Nigeria: Marred Ekiti polls and electoral double standards

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Gubernatorial re-run elections in Ekiti, Nigeria has been tainted with the alleged usage of hired thugs to intimidate people, bribery of election officials and rigged votes. The situation has raised concerns over the country’s next general elections looming in 2011. Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has said there is a need for urgent reform of Nigeria’s electoral system.

Mr. Segun Oni, Ekiti State governor thrown out of office two years ago on charges of mass vote fraud will now return to office after winning the re-run election on account of vote rigging, violence and intimidation.

The re-run of the election was initially held last week, but the results were withheld by the electoral commission for reasons of alleged fraud by the opposition. The electoral commissioner then went into hiding. Her actions sparked angry demonstrations, with women marching half-naked in the streets, in anger.

However the electoral commissioner was available yesterday to announce Mr. Oni as winner of the second re-run election which was equally marred by alleged fraud claims and intimidation of voters as last week’s.

Opposition supporters were enraged as the electoral commissioner declared victory for the fraud accused governor of the Peoples Democratic Party by a narrow margin of 4,000 votes. After Mr. Oni’s victory was announced, heavily-armed police and soldiers were out in force in the state capital of Oye Ekiti, where the Tuesday’s hotly-disputed re-run poll for the post of governor took place.

Observers claim that both parties hired thugs to intimidate people, bribed election officials and rigged votes in the elections (last week re-runs and this week’s).

According to reports, this victory by the once ousted PDP man is likely to be challenged because of the double standard shown by the electoral commission and also because Ekiti state is seen as an opposition stronghold.

Mr. Segun Adeniyi, special adviser to the Nigerian president on media and publicity, said that, like every Nigerian, Mr. Yar’Adua wanted and still wants, free and fair elections in Ekiti State. He also said that regrettably the Ekiti saga had over-heated the Nigerian political scene, and is a strong reminder of the need to reform the country’s electoral process.

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