By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
After two months of rancorous campaigns, the people of Ekiti State will today file out to elect a new governor that will succeed Ayodele Fayose.
The election is expected to be a fierce battle between Kolapo Olusola of the ruling Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) and Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
For most of yesterday, tension remained very high in Ekiti State, with voters bitterly divided between the two leading candidates.
Fear of violence was palpable, considering the rancorous campaigns before the poll. The allegations by the PDP that the APC was working to rig the poll dominated discussion across the state.
But the police and other security agencies have assured the people of maximum security, urging them to troop with confidence.
To ensure adequate security and safety of lives and property, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris approved the deployment of 30,000 personnel for Ekiti election.
The personnel comprises Police Mobile Force (PMF) units, Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), the Special Protection Unit (SPU), the Anti-Bomb Squad (EOD), Conventional Policemen, the Armament Unit, personnel of FCID and the Sniffer dogs section.
Four Policemen and two others from other security agencies will be on duty at each polling unit throughout the state. The Police Mobile Force (PMF) to be headed by a very Senior Officer will provide security at the collation centres.
Also on ground are two patrol surveillance helicopters, Five additional Armoured Personnel Carriers, 10 Armoured Personnel Vehicles and 250 Police patrol vehicles.
According to the police, restriction of vehicular movement in and out of the state will commence from 12-midnight yesterday, till the end of the election. However, those on essential duties on genuine course will be granted passage.
Todayâ€™s election is also expected to be another litmus test in terms of strength and struggle for political space and dominance between Fayose and Fayemi.
Fayose trounced Fayemi in the last election held on June 21, 2014 and this election avails the ex-Minister the veritable opportunity to take a pound of flesh.
As at press time, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had distributed sensitive materials like forms EC8A, EC8B and EC8E that would be used for the conduct of the election.
The Commissionâ€™s Public Relations Officer in Ekiti, Taiwo Gbadegesin said that the materials had been distributed to the 16 local government areas under heavy security cover.
He said a total of 6,000 youth corps members and other 3,000 ad hoc staff were recruited for the election.
â€œWe distributed the materials in the presence of representatives of political parties and security. The vehicles that conveyed them to the councils were heavily guarded.
â€œThey were not only guarded but were tracked and put on serious ICT watch to ascertain that there were no diversions or compromises on the way.â€
The mood across the state portrayed that of determined people ready to troop out today to cast their votes for their preferred candidates.
PDPâ€™s candidate, Olusola, is a 50-year old Professor of Engineering and current deputy governor of the state.
Though, he may have little knowledge of the dynamism of Ekiti politics, being backed by Fayose, a two-term governor and experienced politician, is an impetus for the realisation of his governorship ambition.
Olusola traversed many towns and villages, seeking the votes of Ekiti electorate. His campaign promises were anchored on the continuation of the six cardinal programmes of his principal – qualitative education, infrastructural development, health services, stomach infrastructure, human capital development and women development.
Added to these is that Olusola hails from Ikere Ekiti in Ekiti South senatorial district. Ikere is the second largest town in the state and it falls within a district that has never produced the governor since 1999.
This sentiment has percolated deeply into the psyche of the people and it may help the PDP candidate.
APCâ€™s Fayemi is an old horse, determined to reclaim the seat he lost to the incumbent four years ago.
Fayemi campained with the 8-point agenda he instituted during his first term. These are good governance, human capital development, infrastructure, tourism development, qualitative education, good healthcare delivery and commercial agriculture.
PDP Accuses APC, Fayemi of Importing Fake Policemen, Ballot Papers
Meanwhile, the PDP has alleged that the APC and its candidate in the Ekiti state governorship election, Fayemi, are importing thugs from Imo and neighbouring states, in fake police uniforms to unleash terror on voters today.
The party also alleged that officials of the Nigerian Security Printing and Minting (NSPM) and those of INEC were colluding to print matching sensitive voting materials including ballot papers with similar serial numbers to enable scientific rigging of the election for the APC.
Similarly, the PDP said it had discovered plots by the APC to use the compromised policemen to offer each voter N10,000 â€˜ritual moneyâ€™ at polling centers to vote for the APC.
In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP questioned why the police personnel detailed to Fayose were stripped to five while invading APC governors, such as Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello are individually allowed to move around the state with squads of over 50 policemen and soldiers.
The party said it was aware of plots to detail the fake policemen to PDP strongholds to harass voters, cause confusion, and in the process smuggle in counterfeit result sheets to aid their planned declaration of false results.
“Our party also knows how the duplicate ballot papers were produced with the recently installed SDD German Machine in the Lagos factory under direct supervision of some officials (names withheld) who are to deliver them to Fayemi.
“What the APC and Fayemi do not know is that we have been monitoring their movements and we have the identity and scheduling of the fake policemen as well as details of the couriers and movement of the duplicitous ballot papers.
“They do not know that we already discovered the security errors in the fake police uniforms and we have adequately made such known to the people of Ekiti State, who are now fully rallied to expose the impostors and directly bring them to book with every intensity and energy available in a democracy.
“Consequently, the PDP cautions the fake policemen and the couriers of the duplicitous ballot papers to note that nobody will come to their rescue when they face the wrath of the people.â€
PDP said the recent invasion of the state and manhandling of Governor Ayo Fayose had toughened the people in their resolve to defend their will with every legitimate tool within the ambit of the law.