By Chuks Okocha
Given the pervasive threat to safety and security in the forthcoming October 10 governorship election in Ondo State, a civil society coalition group, Yiaga Africa, has urged the federal and state governments to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process.
The civil society group said there has been a wave of under reported violence going on in Ondo State, especially the incidence of verbal and physical attacks and vandalism, in Akure South, Akoko South-East, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South West Local Government Areas of the state.
According to a report signed by the Executive Director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, “At the beginning of political campaigns, Yiaga Africa observers reported incidents of physical violence and verbal attacks trailing political party campaigns. At least one incident of physical and/or verbal attacks during political party rallies, meetings and campaigns occurred in Akoko South-West, Akure South, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South-East LGAs. In addition, there were reports of vandalism/destruction of properties such as cars, belonging to candidates and/or supporters by perceived opponents.”
The group alleged that specific cases of voters’ inducement were reported in Akoko South West, Akure South, Akoko South-East, Akoko North West, Ifedore and Odigbo LGAs, where only “39 percent (1,822,346) of the entire population are registered to vote, a good number of registered voters 1,478,460 (81.1 percent) have collected their PVCs. This implies that only about 31.6 percent of the population is eligible to participate in this year’s governorship poll. Since 2011, voters’ turnout has not exceeded 35 percent in Ondo State.”
For instance, Yiaga Africa said: “A supporter of ZLP wearing a ZLP face cap was killed with machete in Idanre by political thugs. Political thugs also attacked and injured supporters of the PDP in what appears to be a coordinated attack in Owo LGA. Yiaga Africa findings discovered that most of the victims and perpetrators of the attacks and intimidation belong to the APC and PDP.”
In the statement, Yiaga Africa urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to collaborate with other stakeholders like the National Peace Committee, traditional/religious institutions, security agencies, media, and CSOs to de-escalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates for the election.
According to Yiaga Africa, “INEC should sustain the use of the election results viewing portal and ensure timely post of the Form EC 8 A at the polling units. Also, INEC should post information on polling unit where elections were cancelled or PUs where elections didn’t hold on the results viewing portal.
“INEC should also collaborate with the Presidential Task Force and State Task Force to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 guidance enunciated in INEC policy on voting amid COVID-19 and other health safety protocols. Polling officials should be required to undergo COVID-19 testing before and after the election. Public engagement on new health protocols and voters code of conduct should be intensified across LGAs and communities.”