As the October 20 Ondo State governorship election approaches, a common feature of the campaign by the 13 parties is the need to prevent snatching of ballot boxes.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, Labour Party and Peoples Democratic Party – being the three main parties in the tussle for the governorship seat in Ondo State – busy mapping out plans to prevent rigging during the October 20 governorship poll.
Leaders of the parties as well as their governorship candidates have consistently been telling their supporters the need to keep the eagle eyes on the ballot boxes after casting their votes on Election Day.
The electorate has been specifically warned not to stray away from the ballot boxes at the polling booths for a second so as to prevent any form of manipulation.
Our correspondent notes that the current strategy which the three parties have decided to adopt in order to “guard” their votes seems to point to the fact that the voters themselves would be the ‘sentries’ at the poll.
The question of whether all voters will be permitted to stay behind after casting their votes or not, however, remains another issue.
The Independent National Electoral Commission in the state in collaboration with a US-based International Press Institute, had also started training over 42, 000 party agents that would represent the various candidates at the 3, 007 polling units across the state on the Election Day.
The implications of this, and the fact that the Federal Government through the Vice-President Namadi Sambo vowed to ensure a free and fair poll, had encouraged the party chiefs to recruit the voters as the army to watch over their votes on October 20.
Speaking at the campaign rallies of the ACN in Ikare Akoko and Ondo township on Tuesday and Wednesday, former Governor of Lagos State, Chief Bola Tinubu, did not mince words in ringing it in the ears of the party’s supporters that their presence, after casting their votes, was important.
He said, “Stay at the polling booths after you have cast your vote. Do not leave because only you can ensure they do not steal your votes.”
If Tinubu was a little subtle in explaining this strategy, Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola hit the heart of the matter.
Aregbesola said at Ikare Akoko, “The rogues who have prepared to rig this election must not be given the chance. When you vote on October 20, make sure you do not leave the polling booth. The votes must be counted in your presence.
“The women should dress up beautifully and take a seat at the polling booths after they have voted. But men, prepare yourselves in the Yoruba way. Gird yourself with the powers of this land and resist anybody who wants to steal your votes.”
Both the LP and the PDP have also said their supporters would guard their votes ruthlessly, with the conviction as that of the ACN, that their candidates would win if rigging is taken out of the equation.
At the campaign of the PDP governorship candidate Olusola Oke, in Ondo on Tuesday, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Kingsley Kuku, urged the party supporters to defend their votes.
He said the President was in support of Oke and that it was not just enough, but for the people to vote.
Kuku said, “When they said the President and VP was not behind the state party’s candidate, it was a lie. Vice President Namadi Sambo is here, the President is coming next week.
“Vote for Oke and also defend your votes. They like stealing votes but we will not allow them. Security officers will not let it happen. It will be one vote one person.”
Also, Governor Olusegun Mimiko has consistently urged his supporters to ensure that their votes are counted in their presence.
He told a crowd at Igbara Oke last week, “This election is one man, one vote. Raise the alarm whenever you see any movement of those that want to hijack your vote.”
Mimiko asked the voters to “shine your eyes because many people will come to your polling booths and pretend to be LP members. If you are careless, they will manipulate the activities there. Your eyes must be on the votes you cast until they are counted in your presence.”
He added, “The LP is the most popular party in the state. Don’t allow the enemies of progress to hijack your votes. Keep them at arm’s length from your votes because that is the future of your children, which they must not destroy.”