The local governments of three major challengers in the forthcoming Ondo governorship election have been identified as areas of possible violence during the election.
The Security Threat Assessment, researched by CLEEN Foundation, raised a red flag on Owo, Akure North and Ilaje, homes to Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress, Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party, and Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy respectively.
In its report presented on Thursday in Akure, the foundation noted that Akure North had a history of violence and contains some hotspots such as Iju and Itaogbolu.
The report observed that the substitution of Mr. Jegede’s name by INEC with that of businessman Jimoh Ibrahim might cause likely clashes between the former’s supporters and those of an APC senator, Tayo Alasoadura, who is also from the area.
Mr. Jegede is already challenging the substitution and the Court of Appeal is expected to give a judgement on the matter next week.
For Owo, the group stated that respondents during its research were of the view that Owo is generally peaceful and expect the governorship election to be violence free.
“However, being the country home of Rotimi Akeredolu, the APC candidate, it has been a beehive of heightened political activities, which require adequate attention,” it said.
It also reported that there had earlier been hostilities in the area following disenchantments by some PDP supporters of Mr. Jegede who are angry with INEC’s action.
The group observed that although people generally expect the elections to be peaceful in Ilaje, this expectation might not be realized giving the history of violence in the area not only over elections, but also as part of the oil producing communities involved in the Niger Delta struggles.
“Moreover, it is also the country home of Olusola Oke, the AD candidate, as well as the maternal home of Rotimi Akeredolu, the APC candidate. Worse still, the administration of election in the area may be confronted by some logistic challenges, most notably transportation in the riverine areas,” the foundation said.
Other local governments categorised as red spots are Ese-Odo, Akure South, Ondo West, Idanre, Ose, and Ifedore.
The group reported that at the aggregate level, the data presented appeared to suggest that the election will generally be peaceful. But when disaggregated on local government basis, possibilities of violence were seen.
“However, it is important to note that nothing is cast in stone,” the report stated. “The mere fact that an area is categorized as GREEN does not imply that the election in the area will automatically be violence-free and vice versa.
“Much depends on proactive measures taken to mitigate identified risk factors across the various LGAs of the state.”
CLEEN recommended that there was need for all institutions connected with the administration of the election to embark on confidence building with all political stakeholders, most notably the ruling and opposition parties, civil society organisations and residents.
“In particular, INEC and security agencies should meet periodically with these actors to assure them of their neutrality, impartiality, willingness and ability to act in a way that will ensure free, fair and credible election,” the report said.
“There is need for timely distribution of election materials and personnel to ensure timely commencement of voting across the state. This is, however, much more crucial for the riverine areas where the challenges of transportation seem to be more entrenched.
“Notable potential flash points during the election should be given more security protection, together with more election observers, in such a way that no ballot station will be left uncovered.
“Activities of notable political thugs/gangs such as the Ade Basket Boys and the Orita Fogo Boys should be curtailed.”
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who was represented at the report presentation by a Deputy Commissioner of Police at the Force Headquarters, Sola Okediji, assured that the police would ensure peaceful election come November 26.
“It won’t be business as usual for politicians in Ondo State because the police will not tolerate any act that could lead to violence in the state. We shall resist all their plans to truncate the peace of the state before, during and after the poll,” the police boss said.
He advised stakeholders in the election to “cooperate with the police and play the game according to the rule.”
In the build up to the election, political parties have been accusing each other of destroying bill boards and posters of each other’s governorship candidates.
Earlier, some AD supporters were attacked and injured when they tried to paste posters of Olusola Oke in Owo, the stronghold of the APC candidate.