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4 Local govts, godfathers to decide ondo election

• Parties spend billions to woo voters
• Vote-buying has become a pandemic–Civil Society Situation Room
• NSCDC deploys sniffer dogs,over 7,000 personnel for poll
• APC chieftain asks court to disqualify Akeredolu, others

Four local government areas; Ifedore, Idanre, Irele and Okitipupa, which had been adjudged as battlegrounds, coupled with the influence of some supposed political godfathers like former governor Olusegun Mimiko, Senator Ajayi Boroffice and Chief Olusola Oke, among others will today determine the outcome of the governorship election in Ondo State. Some of the council areas had been marked as strongholds of some candidates while some local governments will be battlegrounds because of their voting strength, but the contest had been reduced to a three-horse race due to the widespread membership and structures of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).

With 3009 polling units being activated for the election, the several weeks and months of intensive politicking by political stakeholders have finally come to an end, as the fate of the 17 governorship candidates is now in the hands of the electorate across the 203 wards. Out of the 1,822,346 registered voters in the state, 1,478,604 obtained their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in readiness for today’s poll, which would be held in 18 local government areas across the three senatorial districts of the state.

The candidates of the three political parties are Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (APC), who is seeking reelection; the PDP flag-bearer, Eyitayo Jegede, who is taking a second shot at the position after losing out to the incumbent in 2016; and the Deputy Governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, whose party, ZLP, has been tagged a third-force, is seeking to unseat his boss.

The three candidates are from each of the three senatorial districts, hence the probability that some of the electorate will vote based on locality sentiments. While Akeredolu is from Ondo North Senatorial District, Jegede hails from Ondo Central and Ajayi has his roots in Ondo South.

Violence and vote-buying

Two major factors that may likely play out today are the issues of vote-buying and political violence, just like it was witnessed in 2016 as the three major parties and their candidates are already deploying their financial resources to areas, particularly wards were they have low support in the state. However, the battle for today’s election may be decided by deep pockets, Saturday Telegraph can report. According to findings, the three leading parties have designed a system to induce voters and they have formally tagged it as ‘voters’ mobilisation’. Similarly, some candidates of fringe parties also joined the vote-buying fray to ensure they win their polling units and wards. It was gathered that one of the leading parties already planned to expend over N3.9bn to ensure that its chances are enhanced across the 3,009 polling units of the 18 local governments of the state. One of the parties is said to have budgeted N1. 2m per polling units in the North and Central district of the state, just as it proposed a whopping N1. 5m for the riverine and South senatorial district where the battle is expected to be intense. The southern senatorial district has 1,142 polling units while both the north and central districts have 1867 poling units. Saturday Telegraph learnt the party has already engaged canvassers to ensure that the chain process get to the desired voters. Speaking with Saturday Telegraph, Esther Uzoma, Alternate Chairman, Nigeria Civil Society SITUATION Room, lamented the development, saying vote buying has become a pandemic that the government must address.

APC Chieftain wants Akeredolu disqualified

A chieftain of the APC, Kalu Agu, has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja, to stop Akeredolu from participating in the poll just as he wants the APC’s senatorial candidates for Lagos East and Imo North; Tokunbo Abiru and Frank Ibezim, stopped from contesting the upcoming senatorial polls. The aggrieved chieftain is seeking the exclusion of APC’s candidates from further elections pending the determination of the suit challenging the dissolution of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC). His grouse is that the APC is presently being administered by a caretaker committee, rather than the elected NWC. Respondents in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/ CS/736/2020 are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC, Chairman of APC Caretaker Committee and Governor of Yobe State Mai Mala Buni. Others are members of the Caretaker Committee which include; Isiaka Oyebola, Ken Nnamani, Stella Okorete, Governor Sani Bello, Dr James Lalu, Senator Abubakar Yusuf, Hon. Akinyemi Olaide, David Leon, Professor Tahir Mamman, Ismail Ahmed and Senator Akpan Udoedehe as 1st to 14th respondents respectively. The plaintiff in the suit filed on his behalf by his counsel, Ukpai Ukairo, is claiming that nomination of candidates for an election by law ought to be by no other person than the Chairman and Secretary of the party. He prayed the court for an order of Interlocutory Injunction pending the determination of the substantive suit restraining INEC from acting on any document submitted by the APC in relation to any election it is conducting. He also prayed the court to restrain INEC from ascribing any vote to Akeredolu, Tokunbo and Ibezim in the governorship and Senatorial elections respectively while praying the court to give expeditious hearing in the suit because the six months tenure of the committee to conduct a national convention for the election of the NWC would soon come to an end.

Battlegrounds

The main focus will no doubt be on the Central Senatorial District which has the highest number of PVCs collection. With a total of 559,374 PVCs collected in the Central district, Akure South Local Government has the highest collection of 207,384 PVCs in the state. Historically, for anyone to emerge as governor in the state, the candidate must win in Akure South, but the pattern might change this time around due to the strength of each of the three candidates in their respective local governments. Ondo South has the second highest number of collected PVCs with a total of 508,044 followed by Ondo North with 411,188 PVCs collection rate. In the Northern Senatorial District where Akeredolu hails from, six local government areas make up the district. They include Owo with about 102,711 PVCs collection rate. Owo is the hometown of the governor. Other local governments in the districts are Ose, Akoko North East, Akoko North West; Akoko South East and Akoko South West. Within the district, the most viable party is the APC followed by ZLP. During the 2019 General Election when APC lost the state to the PDP, the district was where APC had the best outing as the three House of Representative seats as well as the senatorial seat were all won by the APC.

Mimiko factor

Also, with the immediate past governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko from the Central Senatorial District completing an eight year tenure at a stretch, the people of Northern Senatorial District seem to be in unison to ensure that Akeredolu also complete second term in office as governor, after Pa Michael Adekunle Ajasi and Adebayo Adefarati who were from the district failed to get second term during their time as governors. With the Senator representing the district, Professor Ajayi Boroffice, the member representing Akoko North East/North West Federal Constituency, Hon. Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, his counterpart from Akoko South East/South West, Hon. Ade Adeogun and Hon. Timehin Adelegbe representing Ose/Owo Federal Constituency on the same page with Akeredolu, the six local governments can best be described as sealed for the incumbent. For the ZLP, its chances within the northern senatorial district are higher than that of the PDP due to the caliber of politicians in its fold. The politicians were primarily those who were aggrieved in the APC and in the PDP before joining the ZLP. In the Central Senatorial District where the PDP candidate, Jegede hails from, it also comprise six local government areas; Akure South, Akure North, Ondo West, Ondo East, Idanre and Ifedore. With Akure being the hometown of Eyitayo and his acceptability among his people this time overwhelming, the PDP is set to harness both Akure South and Akure North local governments unlike when APC won in the two council areas four years ago. While Eyitayo won in Ondo West and Ondo East local governments in 2016, such feat may be impossible today as the ZLP is set to clear the two local governments based on the acceptability of Mimiko in the area. Mimiko who is the National Leader of ZLP, hails from Ondo West, and the local government has PVC collection rate of 131,847. Within the Central Senatorial District, the battle grounds will be Idanre and Ifedore local government areas due to the political consciousness of the people as well the political interests in the two local governments. Also, preference would be given to Akure due to its voting strength.

Political leaders

In Idanre, the Senator representing Ondo Central, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, a chieftain of PDP is from the community, likewise the member representing Idanre/Ifedore, Hon. Tajudeen Adefisoye who is the only member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the green chamber. Adefisoye has directed his followers to support Akeredolu’s re-election bid. 64,434 people are armed with PVC in the local government. Also, the Chairman of the Ondo State chapter of the APC, Engr. Adetimehin is from Idanre while the PDP House of Assembly member representing Idanre state constituency, Hon. Festus Akingbaso had been alleged of tactically supporting the ZLP standardbearer instead of the PDP candidate. With the array of interests in Idanre Local Government, that sums up the reason for the incessant violent attacks that rocked the community in the build-up to the governorship poll. In Ifedore Local Government with about 54,640 PVC collection rate, the three leading political parties are in good stead to carry the day at the poll. The local government is divided into two divisions known as Ilara and Ijare division. With Gboye Adegbenro, a former Commissioner for Works in the Mimiko’s administration who is the running mate to the ZLP candidate, Ajayi, from Ilara-Mokin, ZLP will no doubt have a substantial number of votes in Ilara division while both the APC and PDP will battle for votes in Ijare Division. Just like the other two senatorial districts, the Ondo South Senatorial District is also of six local governments. The six council areas include, Ilaje, Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo, Odigbo, Ese-Odo, Irele and Okitipupa.

Oke factor

In recent elections in the state, votes in Ilaje local government had always been tailored towards the chieftain of the APC, Chief Olusola Oke (SAN) who is from the council area. During the last governorship election in the state when Oke contested under the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) he won in the local government convincingly. It was also the same scenario in 2012 when he contested as PDP candidate. With Oke in the camp of Akeredolu, the Ilajes will no doubt move in the direction of their son. Ilaje voting population is also high as 126,749 collected PVC. Aside the Oke’s factor in Ilaje, Lucky Ayedatiwa who is Akeredolu’s running mate is also from Ilaje. Ayedatiwa emergence as running mate was received with cheering news from the Ilajes as the announcement has further made them to close ranks in a bid to ensure that their son becomes the number two citizen of the state. In Ile-Oluji/Oke-Igbo local government, the APC is expected to secure more votes. However, it would be a close call in the council area due to the political gladiators from the local government. The local government has a voting strength of about 54,391. For Odigbo Local Government, it has unarguably been the stronghold of the APC. In all elections, APC has always been sweeping the council area. The voting population in Odigbo is 109,797. In Ese-Odo Local Government, the Deputy Governor of the state, Ajayi who is the ZLP candidate is from the local government. With the current ongoings, all eyes are on Ajayi to win in his council area as he will rely on the 66,481 electorate with PVCs in the council area.

IDANRE

Idanre Local Government area in Ondo Central is the base of Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the state. During the 2019 General Elections, SDP won the House of Representatives seat through Hon Tajudeen Adefisoye. But with the collapse of Adefisoye’s structure into that of Akeredolu, Idanre will be one of the battle grounds as the senator representing Ondo Central, Senator Ayo Akinyelure who is a chieftain of PDP is from Idanre. Also, the Chairman of the Ondo State chapter of the APC, Engr. Adetimehin is from Idanre while the PDP House of Assembly member representing Idanre state constituency, Hon. Festus Akingbaso had been alleged of tactically supporting the ZLP standardbearer instead of the PDP candidate. The array of interests in Idanre summed up the reason for the violent attacks that rocked the community in the build-up to the governorship poll.

IFEDORE

Ifedore is the home of the deputy governorship candidate of ZLP, Gboye Adegbenro. No doubt, the local government is going to be a battle zone between the ZLP and APC, because the local government is divided into two division known as Ilara and Ijare division. Adegbenro, a former Commissioner for Works during the Mimiko’s administration,being the running mate to the ZLP candidate, Ajayi, ZLP will no doubt have a substantial number of votes in Ilara division while both the APC and PDP will battle for votes in Ijare Division.

OKITIPUPA

Hon Gboluga Ikengboju, the member representing Okitipupa/ Irele and the deputy governorship candidate to Jegede, hails from this locality but Okitipupa is now a stronghold of the ZLP. Notable politicians who used to be in the PDP and APC in the local government are now in the ZLP with a mission to ensure that power returns to the south. Before now, the council area used to be the strong abode of APC.

Okitipupa and Irele war

The battle grounds for the three candidates in the southern senatorial district will be Okitipupa and Irele Local Government areas. For Okitipupa, notable politicians who used to be in the PDP and APC in the local government are now in the ZLP with a mission to ensure that power returns to the south. The local government has the voting strength of about 66,481. Before now, the council area used to be the strong abode for APC. In Irele Local Government, the 57,651 voting population are divided along the three political parties as any of the three parties are poised to sway votes of the local government. The people of the council areas are divided along the three political parties.

IGP warns…

Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu has assured that flashpoints had been identified and that plans to foment trouble would be tackled while disclosing that 33,783 police personnel had been deployed for the election. Adamu, who also ordered restriction of vehicular movement from 11:59PM last night till 6pm today, warned that anybody who engages in snatching of ballot boxes, vote buying, vote selling, hate speeches, and any other act capable of compromising the integrity of the process will be brought to book. Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), DCP Frank Mba, who conveyed the IGP’s directive in a statement, Friday, said; “the order is part of efforts by the Force to ensure effective coordination of public order and safety during the gubernatorial election”. “The IGP reiterates that the vehicular restriction order, among other things, is aimed at preventing political actors and trouble-makers from freely engaging in unpatriotic acts – circulation and use of illicit arms and hard drugs, movement of political thugs from contiguous States to Ondo State and disruption of the electoral processes, etc – which are inimical to the dictates of the electoral laws.

INEC denies appointing OAU VC

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied appointing the Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Prof. Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, as the returning officer for the election. The Chairman of Information and Voter Education committee, Festus Okoye said the returning officer “is not from Ondo State and not from the university mentioned” while stating that the commission “will not be drawn into speculations relating to the performance of its constitutional and statutory functions”. Okoye warned that the commission will not share its responsibility with any individual, group or political party. “It is the sole responsibility of the commission to appoint a returning officer for the Ondo Governorship election. The returning officer appointed by the commission will report to the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ondo State on the date conveyed in his letter of appointment issued several days ago. “The commission is firmly focused on the conduct of free, fair and peaceful election and implores all the stakeholders to cooperate and play their own part in ensuring peaceful election and not to engage in unhelpful speculation. “The main concern of the commission is in ensuring a credible electoral process while the outcome is in the hands of the people of Ondo State,” he stated.

‘Govs threaten free, fair poll’

The Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a network of over 200 active civic organizations, has told state governors currently habitating in Ondo State with less than 24-hours to the election, that their presence may constitute a threat to free and fair governorship election. TMG, a foremost election observation group in Nigeria which was established since 1998, said the governors are taking advantage of their immunity to be involved in election malpractice like vote buying, intimidation of security operatives and sponsorship of political violence. Some governors of the APC and PDP from the North and South West had stormed the state to support their parties’ candidates. Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde and his Lagos counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, had been in the state over the past few days mobilising for the PDP and APC respectively. Addressing a Pre-Election Public Statement by the TMG and the National Association for Peaceful Elections (NAPEN) in Akure on Friday, the Chairperson, TMG, Dr. Abiola Akiyode – Afolabi, said barring any unforeseen circumstance, the election is expected to witness an impressive turnout of voters. “With an encouraging over 81 percent PVC collection rate (1,478, 460 out of 1, 822, 346 PVCs collected), large turnout of voters at the polls may be in sight.” On the conduct of political parties and actors, the TMG said, “Since the beginning of electioneering, the three major political parties, APC, PDP and ZLP have been involved in promoting 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 as it undermines the fundamental tenet of democracy which is free choice.”

NSCDC deploys sniffer dogs, over 7000 personnel

The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps has deployed 60 sniffer dogs and 7,079 of its personnel, drafted from the six South West states as well as well from Kogi and Kwara commands. The Deputy Command General Operations, Hilary Madu disclosed this during a press briefing as regards the corps preparedness for poll at the Ondo NSCDC command. While staying that four Assistant Command General would also be on duty during the poll, Madu added that six of the sniffer dogs would be deployed to INEC headquarters to complement personnel from Special Force, Intelligence Department and SWAT unit. He said: “We have come to monitor and provide security for the governorship election in Ondo State coming up on Saturday. We have deployed 7,079 security officers.

ZLP alleges importation of thugs by Fayemi

Meanwhile, the Zenith Labour Party, (ZLP) has accused Governor Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi of alleged plans to intimidate voters with thugs imported in the state from Ekiti State. The party in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Felix Olatunde also alleged that the Ekiti State Governor has been inducing security agents as part of plans to undermine the electoral process. Olatunde however urged Fayemi to rescind on his plans as he emphasized that residents of the state will resist any attempt to subjugate the will of the people. “The attention of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) has been drawn to the plan by Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi to interfere in the governorship election of Ondo State towards compromising the integrity of the electoral process. “Information available to us showed that Fayemi has imported thugs to a popular hotel in Ijapo area of Akure, the Ondo State capital. The thugs are to unleash terror on the people during Saturday’s governorship election.”

 

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