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Voters induced as Akeredolu smells victory, Jegede, Ajayi hopeful

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Akeredolu

• Jegede Accuses Observers Of Inducement, Blames INEC For Card Reader Malfunctioning
• Many Arrested For Electoral Offences, Including Vote-buying – Police Commissioner
• Akeredolu, Deputy Hail Massive Turnout Of Residents
• PWDs Tackle INEC Over Challenges Accessing Polling Units• Akeredolu, Jegede, Ajayi Win Polling Units
• APC, PDP, ZLP Chieftains Laud INEC For Successful Poll Conduct
• YIAGA Africa Decries Vote-buying, Ballot Box Stuffing
• Attacks On INEC Officials Compromises Transparency Of Process

Nearly four years after Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), and Mr. Agboola Ajayi, contesting on a joint ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), beat Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the race to the Ondo Government House, the three lawyers, yesterday, locked horns in the battle to produce the next governor of the state.

While Governor Akeredolu and Jegede were found worthy by their parties to be made flag bearers yet again, in the gubernatorial election, Ajayi, who had earlier jumped ship (but still the incumbent deputy governor) wore the colours of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) in the poll, which not only opened a new chapter in the annals of vote-buying but also featured sporadic shootings, violence and ballot boxes snatching.

And despite being a wet Saturday morning in parts of the state, hundreds of thousands of residents went out to cast their ballots for their preferred candidates among the 17 listed, 16 of which are male.

As was the case in Edo State a fortnight ago, some voters trooped to polling units unmasked to cast their votes. For instance, at ward 08, Unit 002 in Isua Akoko South East Local Council; Ward Nine (Oba Ile) Polling Unit 6, Akoko North, and at Polling Unit 11, Ward 10, Akoko North West, among others, the scenarios were the same.

In Ondo East, and other locations, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) addressed the electorate in vernacular, where they preached the need for them to mask up, sanitise their hands, maintain social distancing and observe other COVID-19 protocols.

Signs that the election was going to be a votes-buying galore emerged quite early with an early morning fight by voters at ward 6, Polling Unit 6, Idanre Local Council, after some voters accuse one of the party agents of paying interested residents N5, 000 per vote.

Security agencies, who were showered with torrents of praises in the recent Edo governorship poll, allegedly looked the other way, as agents of different political parties devised ingenious ways of inducing voters with cash, with vote-buying particularly widespread. In some locations, the party agents dished out money openly, while in others, willing vote sellers were directed to nearby buildings to seal their deals.

A classroom served as the pay point at ward 03, polling unit 016, Igboroko II, Ahmadiya Primary School, in Owo Local Council, as voters trickled in there to collect their money.

A daring party agent surprised many at Ward 2, Polling Unit 8 at Ugbo, in Ilaje Local Council, as he doled out cash in the full public glare. The same scenario played out at Ward 03, Polling Unit 9, in Odigbo Local Council, where party officials dished out N2, 000 to those confirmed to have voted for their candidate.

Not all parties had enough resources to procure votes right away, some others were dishing out promissory notes. This was the situation at Ward 3, Polling Unit 2, Mahin, in Ilaje Local Council, where voters were handed sheets of papers to write their names, with a party agent overseeing the exercise.

THE PDP’s Jegede, after casting his vote at the Sacred Heart Primary School, Ward 4, Unit 10, Akure South Local Council, called on the security agents and the media to expose some observers, whom he alleged helped some candidates to induce voters at the polling centres.

While explaining that some observers watched people as they voted and from where they stood, gave signals to those that are to pay for the votes, he urged the media and security men to be vigilant and expose business brokers, who disguised as election observers while helping candidates to induce voters.

The SAN, who accused the INEC of creating problems and failing to resolve the perennial card reader stoppage, expressed optimism that he would emerge victorious despite the odds.

He said: “The machine stopped working when it was my turn to vote. I had to protest and they said the problem had been rectified. But despite all these hitches, there has not been a major disruption even though I don’t know what is happening in remote areas.

“The turnout has been massive, voters conducted themselves well. I am aware that there have been pockets of violence in Ijomu area. I have also heard of incidents of vote-buying. In Owo, for instance, a former commissioner led thugs to attack one Sadiq Obanoyen and injured him in a patrol vehicle. These are incidences of violence … But by the grace of God, we will still win.

“By and large, I plead with the INEC to improve on its performance. Their performance in Edo was very good. Here at this unit, the voters peacefully conducted themselves. Unfortunately, it is INEC that is creating a problem for voters. But I hope things will be okay. I expect to win; I expect victory.”

CORROBORATING Jegede’s claim, the Commissioner of Police in charge of Owo and Ose local councils, Mr. Abutu Yaro, yesterday, said that many people were arrested for electoral offences, including voters’ inducement.

According to Yaro, one of the suspects was arrested for inducing voters at Unit 15 Ward 4, Shagari Market along the Owo-Benin Highway. Eyewitnesses also alleged that the suspect was trying to snatch a ballot box when voters mobbed him.

The suspect, who was stripped half-naked by locals, however, denied the allegation, claiming that he was an election observer even though he refused to give his name and the group he was working for.

While protesting his arrest, he said the police should have also arrested those whom he said were buying votes, alleging that the mob attacked him after he called the attention of the police to vote-buying.

But Yaro said: “We rescued him from the people, who wanted to lynch him. They said he came to buy votes, and when he was caught, he threw the money at the people.”

GOVERNOR Akeredolu after voting at Unit 06, Ward 02, Ijebu-Owo, in Owo, Headquarters of Owo Local Council, at exactly 9.40 am, expressed confidence that he would carry the day, even as he appealed to the electorate to monitor their votes and ensure that their votes count.

“I’m sure my God will give me victory at the end of the day. I put my trust in God and I’m sure He won’t let me down. My confidence is not in any man, but in God,” the APC candidate stated, adding that, “from the information that I’ve received, the election is going on smoothly. We have just started and the election has been peaceful so far.”

He urged his supporters to remain peaceful throughout the period of the exercise and beyond.

Ajayi

His deputy and ZLP candidate, Ajayi hailed the massive turnout of voters, declaring it as impressive.

Ajayi while voting at Apoi Ward 4, Unit 2, in Kiribo, Ese-Odo Local Council, said the turnout was “very encouraging.”

He alleged that the security arrangement for the poll may have been “a bit compromised. It was exactly what happened in Edo State. We want to appeal to security agents to live up to expectations, and continue to be neutral to ensure that every Nigerian’s vote counts.

“I just received a call that a senior militant in this country, Chief Ajube, who is not at all a member of this community laid siege somewhere, telling the people to vote for APC and security men are there watching him.

“I hereby call on the IGP to direct his men to do justice, this is injustice and barbaric, they should allow people to cast their vote freely because people are ready to vote freely.”

MEANWHILE, chieftains of both the ruling APC and the major opposition party, the PDP, commended INEC for the successful conduct of the poll.

The Chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Princess Oladunni Odu, who spoke to The Guardian after voting at Ward 2, Unit 001, Okitipupa Local Council, described the exercise as a success.

Odu, who is an APC leader, claimed that INEC, voters, security agencies, and other stakeholders complied strictly with COVID-19 protocols and regulations.

She, however, alleged that opposition parties sponsored some political thugs to disrupt the election and pervert the will of the people, but were resisted by security operatives.

On his part, the former PDP Vice Chairman, South West, Dr. Eddy Olorugun Olafeso, who voted at Ward 1, Unit 005, stressed that the improvement achieved in past elections is worth celebration.

Olafeso said the near non-violence free poll achieved was as a result of the people’s raised level of patriotism and self-discovery.

According to him, the INEC and security agencies performed beyond the people’s expectations, while the turnout of voters was highly commendable and impressive.

However, the first female Speaker of the state and ZLP chieftain, Jumoke Akindele, said apathy on the part of the people caused some hitches in the election.

Akindele, who voted in the same polling unit with Odu, noted that some voters were being deceived by agents of some political parties, reason some of them were not concerned with the outcome of the poll, and how it may affect them.

She, nonetheless, agreed with Odu and Olafeso (who are her kinsmen) on the performance of INEC, security agencies, and other relevant stakeholders.

MULTIPLE sources claim that a leader of the ruling APC in Owo, Femi Obanayen, unleashed violence by disrupting elections at polling units in the ancient town.

Obanoyen, The Guardian gathered, reportedly led some hoodlums to attack polling booths in places reputed to be Jegede’s stronghold.

One of the eyewitnesses said Obanayen, a former chairman of Local Government Service Commission in the immediate past administration led 14 boys in a police-coloured Hilux pick-up with registration number PF 2843 SPY to foment trouble.

According to them, his gun-totting team snatched ballot boxes at different polling units in Owo.

THE three front-runners in the election won their polling units. Akeredolu won his polling unit with 413 votes to defeat Jegede, who polled 12 votes. Ajayi scored zero there.

Jegede at his Igbogin/Isikan Ward 2, Unit 9, garnered 220 votes against 60 carded by Akeredolu and seven votes, which Ajayi got.

Ajayi grabbed a landslide victory with 395 votes at his Apoi Ward.

However, as at press time, there was mild jubilation in Akeredolu’s camp with his supporters claiming that he was cruising to victory.

PERSONS with Disabilities (PWDs) under the auspices of The Campaign for Equal Voting Access, has berated the INEC over challenges encountered by PWDs at polling units during the election.

Jegede

Its Chairman, David Anyaele, who noted this in its preliminary statement issued in Abuja said: “EVAPWDs observers report shows that a large number of the polling units were not accessible to physically challenged persons.

“At Polling Unit 14, Ward 10, Akure South LGA, a physically challenged voter was carried, before she could access the voting cubicle. The same inaccessible (polling Units were observed at PU 003, Ward 011 LA II Primary School Lisaliwa, PU 025 Ward 07; PU 022 Ward 007; PU 023 Ward 007, and PU 027 Ward 007 Ondo West LGA. These polling units were not accessible for PWDs having multiple barriers, from stones, gutters, and sand.”

According to Anyaele, EVA4PWDs observers observed that Braille jackets were not deployed in all the polling units, admitting that Braille Jackets were seen in Polling Units (PU005, Ward 003, PU, 036 Ward 002, PU 014, Ward 010, PU, 002, 002 Akure South LGA), and regretted those other polling units had no Braille Jacket (PU 001, Ward 6 Gboni, PU, 31, Ward 002, PU 29, Ward 002, Isikan, Akure South LGA).

He regretted that INEC was still struggling to implement its framework on the Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Electoral Process and the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.
DESPITE its failings, some civil society organisations (CSOs) insist that the poll recorded some positives that must be improved upon.

For instance, YIAGA Africa, in its preliminary report, maintained that there was an improvement on management of election logistics, participation of People With Disabilities (PWDs), party agents, effective deployment of personnel and materials amongst others.

Co-Chair of the outfit, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, while speaking at a press conference, in Akure, also listed compliance with COVID-19 protocols, and professionalism of security operatives as some of the success stories of the election.

The group, however, lamented a total of 13 verified incident reports that bordered on late commencement of voting, accreditation, vote buying, interference, disruption of voting process, and ballot box stuffing in some areas.

YIAGA Africa urged INEC to ensure transparency and openness in the management of cancelled votes, and determination of the margin of lead in line with extant electoral laws, as well as ensure due diligence and oversight on the result collation process in blind spots in the riverine communities of Ilaje and Ese-Odo LGA.”

THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), on its part, noted that the positive effect the early arrival would have had on the process was affected by the morning rains, which disrupted voting, and upended the resolve to adhere to COVID-19 protocols.

Its director, Idayat Hassan, while commenting on some trouble spots recalled that towards the end of voting there was an upsurge in attacks targeted at INEC officials. “As at the time of reporting, the CDD received reports of attacks targeted at INEC staff and personnel.

“In Akure South Local Council, CDD observers reported cases of hoodlums chasing away Registration Area Centres Technicians. If RAC techs are chased out of the polling units and prevented from carrying out their duties, it compromises the transparency of the process, especially the upload of results unto the INEC Results Viewing Platform.

“The same RAC techs are the ones who have the responsibility to maintain Smart Card Readers. Preventing them from doing their duty also creates problems in the area of maintaining card readers, which develop fault in the course of the election.”


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