A pre-election report by Yiaga Africa reveals heightened levels of political intrigues, counter strategies and violence ahead of the Ondo governorship election.
The report also shows that while the electoral umpire, INEC, has shown commitment and readiness for the election, key contenders and political actors have advanced narratives that forewarn of breakdown of law and order, including alleged threats to deploy state and non-state instruments of force and armed violence.
From its findings sent to PREMIUM TIMES, Yiaga Africa observed incidents of violent verbal and physical attacks, vandalism and destruction of properties, and attacks and intimidation of political opponents from different local government areas (LGAs).
It also lists some LGAs with a high incidence and indicators of violence. They are Akure South, Akoko South-East, Idanre, Owo and Akoko South West.
“Although political activities such as campaigns and rallies have dominated the political space, they, however have been plagued with acts of violence.
“Specific cases of voter inducement were reported in Akoko South West, Akure South, Akoko South-East, Akoko North West, Ifedore and Odigbo LGAs,” part of the report read.
Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the group said the state may witness a further decline in voter turnout during election.
This, it said, is exacerbated by the failure of security agencies to curb lawlessness and impunity by armed political thugs and political actors.
“Low voter turnout may further enhance chances for electoral manipulation in the strongholds of the major political parties particularly in the rural areas where election rigging usually takes place.
“Yiaga Africa is concerned that the election may become a replay of undesirable events, given the attitude of some political gladiators in the state.”
The group further said candidates and supporters of the All Progressive Congress, Peoples Democratic Party and Zenith Labour Party are primarily victims and perpetrators of these acts of vandalism or destruction of properties.
Akoko South-West, Akure South, Idanre, Owo, Akoko South-East and Ese-Odo are considered hotspots and flashpoints of violence due to the prevalence of pre-election violence, it said.
There have also been reported cases of political thugs brandishing arms and weapons during political campaigns without restraint from security agencies.
“Based on Yiaga Africa findings, Akoko South West LGA has a high case of arms buildup. In addition, armed political thugs were reported to be terrorising communities in Ilaje and Ile Oluji/Okeigbo LGAs.
“These unrestrained acts of lawlessness and impunity creates apprehension which could lead to low turnout of voters during the election.”
The group also laments the marginalisation of women, youth and people living with disabilities which it said, has widened the political inequality gap in the state.
The federal and state government have been urged to desist from partisan use of the police and security forces to manipulate the electoral process.
INEC, on the other hand, has been urged to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to de-escalate the rising political tension and violence by signing peace accord or pact between the candidates in the election.
It was also advised to sustain the use of the election results viewing portal and ensure timely post of the Form EC 8 A at the polling units.
INEC has also been admonished to collaborate with the Presidential Task Force and State Task Force to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 guidance enunciated in INEC policy on voting amidst COVID-19 and other health safety protocols.
“Curtailment of proliferation and use of firearms and other weapons and ensure appropriate sanctions for those implicated in thuggery and violence.
“Employ preventive measures to neutralise existing security threats in Ondo State to enable the voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote in a peaceful and secure environment. And political parties and candidates should conduct issue-based campaigns rather than engage in voter inducement and recruitment of thugs and cultists for violence.
“Citizens should work with security agencies by reporting incidents or threats of violence, or perpetrators of violence and refrain from perpetrating violence, refrain from hate speech, and not accept gift items in exchange for their votes.”
The poll is scheduled for October 10 and like the just concluded Edo election, it appears to be a race between the APC and PDP candidates while the ZLP may also pose a strong challenge.