The security agencies say they are in the state to maintain law and order.
The large number of army and police officers deployed to Ondo State ahead of Saturday’s gubernatorial elections has become a source of worry to some residents.
By Thursday, sights of security agents – either dozens of armed police officers in police trucks or army officers on major roads searching selected vehicles – have become a common feature across Akure, the state capital.
On Friday, Army checkpoints litter the city, from the busy Oyemekun Road to the lonely highway leading to the Federal Secretariat.
No fewer than 11 military trucks filled with soldiers were sighted on Oba Adesida road at about 1:10 p.m.
“Our purpose of being here in Ondo State is to support INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission), the police and the people of the state to ensure a peaceful election,” said Mohammed Abubakar, a Major-General and General Officer Commanding 2 Division of the Nigerian Army.
Mr. Abubakar, who was at the 32 Artillery Brigade, Akure, to address the units to be deployed for the poll, said nobody would be allowed to carry arms to polling stations and directed soldiers to arrest anyone who violated the order.
“There would be no movement on that day except for those on essential duties and those on election duty.
“I am happy that the I-G has said that there would be no fishing during the poll. I don’t want to hear that I am going to the bush to hunt. Anybody with arms must be arrested.
“If such a person resists arrest, you have my order to shoot him or her,” he said.
Residents express fears
Residents say the huge number of security agents may dissuade prospective voters from turning out en masse.
“There is going to be an election on Saturday, not war,” said Deji Solanke, a taxi driver in Akure.
Another resident, who preferred not to be named, said that the people’s choice during the election should be respected.
“Allow us to choose. We can’t let anyone come from outside to impose anybody on us,” he said. “We’ll fight to the finish, any attempt to truncate the people’s wish would be met with violence.”
On Friday morning, about five police trucks filled to capacity with armed officers left the Old Police Headquarters at Oyemekun Road and moved towards the city centre. Some police helicopters were also sighted hovering above the state capital at about 3:55 p.m.
Hours later, Mohammed Ndabawa, the state’s Police Commissioner, told journalists that police would deal with “any troublemaker.”
“There will be no loitering or trading at polling units. Police would arrest any policeman escorting a politician to the polling unit,” Mr. Ndabawa said.
Movement into the capital would be restricted between 6 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday, according to the police.
13 political parties are in the race for the top position but the fight seems to be between Olusegun Mimiko, the incumbent governor from the Labour Party (LP), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“I’ve not played politics all my life, I know that the governor is experienced in politics, which is the only thing he has ever done. I am better than he is,” Mr. Akeredolu said in an interview with a local newspaper.
Apart from Mr. Mimiko, Mr. Akeredolu, and Mr. Oke, the campaign posters or billboards of the other aspirants are not visible in the state capital.
Adjacent the ACN’s campaign office in Akure where a giant poster of Mr. Akeredolu – his bushy, white beards has earned him the moniker ‘Father Christmas’ – grins down; some residents scramble over gifts of gallons of kerosene.