Though the election in Ekiti state has come and gone, it leaves behind it, sour traces of odious conducts on the part of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), that will forever remain indelible in the battered subconsciousness of Ekiti people and indeed Nigerians as a whole. It remains an ineradicable stain on the banner of acceptable electoral conduct.

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Section 158 of the 1999 Constitution provides that INEC shall not be subject to the control of any other authority in the exercise of its powers or functions. By the Third Schedule to the same Constitution, it is provided that the Commission shall have power to organise, undertake and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President, the Governor and Deputy Governor of a State, and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and the House of Assembly of each State of the Federation. What occurred in Ekiti state represented the exact opposite of these beautiful constitutional provisions.

The Ekiti State Gubernatorial election was conducted by INEC on Saturday, 14th of July, 2018. The contest was basically between the incumbent government of PDP and APC. Generally, it was believed, given the heated campaign and variegated interests at stake, that the said election will serve as litmus test for INEC’S and indeed the federal government headed by President Muhammdu Buhari’s preparedness for future free and fair elections, especially the 2019 general elections. INEC trumpeted it to high heavens, that the Ekiti gubernatorial election would sign post its template for the 2019 elections. Nigerians were elated, waited with bated animation, to see miracles happen.

However, the federal government and INEC failed woefully to secure the trust of the Ekiti people and that of Nigerians at large in their conduct, with respect to the said election. One would say that the dashed expectations might not have come as a surprise to many Nigerians. One will recall clearly, that virtually all campaign promises by President Buhari’s government, just like the expectations in the Ekiti election, have so far been dashed, to the chagrin and disappointment of Nigerians. Three years into Buhari’s administration, Nigeria is facing the worst security challenges in her chequered history. Buhari had promised Nigerians heaven on earth, in the course of his campaigns. But today, Nigerians are witnessing hell on earth, after three years of his administration. Nigeria has been turned into a gory and grisly theatre of blood and blood-letting. No day passes without news of horrific massacre across Nigeria by herdsmen. None of them has ever been apprehended and prosecuted. Life has become so cheap. Humanity has been bastardised and debased. Murders and butchery of innocent souls do not shock Nigerians any longer.

In the course of the three years of PMB’s administration, persecuted Nigerians have witnessed unprecedented lopsided, provincial, cronyistic and clannish appointments, with respect to the top security architecture of the country. Such has never happened before in the history of Nigeria, since the 1914 Lugardian amalgamation, given the federal character principle, as encapsulated in section 14 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.

The daylight robbery and manipulation of election results in Ekiti state, with the active participation by and connivance of security agencies in the country, is akin to ubiquitous marauding herdsmen, who maim and kill at will, without as little as a public official condemnation from the Presidency or the top security apparatchik of the country. Prior to the election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had cautioned INEC not to accept or announce any result that did not reflect the true votes cast at polling centres and the will of Ekiti people, as such would be a direct recipe to crisis.

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Few days to   the election, Nigerians witnessed the horrible spectre of the crude invasion of Ekiti State Government House, by armed Policemen and other security agents at the behest, instructions and guidance of the federal government under PMB, using the Police as instruments of terror and coercion. In the process of this Kamikaze-like invasion of the government house and the intimidation of the sitting governor, Ayodele Fayose, who is covered by immunity under section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, he was brutally assaulted, teargassed, shot at, brutalised and injured, leading to hospitalization at the government clinic, Ado Ekiti. His mobile lines were jammed. A security cordon was thrown around government house, preventing entry and exit. The atmosphere was devoid of one for a free and fair election. It was militarised.

The beastly conduct of the Police and the obviously acquiescing role of the federal government is, to say the least, most despotic, autocratic, undemocratic and barbaric. What happened on that day, was a clear attempt to overthrow a sitting governor in Nigeria, and if possible, assassinate him. All because of election! God bless President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan: “My ambition is not worth the drop of blood of a single Nigerian”. Immortal words indeed!

By the provisions of sections 39 and 40, of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as altered, the people of Ekiti state have fundamental rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. The PDP in Ekiti State and its teeming supporters needed no permit from the Police before holding their peaceful rally, on that day, just like the APC led by the President had a day earlier, held theirs, without any Police permit (See ANPP vs. IGP (2007) 19 NWLR (Pt.1066) 457.

The Governor of Ekiti State is the Chief Security Officer of the state (section 215 of the 1999 Constitution), and consequently, barricading the government house and meting out physical assault, inhuman and degrading treatment on the person of the governor, constitute a dangerous reminder of the gory hey days of ruthless military dictatorships in the sad history of Nigeria. (See section 34 of the Constitution).

Power, it is said, belongs to God. But, it was expected that who became the next governor of Ekiti State ought to be at the behest of God, but as desired by the Ekiti people, not by an invading Army. It was not supposed to be forced down the throats of the people by the power of the gun or teargas, or manipulation. A government that wantonly tramples on the fundamental rights of its helpless citizenry can never be trusted by the same citizens.

Nigerians today live in morbid fear. They are no longer free to express their opinions. The executive arm of government is now harassing, brow-beating, intimidating and subduing opposition, critical voices and every other arm of government to submission. Judgments and orders of courts are disregarded with impunity, as just happened for the 6th time in the botched bail of Col Sabo Dasuki.  We have witnessed unspeakable killings of innocent Nigerians on a daily basis; government impunity and opaqueness in governance. Nothing whatsoever, it appears, is being done by the government to address these ugly developments. It was Thomas Jefferson (former American president, who once said famously that, “when a government fears the people, there is liberty; but when the people fear their government, there is tyranny”. The latter is the situation in Nigeria today.

Besides depriving Nigerians of the basic amenities of life, the federal government with Ekiti State as a case study, is now audaciously subverting the will of the people with the sheer brute force and ferocity of the federal might. We witnessed the horrors of Police brutality, unleashing of thugs, and use of federal might. We saw INEC figures doctored and altered serially and manually, so as to arrive at an acceptable winning figure. Where is the advanced technology INEC promised Nigerians, to stop pre-loading, ballot papers falsification, et al? Nigerians experienced the horrors of ballot boxes snatching, deployment of helicopters, 30,000 Policemen, soldiers, Civil Defence Corps, Customs, Immigration and armed thugs for a mere gubernatorial election in the small state of Ekiti, with a population of 2,384,212 people, the 29th state on population index in Nigeria, and with only 16 LGA’s!

This portends that in the general presidential, National Assembly and gubernatorial elections of 2019, Nigeria would need an armada of naval, airforce, Army, armoured, Police, fighter jets and other military apparatchik to conduct the elections. This is simply insane. Elections in Nigeria have become a war of the survival of the fittest, the victory of the most armed and the triumph of sheer might and brute force. Money baggism and deep pockets are now icing on the cake. We witnessed open bazaar of vote purchase as if vote buying was part and parcel of a free, fair and credible election. So, this is the template for 2019 elections that INEC promised Nigerians?

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The trending humour on internet right now is: “in Nigeria, we conduct elections with soldiers and Police, but fight terrorists with prayers”. Nigeria, we hail thee. Arise, O compatriots!

Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist.

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