Last Saturday, a governorship election held in Ekiti State. Coming less than a year to the 2023 presidential election, Nigerians followed the Ekiti election closely. For many, it was an opportunity for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to test its readiness to give Nigerians credible elections. It was also an opportunity to experiment with the Electoral Act 2022 as amended and see whether it would make any difference in the credibility of Nigerian elections.
The results of the election have since been announced by INEC and the winner declared. While the election appears to be a notable improvement on the past, mixed reactions have trailed some of the things that happened. First, it is reported that there was massive vote buying, with voters offered between 2,000 and 5,000 Naira to vote particular candidates. Secondly, it was reported in some accounts that the voter turnout was poor. For example, it is reported that only 360,753 out of the total 988,923 registered voters, came out to vote.
Yet, good things also happened in the Ekiti election. One, there was no widespread violence or voter intimidation. Voters that came out were free to vote their choices. Two, there was no widespread rigging. INEC deployed the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), to accredit voters and to snap results which were uploaded to the INEC server right from the polling units.
The Ekiti election has proven to Nigerians, first, that votes count – that politicians know this too which is why they were offering so much money per vote. Secondly, there is power in numbers. While we may not be able to stop a few voters from selling their votes, we can troop out in such large numbers on voting day that the votes cast for money will be drowned by those cast for a better country.
Ekiti has shown that change is possible, and that change depends on us now more than ever – to get out of our houses, join a queue, obtain a voter card, come out again on election day and vote. Let us not stop believing, especially now that Ekiti has taken the lead with signs of progress.