Prof. Attahiru Jega
By Ademola Adeyemo, Chuks Okocha and James Sowole
After weeks of intense campaign that occasionally turned murky, thousands of voters will today troop out across Ondo State to elect a governor among the 13 candidates jostling for the position.
In practical terms, the contest is expected to be a straight fight among three candidates – incumbent governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party; Rotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria and Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic party - with Mimiko highly favoured to win at the end of the day.
The Independent National Electoral Commission spent most of yesterday moving both sensitive and non-sensitive materials to electoral offices in all the local government areas of the state.
The materials were moved amidst tight security and in the presence of political party agents.
Also, INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has relocated to the state for effective supervision of the election. He was seen yesterday directing affairs.
The Ondo State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Akin Orebiyi, promised that the election would be the best ever conducted "as the commission has done all that are necessary for a hitch-free exercise."
In line with the directive of the national headquarters, the REC said officials of the commission had identified some difficult terrain including the riverine areas and had toured the areas of Ilaje and Ese-Odo local governments "to actually know the special arrangement to be made for the election."
He said the INEC officials toured these areas to identify the special logistics and security arrangement based on the experience gathered during previous exercises.
Orebiyi said adequate arrangement had been made to take care of every polling units' peculiarities, adding that the commission had designed arrangement to ensure that materials - both sensitive and non sensitive - get to all the units very early.
Orebiyi disclosed that security agents would be coming to the state from not less than 11 states of the federation for the election.
The Ondo REC said vehicular movement would be restricted from 7.00am till 4.00pm except for those permitted to move by the provision of the Electoral Act.
"The order would be strictly enforced," he said. The REC therefore advised that political party agents should select their agents from within the vicinity of the polling units.
The Commissioner of Police deployed for today’s election, Mohammed Ndabawa yesterday disclosed that about 11, 000 policemen had been deployed to several parts of the state to ensure law and order, before, during and after the voting.
Ndabawa, who until his deployment for today’s exercise was the Commissioner of Police for Rivers State Command added that three other commissioners of police had been deployed in the state to supervise the exercise in the three senatorial districts of the state, just as an Assistant Inspector General of Police had been deployed for the exercise.
Reading the riot act, the commissioner warned that any violator of the Electoral Law would be dealt with accordingly and that the restriction order would be enforced strictly and "anybody that has no permission to move during the election period should stay away."
He said anybody caught doing anything contrary to the law would be treated as a common criminal irrespective of his or her status.
He reiterated the Inspector General of Police’s order banning policemen from escorting politicians to the voting or collation areas.
In addition to the regular and mobile policemen deployed, the commissioner said soldiers had also been given marching order on how to deal with trouble makers.
The commissioner warned that nobody should carry sticks, cutlass or gun to the polling centres and that no food, drink should be brought to the voting arena just as he warned that there should be no loitering around the voting areas.
He said the government or the police had not declared curfew in the state as being speculated, saying the restriction of vehicular movement into the state implies that any vehicle coming into the state would be thoroughly checked.
Ndabawa said both INEC and security agencies had done everything necessary to ensure that the Ondo State election was better than that of Edo State, which was equally an improvement over previous ones.
Meanwhile, To check the movement of people into the state, all routes leading to the state are now being manned by stern looking soldiers, who have been frisking all vehicles entering the state.
Equally, the presence of security operatives was noticed in major towns including Owo, Igbokoda, Okitipupa and others identified as hot spots.
The Inspector General of police had earlier in the week announced that men of the Air Force and Navy would be engaged in difficult terrains adding that other paramilitary agencies including, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, the Immigration Services, the Customs and Federal Road Safety Commission would also be on hand for the election.
The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of operation at the Ondo State Command of the Nigeria Police, Mohammed Garba said not less than four policemen would be deployed to each polling unit.
Garba said to ensure neutrality, Divisional Police Officers would be moved from their divisions to supervise election in other ones and the movement would be done few hour to the election.
Also, the Sate Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Isah Shuaibu said not lees than 3,000 men would be deployed for the exercise adding that some of his men would be armed for the exercise.
Shuaibu said the officers who will carry arms while on duty for the election were currently on weapon-handling training under the auspices of the Nigerian Army, assuring that, with the measures in place, there would not be any form of violence during and after the election.