JUSTICE, DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE MAKERS’ CENTRE CAMPAIGN FINANCE MONITORING PRE-ELECTION STATEMENT FOR THE 2022 EKITI STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION
The wheels of campaign activities for the 2022 Ekiti State gubernatorial election have finally ground to a halt with less than twenty-four hours to the commencement of polls. The period of preparation ahead of the elections has clearly been very engaging for all stakeholders particularly the INEC, contesting political parties and candidates as well as their supporters, law enforcement agencies, the media, Civil Society Organizations and the general populace.
The General Campaign Atmosphere
JDPMC deployed 16 campaign finance trackers to all the LGAs of the State to provide real-time information of the dynamics of campaign expenditures of all contesting political parties, their candidates and supporters using the Parallel expenses tracking method: a JDPMC in the last 30 days of the campaign period for the Ekiti State gubernatorial election considered to be the peak period of campaign activities, observed an unprecedented vitality in the activities of stakeholders especially the political parties, INEC, CSOs and the Media. This cannot be dissociated from the fact that this is the first election that would be regulated by the 2022 Electoral Act with its significant innovative policies.
The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) with the current perception of its capacity to make votes count and reduce significantly the tendency of contestants and their supporters to tamper with election results among other factors such as an increase in the rate of voter education, seems to have significantly reduced voter apathy, especially among the youths. This is observed to have enlightened extraordinary passion, enthusiasm and zeal of contestants and their supporters to rally the support of voters. This no doubt had a significant effect on trends and patterns of election campaigns in Ekiti state as observed in the last thirty days of campaign activities.
Preliminary Report on Campaign Finance Pattern
As technological innovations, developments in legislation and observed behavioral changes continue to improve the electoral processes in Nigeria, there has been a significant decline in the capacity of many electoral malpractices to undermine the credibility of elections. However, the inducement of voters has not only remained resistant to transformative initiatives so far, but the rate of its growth had also assumed a scandalous and unacceptable dimension between the last four years when Ekiti held its last governorship election in 2018 and the present. The trend of voter inducements in Ekiti State political campaign is observed to have logically connected Ekiti to the trajectory of the reckless fast-growing trend of a political campaign in which voter inducement is assuming prominence compared to established campaign activities. In this regard, Ekiti in the last thirty days of the campaign period which is usually the peak of campaign activities manifested a drastic decline in campaign activities despite the relatively peaceful atmosphere. This along with other observed trends of voter inducement actively in motion through the pre-election period are primary indicators that voter inducement is prioritized in the struggle of contestants to rally the support of voters ahead of the election thus setting a background for massive vote-buying on election day.
The campaign finance tracking activities of JDPMC were not isolated from the awareness of the revolutionary character of the scandalous rate of open voter inducement during the 2018 Ekiti State gubernatorial election within the overall trajectory of voter inducement and vote-buying within the last decade of the fourth republic in Nigeria. Since then, findings from the tracking of all stand-alone gubernatorial elections as well as the presidential election between 2018 and 2022 have revealed a chronological rise in the amount which prominent political parties spend on voter inducement relative to the amount spent on campaign events and items generally. This continuous rise from one election to another peaked in the 2020 Ondo gubernatorial election which was the last to have been fully observed by JDPMC ahead of the Ekiti 2022 Election. In the Ondo 2020 specifically, it was observed that the amount spent by the winner of the election on vote-buying on election day alone was almost double the total amount spent in the 90 days of campaign activities tracked by the deployed observers of JDPMC using the Parallel Expense Tracking tool. https://jdpmcosogbo.org.ng/breaking-jdpmc-releases-report-on-amount-spent-during-2020-edo-ondo-guber-elections
The outlook of campaign activities ahead of the Ekiti 2022 elections when the preeminence of voter inducement is considered, fitted it as a furtherance of the generally observed trend of voter inducement by the major political parties at all major elections. The very high rate of voter inducement observed in the pre-election atmosphere in Ekiti indicates also that the issue of vote-buying as far as the Ekiti State election is concerned is unlikely to be a departure from the outrageous trend of vote-buying and financial inducements observed in previous elections and during the party primaries of the major political parties ahead of the general election of 2023 respectively.
Pre-election incidents observed in Ekiti included various forms and degrees of financial and material inducement of voters during door-to-door campaigns, cash and online fund transfers to the tune of N20,000 were shared at rallies and town hall meetings, distribution of fuel to commercial cyclists (Okada riders), other materials such as generators and motorcycles were used for voter inducement by the major contesting political parties.
As the observation of JDPMC in the peak period of the campaign in Ekiti days has not indicated any departure from the growing trend of voter inducement in previous elections, JDPMC is concerned the consolidation of these acts of recklessness in the pre-election atmosphere of Ekiti State tragically threatens the credibility of the election and the emergence of credible governance in Ekiti.
We therefore call on all people of goodwill across Ekiti State to resist voter inducement on election day and vote for candidates of their choice in good conscience for the sake of the common future of the state and of our country Nigeria. In past elections, JDPMC has observed that security agents at polling units seem not to include as their election day duty the prevention of voter inducement, as JDPMC observed the complacency of security agent to such activities within the vicinity of polling units. We therefore call on security agencies to be active in deterring acts of voter inducement in the vicinity of polling units.
Rev. Fr. Peter Akinkunmi
General Coordinator, JDPMC, Osogbo