As the people of Ondo State file out today to elect who will govern the state for the next four years after the expiration of the tenure of Governor Olusegun Mimiko, no fewer than 26,000 conventional policemen, 2,000 Police Mobile Force operatives, 10 cells of Counter Terrorism unit, Marine Police and sniffers dogs and horses have been deployed to the state as part of efforts to ensure that the election is free of criminal activities.
This is even as the state governor, Mimiko, has raised the alarm over alleged plans by INEC officials to foist injustice on the people of the state by insisting on going ahead with today’s governorship election.
The candidates of the three major political parties are poised to slug it out in the governorship poll today. They are Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). Oke is also a lawyer.
The state Commissioner of Police, Hilda Harrison, who disclosed the readiness of the Force to ensure maximum security during the election also hinted that three helicopters (one for each senatorial district) would be used for surveillance during the election while about 20 police gunboats and 12 additional Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) would also be on ground to check any electoral violence.
The police boss said about 300 patrol vehicles would be used for the election, adding that the police would be working in collaboration with other sister security agencies in the state.
Speaking in the same vein, the Police Public Relations Officer, Femi Joseph, said the Inspector General of Police had provided everything required to ensure the success and peaceful conduct of the election.
According to him, anything that has to do with security measures had been put in place and the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Operations, Josak Abila, had been drafted to the state for the special assignment.
Joseph said the DIG would be assisted by two AIGs and three commissioners of police, one for each senatorial district.
“I want warn people, especially those who have negative intents, to be warned that we are out for them and we will not hesitate to deal with anyone trying to truncate this process of this election,” he said.
It was gathered that from the build-up to the poll, the governorship contest taking place in the state today is not going to be a tea party for any of the three gladiators vying for the coveted seat of governor.
Of the 28 political parties presenting candidates for the contest, only the above-mentioned three are the real contenders, and unless an unlikely miracle happens, the others are just in the race to make up the numbers.
Although the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr Olu Agunloye, a long-time politician and two-time minister from Erusu-Akoko is seen as a serious politician in the state, his performance at today polls could be affected by the fact that the SDP is weak in the state and it is hard to see him do much more than chase the race.
The main contenders for the state’s number one seat share something in common: they are all legal luminaries. And for the second time in the history of the state, the three leading candidates for the governorship position are representing the three senatorial areas of the state, with each of them not only formidable in his locality but is ready win his domain with a massive dominance.
Chief Olusola Oke represents the southern area; Eyitayo Jegede, fondly called Eyi Sure, is from the central, while Akeredolu, who goes by the nickname Aketi, is from the northern area. While Akeredolu hails from Owo and is largely popular in Owo and other parts of the northern senatorial district.
His party, which holds power at the federal level, had campaigned vigorously for him, with President Muhammadu Buhari himself going to the state along with other party stalwarts to try to take advantage of the in-fighting within the ruling PDP and claim the state.
However, those in the central zone are still holding on to PDP’s Jegede now that he is back in the fray.
Jegede, due to his party’s internal wrangling over its candidate for the poll, had lost most of his supporters and sympathisers to other political parties in the state, but he has suddenly re-emerged on the political scene stronger and mightier, rebuilding broken bridges within the party and expanding the frontiers.
His victory at the Appeal Court has re-awakened the consciousness of the people of the community who feel that this is their time to rule the state for the first time since its creation 40 years ago.
Most of the prominent leaders, including traditional chiefs in the community, are said to be solidly behind him in today’s contest.
Jegede is the outgoing governor’s choice and was naturally the frontrunner in the race before a high court in Abuja under Justice Okon Abang declared his party rival, Jimoh Ibrahim, the PDP candidate.
Even though this knocked him cold, but not out, he lost a lot of momentum as he waited for the appellate court to decide his fate. The outcome of today’s vote would determine how much damage that distraction from the high court caused him.
His party had called for a postponement of the poll to enable him campaign as he was only declared the authentic candidate three days to election day, but the electoral body declined.
As for Olusola Oke of the southern senatorial district, a PDP stronghold, he is likely to coast home to victory in the area due to the crisis rocking the PDP in the state.
The AD candidate is said to have found favour from some sections within PDP, being himself a former national legal adviser of the crisis-torn party. This makes him a force to reckon with as far as this election is concerned.
INEC Foisting Injustice On Ondo People – Mimiko
Meanwhile, Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, has raised the alarm, claiming that INEC officials are foisting injustice on the people of the state by insisting on going ahead with tomorrow’s governorship election.
Mimiko further disclosed that the commission had not released the collation tags for Ward Collation Officers of PDP Ward agents.
Addressing a press conference at the International Events Centre in Akure, the state capital yesterday, the governor alleged that INEC and other forces within the APC had made concerted efforts to prevent the emergence of a credible and electable candidate for the PDP in the state.
Mimiko further disclosed that the Voter Register, which should have been given to the candidates, was released just 48 hours to the election, contrary to the Electoral Law which stipulated 30 days to the poll.
According to the governor, the ungodly process started when INEC, in flagrant disregard of extant laws governing elections, removed the name of Eyitayo Jegede on the basis of a Justice Okon Abang order that had since been declared a fraud by the Appeal Court.
Mimiko said: “We wonder why INEC could remove the name of a man who emerged from a party primary that was conducted in a free, fair and open environment and by legitimate organs of the party, where INEC itself was represented, with another from a process that is illegal, and by people not known to law and logic.
“INEC discarded all legal advice not to substitute Eyitayo Jegede by its own chosen consortium of lawyers!
“Several other hurdles were placed on the ways of the PDP candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, to the extent that he did not become a candidate until about 48 hours to the election, on the directive of the Court of Appeal.
“INEC did not release the voter register to the PDP until yesterday, in clear infraction of its own laws and against its advertised ‘Time Table and Schedule of Activities” for the Ondo election.
“INEC refused to publish Eyitayo Jegede’s name for 30 days as stipulated in Section 34 of the Electoral Act 2010.
“INEC denied Eyitayo Jegede the right to submit his party agents’ list at least seven days before the election as stipulated in Section 45 of the Electoral Act 2010, among many others. As we speak, collation tags for Ward Collation officers are not available for PDP Ward agents.
“More than the above, the agents on INEC list are agents submitted by a man already aptly described by the courts as an impostor, who has also openly showed he is working as a fifth columnist in the Ondo election.”
He further said that as a people known to abhor injustice, they shall not accept such a faulty electoral process.
“In this instance, injustice stares us in the face and we are about being treated like slaves and a conquered people in our own country.
We shall not take this,” he vowed.