some journalists were refused coverage of the election and some political leaders were arrested.

It is difficult for a casual observer to determine the right or wrong of these actions. Media reports alone cannot come close to providing the insight that security services have and that led them to take actions as reported. Some protests have been heard from affected people. But no claim has been made to characterize the actions as having fundamentally affected the final count or announcement of results. More importantly, judging by the outcome of their actions, the security measures taken appear to have served the end – conduct of a peaceful election where people’s votes decided the outcome. Most reports to date appear to sing from the same hymn book. In fact, reports from the media and observers were in agreement that the election was peaceful and the process was overwhelmingly transparent. The conclusion that must be drawn is that the results of the gubernatorial election in Ekiti state represented the wish of the people.

According to a statement by Cleen Foundation on the conduct of the Ekiti election, “There was very heavy deployment of security personnel across the state for the election. This occasioned significant restrictions of movement in some areas. However, no major incidents of security breach were recorded and their presence did not hinder the electoral process.” In the main the impression is created that the heavy security and measure thereof produced positive results.

Given the calmness that prevailed, the overall success of the voting procedures, and the acceptance of the final results by all parties, the means that were used appear to justify the end. But herein lies the problem.

Paradoxically, the same kind of security measures as were adopted in Ekiti can lead to different outcomes. Series of negative outcomes where peoples votes do not count and where the authorities that control the security apparatus can decide the result of elections as they desire. It is not a fantasy, it has happened many times in Nigeria.  It raises a fundamental question about uses and abuses of security personnel for elections and how to minimize and eliminate such misuse.

Security personnel are trained and oriented to obey orders. They maintain law and order, ostensibly in the best interest of the nation. But security personnel are hardly privy to the ultimate goal of the order  which part  they are enforcers.  In a chain of command each person or section fulfills its own ‘mandate’, as it were, with the expectation that all will arrive at same end.

For example,what if the security personnel in Ekiti were merely an  extension of a powerful political party or persons and their actions were aimed at undermining the wishes of the electorate? What if the security personnel were to enforce a decision to make the election a useless exercise?

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post first appeared on Sahara Reporters.

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