With Nearly 70% of Results in, Akeredolu on the Cusp of Victory

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•Wins nine LGAs of 12 declared
•Vote buying, pockets of violence mark process

Nseobong Okon-Ekeng, Chuks Okocha and James Sowole in Akure

With his comfortable and unassailable lead from yesterday’s governorship election, Ondo State Governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is on the cusp of victory to a second term in office.
Out of the 18 local governments in the state, results from 12 of the council areas have already been announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with him clinching nine of the local governments, representing about 67 per cent of the total net results, Akeredolu is leading with a comfortable margin.

And with results from 2895 polling units of the 3009 total polling units in the state uploaded on INEC result website, representing 96.2 percent of the total result as at 3.30am Sunday morning, the governor looks increasingly out of reach of his opponents.

However, in a show of strength in their respective strongholds, all the three leading candidates in the election – Rotimi Akeredolu of APC, Eyitayo Jegede of PDP and Agboola Ajayi of ZLP – won their various polling units for their political parties.
Akeredolu, who voted together with his wife at Ijebu 2 Ward 5, Unit 6, won with a landslide victory. He polled a total of 413 votes while PDP’s Jegede scored 12 and the African Democratic Party had nine.
Jegede, on his part, won in Igbogin/Isikan Ward 2, unit 9, where he voted, polling 220 votes against the 60 votes recorded by Akeredolu, while Ajayi got only seven votes.

At his unit too, Ajayi won with 395 votes to defeat Jegede, who polled 5. Akeredolu scored 13 as AAC and LP polled one each.
Although the election started on a promising note, it initially put Jegede and supporters into a panic mode, when the card reader at his poling unit could not read his details, a development, which allegedly kept him waiting for about three hours before it was eventually rectified for him and wife to vote.

Curiously, allegations of vote buying, pockets of violence and other electoral malpractices also marked the election process in some parts of the state, a situation that forced Yiaga Africa, a civil society group to list the affected polling units, where incidences of vote buying and other electoral malpractices allegedly took place.

Meanwhile, a major tragedy was averted early yesterday in Ilaje part of the state, when a boat conveying some officials of INEC and election materials capsized. But there were no casualties.
So far, results coming in from the various polling units put the governor in a sure-footed lead above Jegede and Ajayi, even though the governorship contest had begun to look more like a straight contest between Akeredolu and Jegede, with Ajayi coming a distant third.

According to the local governments by local governments results released, the APC candidate has since maintained a comfortable lead such that suggested that his re-election might have been sealed.
For instance, in Ifedore Local Government Area, the APC scored 9350, while the PDP had 11,852 and the ZLP, 1863. In Ile Oluji/Oke Igbo Local Government Area, APC polled 13278, PDP, 9231 and ZLP 1971.

Results from Irele Local Government Area saw the APC with 12643, the PDP with 5493 and ZLP with 5904. The Akoko North East Local Government Area gave the APC 16572 votes, PDP, 8380 and ZLP, 3532.
In Akoko South West Local Government Area, APC had 21,232, while PDP scored 15,055 and ZLP, 2775. In Akoko North West, APC polled 15,809, PDP, 10,320 and ZLP, 3,447, while result from Ondo East Local Government Area gave the APC 6485, PDP, 4049 and ZLP, 3221.
From Owo Local Government Area, the APC had 35,957, PDP polled 5311 and ZLP scored 408. Akure North Local Government Area voted for the APC with 9546, while the PDP had 12263 and the ZLP, 1046.

The Idanre Local Government Area result scored APC with 11 286, the PDP, 7499 and the ZLP, 3623. Also, in Akoko South East Local Government Area, the APC led with 9419, while the PDP scored 4003 and the ZLP, 2004.
However, in Akure South Local Government Area, APC scored 17277, the PDP polled 47627, while the ZLP came third with 2236.
But, generally, there was low turnout of voters for a period of time even though a majority of voters wore facemasks without observing strict physical distancing.

INEC’s members of staff and their ad-hoc counterparts were on ground as early as possible, while voters also arrived in time to confirm their eligibility to participate in the process from the names pasted on the wall at the various polling units.
Observers from the European center for electoral support monitoring the governorship election in Ondo State were equally on ground to observe the process.
Complying with Covid-19 protocols, INEC officials checked temperatures of voters using the infrared thermometers as well as ensuring that voters sanitised their hands before proceeding with the election processes.

Allegations of Vote Buying Swirl Amid Tight Security

Voting in yesterday’s gubernatorial election in Ondo State was generally peaceful in many parts of the state but also characterised by vote buying.
In some of the polling units monitored by THISDAY, representatives of political parties were seen giving out money to people after voting for their candidates.

In other places visited, voters were also seen openly asking for their money after voting.
Curiously, the presence of security personnel at the polling units did not deter both the electorate and the representatives of political parties from selling and buying votes.

However, in some of the places visited in Akoko area of the state, Ondo North senatorial district, voters defied the early morning rain, trooped out in their thousands to cast their votes.
The situation was the same in Owo Local Government, where the incumbent governor, Akeredolu, voted.
But for the two isolated incidences of violence in Akure, the state capital, the exercise, was equally peaceful in Ondo Central senatorial district.

One of the incidents occurred at Unit 4, Ward 4, Ijomu/Obanla, in Akure South Local Government, at about 8.40 am.
During the incident, a young man, who was identified as Gboyega, was shot and was rushed to the hospital on a motorcycle.
Prospective voters, media men, election observers and INEC officials had scampered to safety, as hoodlums continued to shoot for several minutes.

Operatives of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), who were nearby Ijomu Junction, also ran for cover, but men of Nigeria Security and Civil Defense CORPS (NSCDC) later brought the situation under control.
An eyewitness, who gave his name as Tope, claimed that the thugs were members of one of the two main political parties.
In the second incidents, police arrested two persons following the stabbing of an unidentified man.
Deputy Commissioner of Police, Investigation, Ondo State, Lanre Bankole, confirmed the incident, which was said to have happened at Ward 004 Unit 002.

But security was generally tight in all parts of the state, as men of the Nigerian Police, NSCDC and Department of State Security (DSS) were seen in practically all the polling units.
In the places visited, there were at least four security men in each of the polling units.Equally, men of the Nigerian Army, mounted check points at strategic places at the entrances of major towns and even in towns.

Also, in compliance with the directive on restriction of movement of vehicles, security men, mainly soldiers, prevented vehicles from entering into the states. All vehicles including newspaper distribution vehicles were stopped at Ajebandele, a border town.
Meanwhile, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Donald Ojogo has commended the relative peace, which pervaded the riverine region of Ese Odo and Ilaje local government areas of the state during the governorship election.

An indigene of Arogbo community, he acknowledged the area used to be volatile, but explained why the people were combative.
“It is a carryover of the years of militancy in the Niger Delta. This area used to be very volatile. We have tried to contain it by talking to the youths. We engage them constantly. I do not draw the line between supporters of Party A or B. After casting my vote. I decided to remain here and you can see I do not need armed escorts.

“My presence allows for peace, because they respect me. I add some humour if I noticed any tension. I must commend INEC and the security agencies. Materials arrived on time and the security agents are well behaved throughout the 16 polling units in Arogbo. However, I was told that there is serious vote buying in some areas.”
Summarising reports from his colleagues across the state, Ojogo said the resolve of the people of Ondo to sustain good governance has encouraged them to make sacrifices.

“People will struggle to win their polling units. That is normal. All the tension and heating up of the polity that you hear before the election is reduced or non-existent on Election Day, because those who are talking tough have all gone to their various wards. And when they get there they also meet others, who match their tough stance. So, where there is balance of terror, there is peace.

THISDAY observed that in Gbamila Open Space in Arogbo Ward 1 Unit 6, the youths created a restive situation, when they rejected pleas from INEC officials and security agents to allow the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers to cast their ballots first.
Mr. Ola Rotimi, Assistant Presiding Officer and Police Inspector Amen Geregha said they had tried all they could to bring the situation under control, but failed.
One of the elders of the community, Mr. Agabra Ikoto Atili, Ondo State Deputy Chairman of the APC blamed the rowdy behaviour of the youths on the aftermath of the crises in the Niger Delta and loss of family values.

Yiaga Outlines Incidences of Vote Buying, Violence

A civil society group, Yiaga Africa, has listed polling units, where incidence of vote buying and other electoral malpractices including violence, took place during yesterday’s governorship election in Ondo State.
Addressing a pressing conference immediately after casting of votes ended, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, Co-chair, Yiaga Africa 2020 Ondo Election Observation Mission and Ezenwa Nwagwu Co-chair, said, “As of 3:00 pm, Yiaga Africa has received a total of 13 verified incident reports. They include the following:

“Vote buying and interference by party agents: In St. Paul’s Primary School, Oluwu, Arewa III, Code 015, of Lodasa Iparuku/Likoja Ward in Ondo West, votes were traded for money as voters showed how they voted to party agents before casting their ballots.
“In St. Paul’s Anglican Primary School, 001 of Ifon 1 ward in Ose LGA, party agents accompanied voters to the voting cubicle to see how they marked their ballots. In Ajegunle Erumana LA School 012 of Aheri Ward, Ilaje, voters showed how they marked their ballots to polling agents that were stationed at the polling unit. Vote buying was also reported in Polling Unit 007, Ward 9 in Oba-Ile, Akure North LGA.”

The Yiaga report claimed that voting was suspended in the following polling units.
“In open space polling unit 021 of Olufemisoro Street of Okelisa Okedoko/Ogbodo Ward – Code 11 of Ondo West LGA, voting was suspended, because the Smart Card Reader malfunctioned and was not replaced.
“Disruption of the voting process and stuffing of ballot box. Party thugs stormed Odoewu/Onipanu, Open Space Polling Unit (PU 009) of Idale-Logbosere Ward (04) in Idanre LGA with machetes, axes and guns, voters ran for safety as the thugs thumb-printed ballot papers and stuffed them into the ballot box. Ballot box stuffing was also reported in Surulere PU (003) in Oke-Igbo II ward of Ileoluji/Okeibo LGA,” the group said

According to Yiaga Africans, watching the vote, observers reported that voting commenced late in Atijere Community in Mahin IV ward of Ilaje LGA, because community members protested the non-deployment of essential voting materials.

“Two (2) ballot boxes were deployed to the community instead of five (5). The community members refused to allow INEC polling officials to set up polling units until all five ballots boxes were available. Voting in the community commenced at 12:15 pm”, the group reported.

Other preliminary finds of the Yiaga Africa include, “Improvement in the management of election logistics. Yiaga Africa notes the improvement in the arrival time and set up of polling units. As at 7:30 am, Yiaga Africa reported that INEC officials had arrived in 77% of polling units.

“This is a significant improvement compared to the September 19 Edo governorship election, where officials arrived at 7:30 am in 38% of polling units. Although polling officials arrived early in most polling stations, only 3% of polling units had commenced voting, and accreditation at 8:30 am. However, the numbers increased to 89% by 9:30 am and 94% at 10:30 am.

“The early arrival may not be unconnected with the new policy introduced by INEC requiring all National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) drivers to deploy their cars to the Registration Area Camps (RAC) 24hrs before the commencement of polls. This policy aligns with Yiaga Africa and other civil society groups’ recommendations on transparent and efficient management of election logistics for the election.

“Deployment of Election Materials and Personnel. Effective deployment of election materials and personnel remains crucial to the conduct of elections. Yiaga Africa’s WTV observers reported an average of four (4) polling officials in the polling units. Sensitive materials like the Smart Card Readers and Register of Voters were observed in 100% of polling units. In addition, voting cubicles were present in 96% of polling units, and inkpads (in voting cubicles) in all the polling units observed.

“However, in Atijaye community in Ilaje LGA with five polling units, INEC officials deployed to two polling units. This led to the late commencement of polls as community members insisted that voting would not commence until the materials and personnel for the outstanding three polling units were deployed. Yiaga Africa escalated this incident to INEC, and the issue was resolved. Voting began at 12:15 pm in the affected community. Yiaga Africa expects that INEC will extend the voting time in that community to enable the voters to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right.

“Election Security. As predicted in the Yiaga Africa Pre-Election Observation reports (PREO), armed political thugs made attempts to disrupt elections in some polling units. Yiaga Africa received and verified a critical incident in Ijomu Ward 4, Polling Unit 7 in Akure at St. Stephen’s Anglican Primary School, where another rival thug stabbed a suspected thug attempting to disrupt the election. Sporadic gunshots by unknown armed men also occurred in Oba-Ile, Ward 9, Unit 007, Akure North Local Government Area.

“Voting buying and Secrecy of the Ballot. Yiaga Africa received reports of vote buying from Akure South LGA, Ose, Ondo West, Ilaje, and Akure North. Across several polling units, the secrecy of the ballot was severely compromised despite attempts by polling officials to prevent voters and party agents from showing how ballot papers were marked. These electoral offences occurred in the presence of security personnel, who made no attempt in some cases to reprimand the culprits.

“Compliance with COVID-19 Protocol. At the commencement of polls, Yiaga Africa observed compliance with INEC COVID-19 protocol on the 2-tier queuing system in 88% of polling units, the presence of infrared thermometer and disinfectant/sanitizers in 74% of polling units. However, there was a minimal observance of social distancing across all the polling units observed.

“Participation of Persons with Disabilities. In assessing the electoral process’ responsiveness to the needs of persons with disabilities, Yiaga Africa tracked the presence of disability-sensitive election materials. Yiaga Africa observers reported the presence of the Braille ballot guide in 59% of polling units, magnifying glasses in 27% of polling units, forms EC 40H (PWD Voter information and statistics) in 93% of polling units and the PWD posters Form EC 30E in 90% of polling units.

“Presence of Party Agents. As indicated in the Yiaga Africa PREO reports, the Ondo governorship election will be a keen contest between three political parties. This is supported by the Yiaga Africa findings on the presence of party agents with reports showing that the All Progressives Congress (APC) party agents were seen at 100% of polling units, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) party agents at 100% of polling units, Social Democratic Party (SDP) party agents at 10% of polling units, and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) party agents at 89% of polling units”.

INEC Confirms Boat Mishap, Glad No Casualties

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Saturday afternoon confirmed that the boat carrying officials of the commission was involved in a boat mishap.

A statement by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in charge of the state, Ambassador Rufus Akeju, however, said there was no casualty. The boat was moving from Igbokoda to Ilaje.

The statement made available to THISDAY in Akure, stated thus: “INEC can confirm that there was an accident last night during the movement of personnel and materials to the riverine registration areas of llaje for the election.

“Fortunately, all personnel and election materials were rescued when the boat capsized. This was made possible by the officers and personnel of the Nigeria Navy, who escorted the boats. The movement was eventually concluded and voting commenced as planned in all the polling units today.

“lNEC commends the resilience and professionalism of the Nigerian Navy as well as those of all other personnel involved in the exercise,” the Resident Electoral Commissioner said.

Earlier, while confirming the incident, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission got wind of a report that there was no casualty as all the victims were rescued.

“I am told all our ad-Hoc staff were safely evacuated,” Oyekanmi said.