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OSUN: Tension, Anxiety Herald Polls




HOURS to the presidential and National Assembly elections held in the country, yesterday, anxiety and tension were visible in the political space in Osun State, particularly among party leaders, candidates and supporters of various parties.

The tension that gripped the political firmament might not have been unconnected with the zeal and determination with which the two leading parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) prosecuted their electoral campaigns and the high hope placed on their candidates to win the elections.

The Guardian, however, observed that the tempo of political activities was not as high as citizens witnessed during the August 9, 2014 governorship election in the state. Political watchers attributed this to paucity of funds. In the camps of the two prominent parties, the major discussion centered on how to ensure the victory of their presidential candidates while less attention was paid to candidates seeking election to the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly.

Drinking joints and newspaper stands particularly in Osogbo, the state capital, and other major communities in the state, became centres of political campaigns of some sort. In these places, party supporters chanted slogans and reeled out qualities and achievements of their preferred candidates; advantages that should make them beat their opponents during the elections.

As the APC and the PDP rounded off their rallies on Thursday in readiness for the polls, they still pointed accusing fingers at each other on the outbreak of political violence, particularly in parts of Ijesaland and Ikirun axis.
Supporters of the two parties seemed to have literarily turned the two areas to battlefields where political scores were often settled.

Two days to the election, INEC began the distribution of sensitive materials to all the 30 local government areas in the state, including the Area Office in Modakeke-Ife.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Osun State, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, who was recently transferred to the state from Lagos, said the commission was fully ready for the successful conduct of the elections in the state.

A total of 1,100,346 ballot papers were distributed by INEC, representing the total number of PVCs collected by registered eligible voters in the state. Supervising the distribution of the materials at INEC office, located on Gbongan-Osogbo Road, Osogbo, Osun state capital, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, said the commission was set to conduct free, fair, credible and acceptable elections.

The distribution of the sensitive materials was witnessed by representatives of all registered political parties, election observers, security operatives and journalists.   The Guardian learnt that each local government received ballot papers commensurate with the number of PVC’s distributed in such particular area.

The National Secretariat of INEC was said to have given a directive to all RECs in the 36 states of the federation against giving out ballot papers more than the number of PVCs collected by voters in each local council.

The step might not be unconnected with the desire by INEC to prevent rigging and manipulation during the polls. Ogunmola said the commission organized a refresher course for 105 Supervisory Presiding Officers (SPOs). The trained officers were expected in turn to train Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs), who handled and operated the card readers.

Ogunmola said the materials had been under heavy security since the commission took delivery of them from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Wednesday. He noted that an additional five per cent of ballot papers distributed to each local government, wards and polling units would be provided to cater for any eventuality.

Representatives of the political parties in attendance described the exercise as transparent, calling on the commission not to relent in its efforts at ensuring free, fair and transparent elections.

The State Director of National Orientation Agency, Dr. Lawrence Martins, stressed the need for voters to ensure they perform their civic rights without any hindrance.

In all, 1,100,346 ballot papers were distributed to all the local government councils, which represent the total number of PVC’s already distributed in the state, including five per cent extra, as directed by the commission.

On card readers, the state REC stressed that the commission had taken full delivery of enough card readers that could go round all polling centres in the state. He said: “We have enough card readers. We even have excess, in case any of them malfunction on the day of the election. And we have trained our staff on how to operate them.

We are fully prepared for the elections and all the necessary logistics for the successful conduct of the exercise have been put in place. We don’t entertain any fear, and we appeal to all stakeholders to cooperate with the commission, to achieve the stated objective of conducting free, fair, credible and acceptable elections. Officers and men of the state command of the Nigerian Police Force were warned against intimidating or harassing voters before and during the elections.

Addressing officers and men of the command during a visit to Osun State police headquarters, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Zone 11, Ikemefuna Okoye, said the primary duty of the police was to ensure peace wherever they were posted during the exercise.

The AIG advised policemen to be civil in their dealing with people. He warned that the police leadership would not hesitate to deal decisively with any erring policeman or officer. While stressing the resolve of police authorities to prioritize issues affecting the welfare of officers, Okoye demanded total commitment to duties and respect for people’s right.

Armed soldiers were drafted to provide security for the exercise. They were sighted at various locations at the entrance to major roads leading to Osogbo, the Osun state capital. The soldiers, who were civil to motorists and other members of the public, mounted roadblocks at strategic points including Gbongan-Osogbo, Ilesa-Osogbo, Ibokun-Osogbo, Ogbomoso-Osogbo and Iwo-Osogbo.

Meanwhile, there was sharp division among traditional rulers in Osun State on the recent endorsement of one of the presidential candidates who contested yesterday’s election. A faction of the monarchs had expressed their tacit support for a presidential candidate. Another faction, however, saw the decision as improper and capable of denigrating the exalted position of the traditional institution.

The monarchs also condemned bribe allegedly given out to Obas in return for political support. The monarchs said what ought to be paramount among royal fathers was development of the country and not pecuniary gains, adding that they would support any government that would bring rapid development to the society.

They called on people of the state to vote according to their conscience, and urged politicians shun violence and undemocratic tendencies. The National Conscience Party (NCP) raised alarm on alleged plot by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to substitute presiding officers who are Corps members with non-Corps members.

The party in a petition dated March 25, 2015 and signed by its state chairman, Gideon Fasorepo, said the move was part of a plot to manipulate the forthcoming presidential and National Assembly election. The petition reads in part: “The attention of our party has been drawn to the illegal and unwarranted substitution/replacement of Presiding Officers on order from Abuja with non-corps members. We have it on good authority that this is part of an elaborate plot to manipulate the presidential and National Assembly elections.

“As a party committed to credible elections in which all votes must count, we requested INEC to adhere strictly to the electoral regulations, especially as regards the appointment and deployment of Presiding and Assistant Presiding Officers.”

In a swift reaction, however, the state REC, Ogunmola, denied the allegation, saying persons that were replaced were Batch ‘A’ corps members who had completed their one-year mandatory NYSC programme. Ogunmola noted that the issue was raised at a stakeholders meeting last Tuesday and explanation was made to party leaders on the need to replace the affected corps members in order to avoid shortage of adhoc staff.

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