THE BALLOT HITS THE SUNSHINE STATE

The most significant period in a democratically governed society is the time when the electorates have the opportunity to exercise their franchise i.e. the period to choose a person for a political position. The election period doesn’t come often in every societies; home or abroad, far or near. Depending on the constitutional arrangement of countries, election comes up once in at least four to six years. And in some countries, what we have is unconstitutional ouster of leaders from office after years of self imposition like we saw happened in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The length of time to endure a bad leadership, sometimes I believe, explains why people can’t wait for another election year. Even in the USA, where it is generally perceived that there is transparency, accountability and a working government, people still want a change in leadership. For instance, Obama is believed to be a working President, whose administration is better than what we have here. Yet, the American people, going by the opinion polls, observations and comments, can’t wait to try another leadership in Mitt Romney,  whom they hope would deliver better on the dividends of democracy; how much more societies like ours, where governance is generally marred with inept and mal-administration, and without proper accountability. This is why I personally would suggest that, because of the obvious lack of vision and administrative know-how of some of our chosen representatives in this part of the world, elections should be a yearly affair.

Here in Nigeria, another land mark election is set to either expose us to global vilification or praise as the case may later turn out to be. In a country where elections have been marred by mal-practice for several years, the former is likely going to be the guesses of several people. However, owing to the almost smooth, free and fair account of the last elections in Edo, some pundits’ argument may favour the latter. One thing however is certain from the observers’ angle; from Ondo indigenes point of view and in many opinions, that there is a high expectation of a possible replication of what happened in Edo State during the last elections in July14 2012. The will of the people of Edo prevailed during the last election. People’s vote was made to count which gave Governor Adams Oshiomole the deserved victory.

Today, 20th of October, the people of Ondo will throng to any of the 3007 polling units, to choose, yet again a leader to paddle the canoe of administration in the state for another four years. As experienced in the general elections of 2011 and other election that follows in Bayelsa, Edo and Kogi states, the first phase of the election, which will start by 8am, will be for general accreditation of registered voters, after which the election proper will commence by 12 noon. In all the 18 local governments in Ondo, there are 3009 polling units. But election will only take place in 3007 units. This is because during the last registration exercise, the residents in the area where the other two unit’s covers couldn’t agree on various issues. Thus, INEC couldn’t conduct voter’s registration in those areas.

Since yesterday, according to Mr Akin Orebiyi, the REC in Ondo State, INEC has been distributing electoral material across the 18 local governments in the state. This according to him is to ensure punctuality and early start of the elections today. Materials are deployed to the Registration Area Centres (RACs) from the local government. The RAC is a new initiative from INEC. It’s a camp which accommodates INEC officials and materials since yesterday and is expected to be about 5 minutes from the polling units, or more in exceptional case .This arrangement is different from what we experienced in previous elections, where materials go directly to polling units from local governments. The development is initiated to reduce the risk and delay that may occur if the materials remained in the local government, and to be transported to each unit today. The distance of some of the polling units to the local government and past experiences of delay, accident and confrontation has made it necessary to initiate this new approach, more so that there were little hiccups and accidents while conveying electoral materials on the Election Day during the last Edo elections. Other arrangements made by INEC for the election includes that eight National Electoral commissioner would be present to monitor elections and ten Resident Electoral Commissioners. Since there are 18 local governments, these high electoral officials would be on ground in each of the local governments to monitor.

For the elections today, the calibre of people contesting and the resources at their disposal plus the heavy concentration of big wigs from each of the party makes one believe this election would be a close and a very tough one.

ACN is looking forward to winning the last  of the South Western state that hasn’t been captured. In 2007, ACN worked with labour to support Mimiko because it does not have a strong structure on ground to fight the then incumbent governor and PDP candidate, Olusegun Agagu. But this time, ACN is believed to have built a good structure to take over the mantle of leadership from the Labour man. With the pedigree of the ACN candidate, Olurotimi Akeredolu, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, one might be forced to assume ACN would have an easy ride.

According to this-day news paper, an opinion survey conducted by a body, Gallop Polls Nigeria Limited, Monday released the results of its own poll, declaring the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, as leading other governorship candidates with wide margin, about 77 per cent. With the candidates who are the major opponents from the other parties, it may be difficult to rely on the effect the opinion polls will have in the elections today. But Olusegun Mimiko sure has something that should work for him, the power of incumbency.

The choice of candidate made by PDP is a laudable one. Going by the political profile Of Mimiko in the past years and as the incumbent governor, and Akeredolu’s legal and national achievements, only an equally competent man can match their feats. Olusola Oke obviously poses a threat to the political ambition of the two other candidates. This is a man who obviously will give both of them a run for their money. As a former board member of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) representing Ondo State and a member of Ondo State Internal Revenue Board; also, as an elected member into the lower chamber of the National Assembly and an appointed commissioner representing Ondo State on the Governing Board of NDDC in 2000 by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he sure has what it takes. PDP may want to use this Ondo election to announce her come back into southwest.

Although, there are 13 candidates vying for the same position, the focus today will be on the three candidates of ACN, PDP and Labour. While PDP is trying to stage a comeback into the political scene in the South West, having lost its grip in previous elections, the ACN is working towards being in charge totally of the Southwest political landscape. It has five states already to its credit, this last state, Ondo, supposedly is worth fighting for going by its resources and oil. While Labour party, in a bid not to go into extinction will fight for its relevance in the only state it is ruling.

At the end of the day, the electorates are still going to be the decider. Whatever happens today hopefully will be the choice and voice of the people. Eventually, it’s going to be about the people of Ondo state. It will be about the people’s ability to interpret the motives of each of the candidate presented to them by these parties in order to decide who best represents their interest. Since politics originates and ends with the people, it is important for them to define how the intention and vision of each candidate will translate into better lives for the people. It is not enough to have electioneering and campaigns of promises all over the state, how it will improve the standard of living and reduce the cost of living in the state should be their focus today.

 

Twitter-@manueladesola