Two weeks to the Ondo State governorship election, the political climate in the state has become quite charged.
There are no clear indications about which of the candidates would eventually win the race, but political activities to curry the votes of the electorate have been in full swing.
While there are many contestants, the three major ones include the incumbent governor, Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party.
Mimiko assumed the position in 2008 after the courts overturned the victory of Olusegun Agagu of the Peoples Democratic Party.
There is also Rotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria. Akeredolu was a former Nigeria Bar Association president, and the third is PDP candidate, Olusola Oke, a former legal adviser of the party.
However, there are clear indications that security agencies may have a lot of issues to contend with. This is because of the pocket of acts already pointing to electoral fraud on the D-Day which is Oct 20.
On the other hand, cases of accusation and counter-accusations abound, especially as members of the opposition parties insist that some of the security operatives are already compromised thus calling for their redeployment.
Nevertheless, during the Peoples Democratic Party’s campaign rally in Akure, Nigeria’s Vice-President, Namadi Sambo and the Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, promised that there would be adequate security during the election.
Sambo said, “I want to assure you that there would be free and fair election with adequate security.”
On his part, Olubolade said President Goodluck Jonathan had given a mandate for a free and fair election and given his commitment to making it happen.
He cited the Edo governorship election as a benchmark and promised a better experience.
“Security in Ondo would be better than that of Edo. I would direct the Inspector-General of Police to make security better than it was in Edo,” he said.
Already, the police are saddled with the task of ensuring the protection of lives and properties in the state. But with the Federal Government’s directive, they have a greater task to ensure that the election is conducted in a safe environment devoid of electoral violence and malpractice.
Feelers however, show that despite the assurances given by the FG, members of opposition parties in the state seem not to be convinced or impressed. They have on several occasions cried foul about the activities of the security agencies in the state.
Last Sunday, the Akeredolu Campaign Organisation, through its Director of Media, Publicity and Strategy, Idowu Ajanaku, called for the transfer of the Director, State Security Service, Ondo State Command, Mrs. Betty Adokie.
Ajanaku had alleged that the SSS boss had been compromised.
Ajanaku had said, “Adokie has devised a gimmick of arresting members of the PDP, Action Congress of Nigeria and Labour Party, while cleverly releasing the LP members and holding the others in detention on spurious charges.
“We want to warn that if she continues in office with the same attitude, the members of PDP and ACN may have no choice but to resort to self-help, which will not work well for the peace of the state.
“Hence this call for her immediate removal, which we believe the Director-General will not take lightly.”
As the election draws near, the war of words, accusations and counter-accusations of this nature have been intensified by different political interest groups in the build up to the Oct. 20 election.
There is a clear desperation in the air as the contestants deploy their political strengths in a bid to outwit one another.
About two week ago, two members of a political party in the state were arrested in Ondo town for buying voter cards. They have been arraigned by the police.
Last Sunday, a man in Ondo South was caught with ballot papers and other election materials. The man’s identity or political party affiliation could not be ascertained. The Police Commissioner in the state, Danladi Mshelbwala, stated that what the suspect had were old ballot papers.
Meanwhile, in a swift reaction on Monday, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Akin Orebiyi, said that even a member of staff in the commission was arrested for being in possession of voter cards and he would be duly prosecuted.
Orebiyi said that the man, whose name he withheld, had dragged the commission’s name into disrepute.
He, however, denied that ballot papers were part of the documents seized from the suspect.
“There is no way anybody could get hold of the ballot papers, which are very sensitive materials, before the election,” he argued.
In another development, three LP members were recently shot during a political rally in Owo. They escaped by the whiskers after they were attacked by rival political counterparts.
To strengthen the FG’s promises, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, during an interview, promised that the election would be peaceful.
He added that security officials would be deployed in the state to prevent a break down of law and order.
Although the people have the assurance of the FG on peace in the state, the recent incidents, allegations and counter allegations by political parties on the invasion of thugs, the electorate feel they have reasons to be apprehensive.