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Ekiti 2018: Residents, voters express concern over electoral violence

Fayemi

As Ekiti people prepare to elect their next governor on July 14, there are fears that the state may witness a repeat of violence that has always characterised governorship elections in the state: Violence has always occurred before, during and after elections.

In 1999, during electioneering campaigns, there was violence involving Alliance for Democracy (AD) members.

Some unknown hoodlums had unleashed mayhem on party members who were holding a ward meeting at the Matthew Area of Ado Ekiti on that fateful day.

Also, an Alliance for Democracy (AD) Woman Leader was bathed with acid. Though she was rushed to the hospital, she died eventually.

In 2003 election, violence believed to be caused by intraparty squabbles later festered and assumed full-scale crisis. People were reportedly injured, but no life was lost.

Between 2003 and 2007 elections, the state witnessed violence and many lives were lost, especially in 2005 and 2006. The killings were believed to be politically motivated.

The political upheaval, remotely, led to the imposition of a state of emergency by the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Chief Obasanjo was alleged to have manipulated the State Assembly to impeach the democratically elected governor, Ayodele Fayose.

Political instability reached its nadir height in the state between 2006 and 2007 that it had five governors.

That not withstanding, the 2007 gave peole confidence that the election would be unique and stable, san violence, because of the political intrigues and campaigns that characterised the period.

However, as the election drew closer, campaigns of the two major parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were marred by violence, which led to several people sustaining injuries and some others losing their lives.

Although Segun Oni, the candidate of the PDP was declared the winner of the 2007 poll, the state knew no peace throughout the three years he was in the saddle.

His election was eventually voided and a rerun fixed for April 25, 2009.

The violence that took place during the rerun election was unprecedented. One Segun Ajayi lost his limb to the mayhem at Ado Ekiti. His decomposing limb was brought to the court by the ACN as exhibit to prove that there was violence during the rerun election.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mrs Ayoka Adebayo,in fact, had to escape from the state without announcing results of the rerun.

She claimed that she was under intense pressure to announce result against her wish.

On May 5, 10 days after her disappearance, she came out of her hiding to conduct the second rerun/ supplementary election in some local governments.

The supplementary election was equally not without usual violence. Journalists covering the poll were mercilessly beaten, while at the venue of the counting, political thugs had a free day.

Adebayo was not dithered, as she went ahead to announce the result, which gave Oni victory.

Following the announcement, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in the state capital was partially burnt by hoodlums while some houses believed to be owned by PDP bigwigs in the state were razed. One young man lost his life in the process.

On May 6, Segun Oni was sworn in for the second time in three years. He was, however, removed by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State in October 2010. Fayemi took over and spent four years.

The 2014 election remains the most peaceful of recent elections in the state. There was not too much violence.

This, however, did not suggest that peace reigned all through. There were some element of skirmishes here and there.

It was even the post election violence that however caused the death of Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Houses and a shopping complex were razed down.

At the beginning, the processes leading to 2018 governorship election has not witnessed violence until the violence that marred May 5 APC primary held at the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium Ado Ekiti.

Although no life was lost at the venue of the primary where the violence erupted, ballot boxes were smashed and a rowdy atmosphere ensued.

This necessitated the cancellation of the primary. The repeat primary, which held four days later, at the Damlec Event Centre, along Housing Estate, Ado Ekiti and was hitch- free, largely due to the number of security forces deployed to guard the venue. Friday June 1, 2018 was a black day in the state.

The rally organised for the candidate of the APC, Dr Kayode Fayemi was ongoing, when a police officer accidentally shot a chieftain of the APC, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, and five others.

The rally, which attracted large crowd of party supporters and admirers across the state had started on a good note from Akure, capital of Ondo State before it turned bloody at the party’s secretariat at Ajilosun area.

The Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, Fayemi and former Minister of Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who were in the long convoy of vehicles had gone up to greet party leaders and were descending the staircase when the policeman suddenly released several bullets to scare the people.

The policeman involved in the shooting was allegedly trying to protect the dignitaries from being mobbed by those who were trying to extort money from them when the policeman misfired gunshot that hit Bamidele on the hand and the other person in the chest.

Though, it was gathered that the mobs had struggled with the policeman before he lost control and shot sporadically in the wrong direction.

Another source said the policeman was drunk, as attempts had been made before the incident to disarm him.

Bamidele was hurriedly taken into the car conveying Ondo State governor and taken to the hospital, while the other victim fell on the ground and people suspected that he must have died.

The angry party men disarmed the policeman and descended on him and smashed his head with sticks and other dangerous weapons before being rescued and taken to a safe custody. This incident caused serious commotion at Mobil area as people had to scamper for safety in different directions to prevent being hit by bullets.

Reacting to the unfortunate incident, the PDP in Ekiti warned APC leadership not to bring violence and bloodshed to the state again.

The PDP State Publicity Secretary, Mr Jackson, said the crisis that characterized the party primary did not come as a surprise as the party is synonymous with crisis, killing and violence.

Adebayo said Ekiti State would not allow the APC to reinvent its spirit of violence in the state, pointing out that Ekiti state started enjoying relative peace immediately after the exit of APC in 2014 when Governor Ayodele Fayose took over the mantle of government after defeating Dr Kayode Fayemi.

According to the PDP spokesperson, the violence that characterised the primaries of the APC only served as a reminder of the ugly reign of terror experienced during its past government in the state, saying that Ekiti can’t afford to return to the dark era again.

PDP maintained that the shooting and violence at the APC primaries is a reminder of the dark era of APC Fayemi’s government in the state when shooting, killings and all other form of violence were been perpetrated with impunity.

“We want to say unequivocally that there is no space for the violence infested APC in Ekiti state because the state can not afford to go back to the period of killings, maiming and gnashing of teeth as witnessed during the last administration of Fayemi when terror was let loose and killings was hamburger.”

However, the All Progressives Congress (APC) insisted that the shooting was an assassination attempt on the life of its candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, calling on the Police to investigate the shooting which happened right at its secretariat with the culprit firing shots
at close range.

The Chairman, Chief Olajide Awe, urged the Police to investigate why an officer not serving in Ekiti found his way to the secretariat to shoots its members.

Awe said: “It was only God that saved the situation, because our
conclusion was that it was an assassination attempt on the life of our
candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

The culprit missed his target and shot Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele and other party members. We have visited Hon. Bamidele and other party members at the hospital and they are responding well to treatment.

“For Hon. Bamidele who was close to our candidate to have been injured like that, it was an orchestrated plan to snuff life out of our
candidate.

We believe that it won’t be difficult for the Police to convince us
that the gun-wielding policeman was not a paid agent.

It is left for Police to unravel
who was the man and who brought him to our party secretariat.”

In his reaction to the violent dimension that 2018 governorship poll is assuming, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Ekiti, Mr Akinloye Ayegbusi warned against the return of politics of bloodbath that has always characterise the political atmosphere of the state in the past elections.

Ayegbusi said that politicians must learn to play by the rules of the game. He urged politicians to let their campaign be issue- based, stressing that people of Ekiti are only interested in those things that the politician will do if voted into office.

He warned that the current political endeavor does not worth the blood of the innocent citizens of the state who have been at the receiving end of the bad governance of the successive governments in Ekiti state.

“I recalled the politically motivated murders of a prominent indigene of this state in 2006, when one, Dr. Ayo Daramola was assassinated on August 14, 2006 at his Ijan-Ekiti home town. There were several other bloodletting incidences that characterized the politics of the past.

“I call on security agencies to be more alive to their responsibility at this time because no one has any right to take the life of another under any circumstances.”

Ayegbusi, however, wish those that were caught up in the alleged shooting at the All Progressives Congress (APC) rally held in Ado Ekiti to welcome back the party’s candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi back to the state quick recovery.

Disturbed by the violence and the tension that has enveloped the state, the Commissioner of Police Ekiti State Command, Ahmed Bello, conveyed a meeting of stakeholders to brainstorm on how to ensure peaceful conduct of the governorship election.

Those invited to the meeting included, the chairmen of political parties and heads of other sister security agencies.

Ahmed handed down stern warning
to politicians to abide by the rules governing the conduct of election to
prevent anarchy in the state.

He said the command wouldn’t fold its arms and allow people to breach the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act in the name of election.

The police boss said that the force headquarter is expected to deploy undisclosed number of policemen to Ekiti state ahead of the election to secure the state.

He said that his men would be neutral in the July 14
election and won’t do anything that would make them look as if they
were working for a certain political party.
“What I want from my men is professionalism. We are going to be guided by
the instrumentality of the law, because this election is going to be a
different ball game.

“We are going to regulate every inch of activity in the state. We will
not sit down and tolerate any act of lawlessness, no matter whoever is involved. The police, we are willing, competent to take action against any group
or persons, individual or groups as far this campaign is concerned.”

Speaking on the outcome of the meeting, the Chairman of APC, Ekiti chapter, described the meeting as a fruitful deliberation, saying the police boss spoke frankly and expressed his feelings about the comportments of political parties.

“The police boss spoke frankly and he told us to warn our supporters
to respect the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act and this we
have to do in the interest of our dear state. We want to rule over living and not dead people, so we need to exercise restraint in the way we conduct ourselves.”

His counterpart in the PDP, Gboyega Oguntuase, said what the
police boss preached at the meeting was civility and decorum from all
political parties, which he assured his party will stringently comply
with.

“As much as we believe in this, he must also not be unaware of
something; you can’t rig election and be expecting decorum. What our people will resist is corruption and rigging and once the police and other security agencies are ready to be neutral, then there will be peace”.

Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC) said it might deploy 2000 officers and men for the Ekiti election. Making the disclosure recently when he inspected the parade mounted for him by the Ado Ekiti Command of the Corps, the Deputy Commandant General Administration, Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Jeda, said that 2000 officers and men have been mobilised for the exercise.

He warned those who will be deploy for the election to remain non-partisan, saying any officer found to have compromised would be sanctioned. He charged officers to be ready to face the challenge of providing security and closely work with other sister agencies to ensure a hitch free exercise.

Some residents of Ado Ekiti who bare their mind on the unfolding violence that could affect the outcome of the governorship election, said the politicians must not be too desperate and selfish in their conducts. They warned that there would be no state to govern if the state is set on fire through their actions.

Ojo Abiodun, a resident, said: “The signal we are getting from the political actors is not encouraging. The people want to hear what they have in stock for them if they are voted into office. We have passed through this route before and got bruised.

The politicians must not set the state on fire because of their selfish interests. We plead with the security agencies to be more proactive by checkmating the excesses of the politicians who are desperate to win at all cost.”

Ademola Olaseni, a civil servant, said: “What is happening now is not new. We are back to the familiar terrain.

However, people are wiser now. No amount of violence will deter people from exercising their franchise. We are ready with our permanent voters cards.

The people are ready to vote for the candidate of their choice. The era of thuggery and intimidation is gone. We will vote in July 14 and our votes will count.”

Olanrewaju Sola, a member of the Mega Party, said, “the two major parties, PDP and APC should be blamed for any violence that happened before, during and after the poll.”

He absolved smaller parties of complicity in any orchestrated mayhem that happen. He pleaded with the police and the Directorate of the State Service (DSS) to be up and doing to bring perpetrators of violence to book to serve as deterrent to others.

Director General of Social Democratic Party’s candidate, Akinloye Ayegbusi, Campaign Organisation,  Yemi Akinbode, said that the desperation of the two major political parties- APC and PDP to win at all cost is the major cause of violence.

“The APC seems to rely on the use of Federal might to intimidate PDP. The PDP on the other hand is relying on the power of incumbency to remain in power.

However, we in the SDP are relying on the power of the people, who earnestly yearn for a change for the better.

“My advice to the political actors in those two parties is to see the election as a game of sport. They must also know that they cannot govern dead people. “

A teacher, Olajumoke Ibitoye, applauded the Ekiti State government for fast-tracking the school calendar so that school pupils would be on break during the election.

“Don’t forget that some students came as far as Anambra to attend schools in Ekiti. We are hoping that politicians will not kill for the sake of winning election.

We are pleading with you media people to organise debate for them to douse tension.

Let them tell us what they can do to better our lives and the lives of our children.“

Abiodun Adaba, a pastor, said that Churches in Ekiti State have been praying that there should be no shedding of innocent people’s blood before, during and after the governorship poll.

“If you remember, there were greater threat to peace during the just concluded primary elections when so many of them were doing their campaign, but God protected his people.

“ We the clergymen and people of God will continue to pray. My advice to the politicians is that violence doesn’t guarantee votes. We have advised our members to vote people with fear of God who have the interest of the state at heart.

We don’t want war in Ekiti. Any political party that wage war against the state will lose this election.

“My advice to the security agencies is to avoid a situation where two parties are granted permit to campaign in a place at the same time, it may lead to breakdown of law and order. “

Gabriel Agbede, a resident of Odo Ado, Ado-Ekiti said people should not entertain any fear over the election.

“This election will come and go without shedding of blood. Having said that, my advice is to us parents to caution our children. They must not allow themselves to be used as thugs to cause trouble.

“ If any politician ask them (youths) to partake in any trouble, tell them to go and call their children too. Don’t forget that many of these people have their children in the United States and United Kingdom. I think the people are wiser now.”

To keen observers of the unfolding events ahead of the governorship election, the way forward for a peaceful poll is for the security agencies to prepare code of conduct for the political actors to sign.

Any politician who sponsors violence should be prosecuted. No one must be allowed to shed innocent blood under any guise and go scot-free.

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