A recent shooting at an All Progressives Congress rally in Ekiti State may be an indication of what lies ahead of the July 14 governorship poll, writes Victor Ogunje
Friday, June 1, 2018 was a day of glory for the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Kayode Fayemi. The former governor just resigned his appointment as Minister of Mines and Steel Development in President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s government and his coming home to face the July 14, election was heroic and epochal.
A lot of arguments had been thrown up by pundits and ardent followers of the politics of the state. Some said Fayemi was no longer popular or enjoyed the kind of electrifying acceptability that accorded his entry into Ekiti politics in 2006. They said he commanded no cult-followership in the state. But the rally attended by a mammoth crowd convinced every doubting Thomas that Fayemi might as well remain a potent factor that canâ€™t be despised.
The pointer to the foregoing began to manifest from the way he won the primary, garnering 941 votes to floor his closest rival, Segun Oni, who came second with 481. Fayemi entered the primary late and his support base had been badly eroded before he forayed into the turf.
In spite of this, he grappled hard and exhibited astuteness and political prowess to clinch the ticket in a manner that sent jitters down the spines of his traducers. Even Governor Ayodele Fayose, who often taunts Fayemi by branding him a lightweight has changed the gear and now recognises him as a factor to be venerated, if his continuity agenda must survive or scale the hurdles.
The crowd of supporters, who besieged Akure, Ondo State capital, where the reception began, was astounding. That of Ikere scenario was different. Despite the fact that Fayoseâ€™s anointed PDP candidate, Prof Kolapo Olusola, hailed from the town, people trooped out to the bewilderment of many to show love to the former governor.
As glorious as this seems to be, the rally ended in a devastating fiasco with the gunshots suddenly fired by a policeman, when he was heckled by some party thugs, leading to a tussle that propelled the emergency gunfire that nearly sent Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele and five others to their early graves.
The gunshots could have been treated with levity, but due to the personality of Bamidele that was involved. This incident made the highly interesting and largely successful rally to end abruptly, as people, including Ondo State Governor had to scamper to safety to prevent being caught in the web.
Most traumatising was the fact that the shot was triggered when bigwigs like Governor Akeredolu, Fayemi, Bamidele and a new defector and former Minister of Works, Adedayo Adeyeye were in the midst of the glaringly uncontrollable crowd. But Bamidele, a trusted ally of the APC candidate, turned out to be the unlucky victim, as he was hit in the abdominal region and leg.
The fact that these party stalwarts narrowly escaped being hit by bullets fueled the insinuation by the party that it was a state sponsored assassination attempt targeted at Fayemi and other partyâ€™s stalwarts.
The State Chairman of the Party, Chief Jide Awe, pointedly accused Governor Fayose of masterminding the attack to cause internal crisis in the party and portray members as being violent and desperate to win the gubernatorial election.
â€œWe got it from reliable sources that four men were strategically stationed in the midst of the crowd to perpetrate the killing. Dr. Fayemi was the target but they missed it and hit Hon Bamidele. The security agencies must investigate this and ensure that those planning to kill our members are arrested and made to face the full weight of the law,â€ Awe stated.
Even Fayemi found the shooting disturbing. He knew he had a close shave with death and aligned with the position canvassed by his party that the state should be fortified with security before the election to avert unwarranted killings.
Governor Fayose immediately fired back through his special Assistant on Public Communications, Lere Olayinka and advised APC to look inward for the assailants and stop pointing fingers at the wrong direction.
In a laconic but explicit message, the governor pointed out that the shooting was the fallout of the controversial primary conducted by APC. He urged the party to rather search its ranks for the masterminds of the attempted assassination.
â€œThey have said they are coming to Ekiti to rig election and this action had confirmed how desperate they were. Dr Fayemi had while declaring his governorship intent in Ado Ekiti said he would use local, state and federal might against Ekiti people and the shooting has shown that they have stormed the state in a commando-like action,â€ Fayose alleged.
The way the two opposing parties, PDP and APC have been hurling insults and invective at each other confirmed that the shooting would have very dire consequences on the July 14 poll in so many ways.
Shortly after the rally, lorry loads of mobile policemen were deployed to Ado Ekti by the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris and they are now at stand by at the Police headquarters. With this, it was evident that the election would be heavily militarised and this may cause serious voter apathy in the election.
The attack has automatically heightened political tension in the state to the extent that the APC people could no longer trust anyone, including security men, which they alleged have been compromised by the governor.
Though the state police commissioner, Mr. Bello Ahmed, had issued a terse statement clarifying that the gunshot was precipitated by mob action leading to accidental discharge, he had also gone ahead to arrest the politician, Mr Adetayo Adebiyi, who brought the shooter police to Ekiti, coupled with the pronouncement of dismissal from service against the erring cop.
As soothing and professional the pronouncement by the Police boss seemed, it has failed to assuage the feelings of the APC members, who were daily advocating more security deployment in the state under the guise of security threat and lack of safety.
Without mincing words, this signposted that the election would witness massive deployment of security and this end up in two ways: either impugn on the credibility of the poll or ensure sanity during the exercise.
Even before the unfortunate incident, Governor Fayose had been consistent that the APC candidate was clandestinely plotting with top security chiefs in Abuja to influence the election in cahoots with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This singular action forced the governor to suspect every move being made by INEC, including its intention to recruit some students from the federal tertiary institutions based in Ekiti as electoral officers. The governor had branded this as a fraud and unholy practice targeted at rigging.
INEC, however, hasnâ€™t taken the accusation with levity. National Commissioner in charge of Ekiti, Oyo and Osun States, Mr. Adedeji Soyebi and the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti, Prof Abduganiy Raji, said the commission would use improvised Smart Card Readers for the coming governorship election, adding that the implication was that the election couldnâ€™t be manipulated and that the device was also voter-friendly than the manual card readers.
Ekiti was well known to be a volatile state in terms of elections. The pre-2007 election was pulsating and bloody. It was then a world bank consultant, Dr. Ayodeji Daramola was killed in Ijan Ekiti by unknown gunmen. The deaths of one Chief Ayo Awolumate in Otun Ekiti, and Mr. Deji Omojola, at various elections are still fresh.
Again, prior to the 2014 election in Ekiti State, One Ayo Jeje and Mrs Julianah Adewumi were killed in Erinjiyan Ekiti. In similar manner, one Foluso Ogundare was shot and killed in Emure Ekiti, among other casualties of that era.
With the scenario at the APC rally, it seems Ekiti is gradually sliding into anarchy and no efforts must be spared to prevent the recurrence of that era of bloodshed and wanton killings.
To actualise that the state is peaceful, the Police Commissioner summoned all the political party chairmen to a meeting to discuss issues that have to do with security of lives and property. The police used that avenue to further restate their neutrality in the game and urged their men to be professional for Nigerians to continually have implicit confidence in their abilities to be fair to all sides during elections.
The police boss, who read the riot act to the party chairmen, urged them to rein in their members and ensure they refrain from habits that could trigger violence.
The APC chairmen, Chief Jide Awe and his counterpart in PDP, Barrister Gboyega Oguntuase and others conceded to this peace treaty in the interest of Ekiti people.
Awe said: â€œWe are going to ensure that we play by the rules. The incident that happened at our rally called for caution. It gave clear suspicion that some people were desperate to kill. Why should a policeman fire a shot in the midst of such unprecedented crowd if not for compromise? Eternal vigilance they say is the price of liberty. We will be cautious and be watchful of how security men comport themselves. They have to be professional in all their dealingsâ€.
Oguntuase re-emphasised the innocence of the PDP in the shooting and clarified that the party was firmly in control of the electorate due to Fayoseâ€™s popularity and that they needed no bloodshed to win election as far as Ekiti is concerned.