As 1,478,460 Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) holders go to the polls today to elect the next governor of Ondo State, fears of the election being marred by monetary inducement of voters and security personnel by politicians and the influx of external factors were rife yesterday. This was because of the heavy presence of governors and political bigwigs from other states.
Specifically, some All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors were allegedly sighted in the three senatorial districts of the state holding nocturnal meetings with party leaders and some security personnel at different hotels, giving major stakeholders, observers and some members of the electorate great concern.
A group of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), condemned the desperation of the governors for failing to leave Ondo State after the electioneering campaign.
But contrary to speculations that there may be low turnout, TMG Chairperson, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi stressed that the masses were resolute to defy all odds to vote for the candidate and party of their choice.
Like YiagaAfrica, which revealed that 87 per cent of the voters are enthusiastic to vote, TMG pointed out that “Barring any unforeseen circumstance, the election is expected to witness an impressive turnout of voters as higher fraction of voters appraised by TMG local government observers, reveal that they were resolute to exercise their franchise.”
The chairperson added that they will “vote for their preferred candidates notwithstanding the initial political violence witnessed in some areas during campaigns and voters’ inducement by political parties across the 18 local government of the state.”
Akiyode-Afolabi, at a Press Conference in Akure yesterday, however, warned the governors to allow people to vote according to their conscience and stop inducement.
Meanwhile, the ZLP Publicity Secretary, Felix Olatunde, raised an alarm that a governor in the southwest has imported thugs to disrupt the election in the state, alleging that he is interfering in the poll.
Olatunde said: “We learnt that the Governor has been distributing money to security agencies and thugs imported from a neighboring state in order to compromise the election in favour of one of the candidates.
“We hereby give him two hours within which to vacate his Ijapo hotel where he is currently hibernating as the people may be forced to invade the hotel.”It would be recalled that the Chairman of PDP National Campaign Council for Ondo State, Governor Seyi Makinde, had also alleged that INEC was colluding with the ruling APC to rig today’s election.
Akiyode-Afolabi said, “TMG condemns the practice of governors from other states that have ‘invaded’ Ondo State and refused to leave after campaign ended.
“These governors, who travelled and sponsored their political expedition with the meagre resources of their states, may constitute threat to free and fair election by taking advantage of their immunity.”
She revealed that they are “involved in election malpractice like vote buying, intimidation of security operatives and sponsorship of political violence. All invading governors should leave since campaign has ended.”
However, she mentioned that the people have resolved to collect the money from the politicians and their parties and still vote the candidate of their choice.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had confirmed that of the 1, 822, 346 registered voters for the election, only 1,478,460 Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) were collected across the three senatorial districts.
According to data analysis by Yiaga-Africa, 343, 886 PVCs were uncollected, while Ondo Central District has the highest number of collected and uncollected PVCs, 559,228 and 186,877 respectively.
The report pegs Ondo South District as the second ranking area with 508,044 collected PVCs and 80,877 uncollected PVCs while the North District has 411,188 and 76,122 collected and uncollected PVCs respectively.
Alongside other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Yiaga identified some violence flash points across the districts, revealing a citizen’s perception survey of 53 per cent respondents, who raise concern on violence and intimidation.
At a media briefing yesterday in Akure, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a network of over 200 active CSOs, observed the influx of external factors that may mar the poll and stoke violence.
It identified eight hotspots of violence across the districts namely: Akoko South East, Ilaje, Oke-Igbo/Ile-Oluji, Akoko South West, Owo, Idanre, Akure South, Ese-Odo local government areas.
The TMG Chairperson, who disclosed that 180 accredited non-partisan and well-trained observers would be deployed for the election, urged the police to use its strength to forestall violence.
She demanded that the police command should give a breakdown of local council by local council deployment of its operatives to the public and popularise its hotlines to call for prompt intervention.
“The security agencies should conduct themselves professionally and friendly to the public and be reasonable in their street parade so as not to scare voters from coming out to vote or cause apathy; apathy encourages election rigging.”
Speaking on promotion of violence, the group blamed the three major parties: APC, PDP and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), identifying them as sponsors of political banditry, violence and reprisal, allegations and counter-allegations, vote buying and voters inducement at different levels and in varied forms.
This action is illegal as it flouts electoral law. This has raised political tension in the state until few days to election when more security personnel were deployed to keep peace.
“TMG condemns this desperation for power by political parties as it undermines the fundamental tenet of democracy which is free choice,” she said, urging them to keep to the tenets of the peace accord signed earlier.
Ahead of today, Makinde kicked against the choice of the Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Eyitope Ogunbodede, as the Chief Returning Officer of the governorship election.
According to him, the opposition parties and Ondo residents cannot get free and fair election with the present INEC composition for the poll. He claimed Prof Ogunbodede is an Owo indigene and kinsman to Governor Akeredolu.
“We also take this opportunity to call on all lovers of democracy around the world to pay attention to what the APC-led administration in the centre is trying to do in Ondo State.”
But the INEC National commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, dispelled the allegations made by the Oyo State Governor as untrue.
While reacting to incidents of violence in the state, the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo, accused the PDP and Governor Makinde of importing thugs to threaten the peace of the state and breach the peace accord.
Ojogo, who said that the assault on Fayose at PDP rally confirms the ruling party’s claim, reiterated the state government’s stance earlier on the need for security agencies to contain and curtail the activities of political thugs “ostensibly imported into Ondo State by the Oyo State Governor, Engr. Seyi Makinde.”
According to him, “This development trailing the October 10 governorship election portends, in many respects, a dangerous slope as the people decide once again, which path to follow between sustained development and a reverse of same.”
He lamented that, “It becomes more pernicious that the Governor of Oyo State, who is a beneficiary of the free will and wish of the people of his state through the ballot, could engage in such act, which is capable of eliciting needless provocation from the public.
“Government recalls that the last three weeks have witnessed mindless and condemnable acts perpetrated by these thugs imported from Oyo. The assault on the former governor of Ekiti State, at the party’s rally in Ondo Town, no doubt, is an internal affair of the party.
“The incident nonetheless, remains a reference point just as it confirms our earlier apprehensions. Government, therefore, calls on security agencies to spread their surveillance networks to curtail the activities of these hoodlums who are currently spread across the 18 local government areas of Ondo State,” he said.
To further strengthen the security operation, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammed Adamu ordered the restriction of vehicular movement from 11:59 PM on Friday October 9, 2020 to 6pm on Saturday October 10, 2020 in the state.
According to the police boss, the order is part of efforts by the force to ensure effective coordination of public order and safety during the gubernatorial election.
The IGP reiterated that the vehicular restriction order, among other things, is aimed at preventing political actors and troublemakers from freely engaging in unpatriotic acts.
This is a security back-up measure to support the efforts of the 33,783 police personnel earlier deployed for election security duty by the IGP. He explained that the formation comprised of 30,933 conventional police personnel and 2850 special police units. He added that, “The police deployment will be complemented by an additional 3,500 manpower that will be drawn from other security agencies.
“The military will be engaged for the purpose of securing the inter state borders while the Nigeria Police Airwing will provide air surveillance. The personnel shall be deployed to adequately secure the 3,009 polling units in 203 wards spread over the 18 local government areas of the state.
“They are to protect the personnel and assets of the independent National Electoral Commission, the electorates, and residents of Ondo State in general before, during and after the election,” he said.
The IGP said that the deployment was equally to deny misguided political actors that might be bent on threatening the elections through acts that were inimical to the dictates of electoral act.
Similarly, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) mobilised no fewer than 7,079 personnel and 60 sniffer dogs to provide adequate security for today’s poll.
The Deputy Commander General (DCG) in Charge of Operation, Mr. Hillary Madu, noted that the personnel were drawn from seven different commands, adding that four Assistant Commander Generals (ACGs) and seven Commandants were also deployed.
“We have deployed 7,079 personnel, four Assistant Commander Generals (ACGs), and seven commandants. This is not a joke though we will ensure to remain apolitical during the exercise. We promise Ondo State people that the exercise is going to be very peaceful election and I will advice that nobody should die because someone want to become a governor,” he said.