All is set for the governorship election in Ekiti State, western Nigeria, on Saturday, 21 June. At least 413,708 voters are expected to cast their ballots for candidates of their choice tomorrow.
The leading contenders are incumbent governor Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Opeyemi Bamidele of the Labour Party.
On Friday, the eve of the election, there was heavy security presence all over the state and the whole state is tense as a result of the overwhelming presence of soldiers, policemen and other security personnel such as State Security Service, SSS, operatives and men of Civil Defence Corps deployed from different states.
Cars with Presidency inscription, and Lagos and Abuja plate numbers have flooded the state and their occupants blared sirens all over the major towns.
As a result of lack of accommodation, the policemen took over the secretariat of Nigeria Union of Teachers, NUT, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE and some private shops.
On Wednesday, they occupied the major roads drinking, dancing and indiscriminately playing with their guns, saying that they were battle-ready.
Virtually all the security personnel, including SSS operatives, embarked on a show of strength on the streets.
People of the state are already scared as they do not know what will happen tomorrow and there are strong indications that some of them would not come out to vote because they would not want anything ugly to happen to them.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has assured the residents of the state that the election would be conducted under a peaceful atmosphere because structures for this have been put in place.
Speaking in Ado Ekiti, INEC PRO in the state, Mr. Taiwo Gbadegesin, said that voting will take place in 2,195 polling booths and that out of the 732,166 voters cards printed, 413,708 cards have been collected.
“It means that as at the time I am talking to you, only 413,708 registered voters are eligible to vote tomorrow. We can’t have a result that will be more than this number,” Gbadegesin added.
He stated that 10 resident electoral commissioners and six national commissioners have been deployed to the state, adding that 16 of them would be deployed to each local government area to supervise the distribution of electoral materials and monitor activities on election day.
“We have 16 local governments in Ekiti. INEC will send one commissioner to one local government. That means that each local government will be monitored by a commissioner. This is to ensure that nothing goes wrong and we will do everything possible to ensure that nothing goes wrong,” he said.
Though Gbadegesin assured journalists that they will not be intimidated, some of the newsmen have started complaining of harassment by security operatives.
Some security operatives prevented some photo-journalists from taking shots.
As at the time of filing this report, the state INEC Commissioner, Alhaji Hussaini Halilu Pai, was touring the state to ensure a hitch-free election tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Mission to Nigeria on Thursday said it would monitor the Ekiti governorship election on Saturday with at least 30 accredited election observers.
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, made this known in a video message released by the embassy 48 hours to the poll to elect the next governor of Ekiti.
The ambassador’s message said a well-conducted election free of violence would demonstrate the credibility of the electoral system in the run-up to the general elections in February 2015.
Entwistle called on INEC to ensure that registered Ekiti voters would be able to cast their ballots without hindrance.
He also urged the security services to provide security in an impartial and judicious manner, and appealed to candidates and parties to play by the rules at every step of the process.
He urged voters in Ekiti to go to the polls, while expressing the hope that all electoral stakeholders would meet the high standards expected by the Nigerian people.