Ahead of next week’s governorship election in Ondo State, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and his main challenger, Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have intensified moves to woo voters ahead of the poll.
The machinations and intrigues by the contenders have raised tension in the state as violence trailed their campaigns.
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Of the 17 candidates eyeing the Ondo State Government House, the battle, according to pundits is between Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Jegede.
This is the second time that Akeredolu and Jegede will be slugging it out.
In the 2016 governorship election, Akeredolu polled 224,842 votes to defeat Jegede who got 150,380.
Other contenders for the governorship race include; the deputy governor of the state, Agboola Ajayi – Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Rotimi Adeleye Akindejoye – Accord party, Joshua Oluwafemi Adewole -Action Alliance (AA), Adeleye Adekunle Peter – African Action Congress (AAC), Adelegan Adedapo Oluwaseyi – African Democratic Congress (ADC), Martin Kunle Olateru-Olagbegi -Action Democratic Party (ADP) and Olowoloba Dele – All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Also eyeing the seat are; Adesanya Olaoluwa – Action Peoples Party (APP), Okunade Taiwo – Labour Party (LP), Ojajuni Joseph Eniola – New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Funmilayo Jenyo Ataunoko – National Rescue Movement (NRM), Babatunde Francis Alli – Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Fasua Peter Oyeleye – Social Democratic Party (SDP),Aminu Akeem Olanrewaju – Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and Ojon Dotun – Young Progressive Party (YPP).
Aside Akeredolu and Jegede, Ajayi of the ZLP has been making waves in the state.
Daily Trust reports that in the last two weeks, there have been clashes between supporters of the key contenders.
The clashes have raised tension in the state.
At the palace of Oba Akoko, Akoko South West Local Government Area of the state, about 10 persons were injured and a car was reportedly burnt on September 16 when the supporters of the governor and Jegede clashed.
A similar scenario repeated itself on Tuesday when the supporters of Akeredolu and Jegede clashed in Ipele and Owo towns of the state.
Ten persons were injured and 20 vehicles destroyed.
- Residents decry violence
A resident of Akure, the Ondo State capital, Mr Ademola Olorunfemi, has appealed to the leaders of the political parties to ask their supporters to shun violence.
He appealed to youths not to allow themselves to be used by politicians to perpetrate crisis in the state.
Another resident, Mr. Kolawole Ajayi, said the suffering of the masses and the recent hikes of the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff would affect the voting pattern.
Decrying the clashes among the supporters of the contenders, he urged the security agencies to ensure the safety of voters during the election.
“People are selling their votes because of poverty.
“The recent hikes in fuel price and electricity tariff will affect the voting pattern in this election,” he said.
The Ondo State Commissioner of Police, Mr Bolaji Salami, has assured the people of the state of their safety before, during and after the election.
- APC, PDP react
In his reaction, Jegede who expressed optimism that he would win the poll, urged voters not to exercise any fear, saying his ambition, “is God’s own project.”
“Politics is not a do or die affair, rather, it should be seen as a quest to serve.
“If we regard it as such, there will be no need for desperation or violent acts.
“People should be allowed to decide if they want you to serve them or not,” he said.
He called on security agencies to rise up to the occasion, and safeguard the democratic process from being derailed in the state.
The camp of Governor Akeredolu has also accused the PDP candidate of instigating the attacks.
Reacting, the spokesman for Akeredolu/Aiyedatiwa campaign organisation, Richard Olatunde alleged that “Jegede ordered his thugs to unleash co-ordinated attacks on the people of Ipele and Ijebu in Owo.
“Our people were traumatised by the sound of gunshots sporadically fired.”
Spokesman of the PDP in the state, Comrade Kennedy Peretei, called on the state police commissioner to address the situation.
He urged PDP members to maintain their cool and ensure peace reign.
On his part, the spokesperson of the APC, Alex Kalejaiye urged the security agencies to ensure the completion of the investigation of the clashes before the election.
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State appeals to its members and followers to always exercise restraint when provoked by any overzealous party, and report any aggression to the nearest police station for necessary action,” he said.
- Alarm over rising violence, voter apathy
Meanwhile, the Yiaga Africa, has raised the alarm over rising violence among the contestants and their supporters.
In its first Pre-Election Observation (PREO) Report, signed by the Executive Director of the organisation, Samson Itodo, the group listed Akure South, Akoko South-East, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South West local government areas as places with high incidence and indicators of violence.
“Specific cases of voter inducement were reported in Akoko South West, Akure South, Akoko South-East, Akoko North West, Ifedore and Odigbo LGAs,” he said.
He also said that only 39 percent (1,822,346) of the entire population are registered to vote, as a good number of registered voters 1,478,460 (81.1 percent) have collected their PVCs.
“This implies that only about 31.6 percent of the populations are eligible to participate in this year’s governorship poll and that since 2011, voter turnout has not exceeded 35 percent in Ondo State.
“In the 2011 presidential election, turnout was 31 percent while in the 2016 governorship election it was 35 percent.
“In 2011, it was 21 percent for the presidential election and 29.3 percent for the state assembly election.
“Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the state may witness a further decline in voter turnout during election.
“This is exacerbated by the failure of security agencies to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors,” Itodo said.