Oluseye Ojo, Isan-Ekiti

The European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Mr. Ketil Karlsen, as well as the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, have given their preliminary reports on the Ekiti governorship election to journalists.

In separate interviews with journalists in Ekiti yesterday, the duo reported that there were impressive turnout of electorate during the poll in the places they had visited before the interview, saying they also had their colleagues in different parts of the state and when they all meet together after the election, their reports would be presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Arkwright, who spoke to journalists at Ogilolo in Isan-Ekiti, said the exercise was peaceful so far, adding that with what he had seen on the field, INEC was well prepared for the exercise. He also said the security agencies composed themselves very well. Arkwright, who is a member of the international observers, monitoring the election stated: “We have been to about five units so far. From the polling units that I have visited, they were peaceful. The system seems to be working. They opened on time from what I have seen.

“As observers, we are taking note and we will report back to INEC at the end of the day, giving our reports. We are neutral international observers, watching the process in trying to ensure that the exercise is free, fair, credible and indeed peaceful. So, let us see how it goes. We are very pleased to be able to be here.”

Arkwright also described the ongoing election as a precursor to the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, saying: “This election is an important milestone on the road to 2019. In Ekiti itself, it is important for the process to be free, fair, credible and indeed peaceful. We have looked around, and the most important thing is that people were able to express their own opinions to vote freely as they wished to vote, and not to be intimidated or induced in any way, to vote according to their conscience for what they think is best for them, for their families and for their communities.

“The International Bureau for the British Government is not supporting one candidate, we are not supporting one party. But we are supporting the process.” Fielding questions on his assessment of INEC’s preparation for the poll, Arkwright said: “From what I saw, INEC prepared very well for the election. I spoke to the INEC Chairman in Abuja 10 days ago and he said the commission was well prepared. I spoke to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) yesterday, and as far as I can see, the sensitive materials were sent to the polling units in time. From what I can see, things seem to be working well.

“We are not just staying in one particular area, there are British International Observers in every part of the state. When we combine together this evening, we will be comparing notes.”

Arkwright also assessed the conduct of security agencies in the places he had visited so far, saying: “From what I can see, the security agencies are doing their job. I can see the police standing by to ensure peace. In my experience and with what I have seen, this is a snapshot of the election. I will get the whole picture when I am back to the state capital and compare notes with my colleagues.”

The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Karlsen, who led a group of international observers in monitoring the governorship election in Ekiti State, described the exercise as

a stepping stone on the road to the general elections in 2019. In an interview with journalists in Ifaki-Ekiti, the hometown of former governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni, Karlsen said the European Union wants to see continued consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.

He continued: “We have a number of diplomatic observers in Ekiti State today. Of course, we came together with colleagues from international community. So, this is a reflection of the huge engagement of the EU in supporting democratic governance in Nigeria.”

He explained that the EU has been sending observers to Nigeria to monitor elections since the 1999 general elections in the country, saying: “We have had observers here non-stop since the democratisation in 1999 general elections. So, this is an important day, a stepping stone on the road to the general elections in 2019.

“For us, democracy is the best, and the only way to secure development, to secure security and to make sure that there is a stable society,” adding that the EU was eager to see more democracies for the people, and democracies “for leaders that have only one thing in their minds, which is to find the best solution to the challenges that people face. So, this is what we hope to see today reflected in Ekiti.

“As the international community, we don’t have any preferred candidate, or any preferred party or ideology. Our only preference is the continued consolidation of democracy and hearing the voice of the people by the end of the day.

“So, this is what a lot of people behind me (electorate) have come out to say that they want to have a choice in selecting their leadership for the next four years in Ekiti and hopefully in that same spirit, we will see similar processes also moving on to the general elections in 2019.”