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Ekiti East By-election and specter of vicious bloodletting, violence

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Electoral violence has unfortunately become a recurring feature in Nigeria and therefore, Ekiti State is no exception. The stakes are always high in elections, leading to political parties employing all means possible to gain undue political advantage. The consequence of such violence is visited on innocent voters. What is more, the credibility of the outcome of such electoral process is often called to question.

The recent bloody by-election into Ekiti East constituency 1 House of Assembly was just another episode of a recurring malaise.

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Far back as 1999, during the governorship electioneering campaigns, there was violence involving the Alliance for Democracy members. The outcome of which some unknown hoodlums unleashed mayhem on party members who were in a ward meeting at the Matthew area of the state that fateful day. Also, an Alliance for Democracy (AD) woman leader was bathed with acid. Even though she was rushed to the hospital, she could not be revived and she died.

In the 2003 election, intra party squabbles festered and assumed a full-scale crisis. People were reportedly injured but no life was lost. Even in between the 2003 and 2007 elections, the state witnessed violence and many lives were lost especially in 2005 and 2006. The killings were believed to be politically motivated. The crisis led to three people laying claims to the governorship after the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had allegedly manipulated the State Assembly to impeach a democratically elected governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.

The political upheaval partly led to the imposition of State of Emergency on the state and a former military administrator, Major General Adetunji Olurin rtd was installed as sole administrator. The consequence of the political instability between 2006 and 2007, partly led to the state having five governors in quick succession.

The then Speaker, Mr. Friday Aderemi spent two days as acting governor; Mr. Tope Ademiluyi became acting governor for 29 days; Segun Oni spent about two years five months and was replaced by Tunji Odeyemi in acting capacity for 79 days and later Segun Oni who was removed by the Appeal Court on October 15, 2010.

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The 2007 election was unique because of the political battles that characterized the period. The campaigns of the two major parties, that is, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were punctuated by violence, at different times when the campaign lasted; several people sustained degrees of injuries. Although Segun Oni, the candidate of the PDP was declared the winner of the 2007 poll, the state knew no peace throughout the three years he was in the saddle. His election was eventually voided and a rerun fixed for April 25, 2009. The violence that took place during the rerun election was unprecedented. One Segun Ajayi lost his limb to the mayhem at Ido Ekiti. His decomposing limb was brought to the court by the ACN as exhibit to prove that violence marred the rerun poll. The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo took to her heal and escaped from the state without announcing results of the rerun poll. She claimed that she was under intense pressure to announce result against her wish. On May 5, ten days after her disappearance, she came out of hiding to conduct the second rerun/ supplementary election in some local governments. The supplementary election was not without the usual violence. Journalists covering the poll were mercilessly beaten. At the venue of the counting, violence erupted, but Adebayo went ahead to announce the result.

Following the announcement, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in the state capital was burnt down. Several houses believed to be owned by PDP were burnt down and one young man lost his life in the process. On May 6, Segun Oni was sworn in for the second time in three years.

The 2014 election did not witness too much violence. It was the post election violence that however caused the death of the chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Segun Adewumi, who later became the Deputy Speaker of Ekiti House of Assembly lost his mother to the electoral mayhem. His mother was shot at her resident in Erijinyan Ekiti and she later died in the hospital. Houses and a shopping complex were razed down at the time.

At the beginning, the processes leading to the 2018 governorship election did not witness violence until the fiasco that stalemated the May 5 APC primary held at the Oluyemi Kayode stadium Ado Ekiti. Although no life was lost at the venue of the primary where the violence erupted, the ballot boxes were smashed and a rowdy atmosphere ensued. This necessitated the cancellation of the primary. However, the repeat primary, which held four days later at the Damlec event centre, along Housing Estate, Ado Ekiti, was hitch free due largely to the large number of security forces deployed to guard the venue. However, Friday June 1, 2018 was a black day in the state. The incident during the rally organised for the candidate of the APC, Dr. Kayode Fayemi was ongoing, when a Chieftain of the APC, and current Senator, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele and five others were injured. A faceless policeman that was supposed to be on duty in Lagos found his way to the rally and fired shots indiscriminately. Bamidele had to be flown outside the country for intensive care.

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THEREFORE, last week’s orgy of violence and bloodletting that heralded the Ekiti east by-election conducted by the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace the late Olorunjuwa Adegbuyi who died of COVID-19 related complications, did not come as a surprise to many, as violence has always been a recurrent decimal in the electoral process of the state. The sign that the process may turned violent became evident on the eve of the election, when armed political thugs allegedly invaded the house of one of the candidates and riddled his car and roofing of his house with bullets

On Saturday, March 20, day of the by-election, the electoral umpire was already on ground in all the 39 units of the five wards, which made up the constituency to conduct a peaceful election. No sooner had the election began, when by 10 a.m., armed thugs invaded ward 9, units 8 and 9 to snatch ballot boxes and chased the electorate away from the polling units.

By 12 noon, when voting was in progress, armed thugs again visited ward 7, unit 7 where the Senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial district at the National Assembly, Chief Biodun olujimi, voted. They did not only snatch the ballot box, they started shooting sporadically. By the time the dust settled, three people were dead while others were injured. Among the injured were two police officers, an officer of the Federal Road Safety Commission, a corps member and presiding officer, as well as others who were shot during the mayhem.

While the deceased were deposited at the General Hospital mortuary in Omuo Ekiti, the injured were taken to the Methodist Hospital,Omuo, Omuo General Hospital, Ikole General hospitals and the Federal Teaching Hospital Ido Ekiti.

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Among those killed were a 50-year old Bola Adebisi who was said to be a driver and 35-year old Tunde Ogunleye, believed to be a student, while the identity of the third victim was unknown as at the time of this report. This was despite the deployment of various security forces to provide security for the election.

Narrating her ordeal, Olujimi said she narrowly escaped being shot as political thugs invaded her polling unit at ward 7 unit 007 adding she had to be ferried out of the polling unit by party supporters.

Recounting how the crisis was triggered Olujimi, said the election started peacefully before some APC thugs and compromised police officers started disrupting the voting process. “The leaders of APC came to the polling unit, in fact, we greeted them warmly. After they left, some APC thugs who stayed behind pulled out guns and started shooting sporadically.  This is the first time we would witness this. They picked the ballot box and ran away. A man died as he was trying to escape the scene. The policewoman guarding the ballot box was also shot in the head. The corps member and Presiding Officer at the unit were hit by bullets. In totality, eight people were shot. Three dead before getting to the hospital, while five are battling with their lives in the hospital receiving treatments,” she lamented.

The Senator pointed accusing fingers at the leaders of APC, saying that they were the masterminds of the horrendous attack, accusing them of mobilising people from all over the state for an election that took place in just five wards.

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A member of the House of Representatives and a native of the town, Mr. Femi Bamisile, described the shooting as appalling and unbelievable, saying no election was worth the blood of any Nigerian.  “In any election where lives are being lost, that is no longer democracy. APC was fully prepared for this election and canvassed for votes and we never wanted to kill anybody. I really don’t understand how it happened. I didn’t want to believe that it was our party. Election started peacefully, what could have erupted shootings and killings?” he asked.

Regretting the extreme show of brutal force by political goons, the PDP candidate in the election, Mr. Akinrinade Adeniran said signals of war started manifesting on Friday night, when his house and cars were allegedly riddled with bullets.

“They invaded my compound on Friday and smashed windscreens of my car with gunshots. They also shot at the roof of my building. This is no longer democracy. Democracy is the government of the people and the people should be allowed to make their choices through their votes.”

But a statement by the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Sunday Abutu, confirmed that six persons were shot. “Today, some hoodlums attacked ward 7 unit 7 during the House of Assembly by-election. In the process, six people were injured; among them were two policemen and one National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) member who are currently receiving treatment in Ikole General Hospital.” Abutu said the State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has however, given a directive that all the suspects involved must be apprehended and brought to book.

Following the brutal attacks and the turn of the events the INEC in a statement signed Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ekiti State, Dr. Tella Adeniran, suspended the election, hinging the action on the violence which characterized the exercise and led to the death of three persons.

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The statement read: “The exercise commenced on a good note in a peaceful and orderly manner. However, at about 10.00 am there were reported cases of violence in two (2) PUs of ward 09 (Obadore IV); polling unit 8 (Baba Egbe houselodouro/Odoule) & polling unit 9 (Beside Baba Egbe/Odouru/Odoule) i. Polling unit 07 (Aro street/Aro) of ward 07 (Obadore lI). In PU 07, ward 07 three (3) voters were shot dead while a youth corper, a policewoman and an INEC staff sustained gunshot wounds.

“Under this circumstance, the safety of electoral officials, security personnel and election materials as well as the credibility of the process cannot be guaranteed.”

The Commission added that the State Commissioner of Police was fully aware of the situation that led to the termination of the election.

“It is unfortunate that in spite of the effort of the Commission in giving Nigerians free, fair, credible and inclusive election, some people appear to be unprepared for an improved electoral process. The situation is such that, a conducive environment no longer exists for further electoral activity at the PUs and the Collation centers. In view of this development, the Commission has suspended the election forthwith,” the statement said.

The Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi condemned, in strong terms, the violence and the subsequent killings, saying that no one involved in the dastardly act would go unpunished. He directed the State Commissioner of Police, Babatunde Mobayo, to ensure that everybody involved in the violent act are apprehended and brought to book regardless of their party affiliation.

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“This violence is most unwarranted, and deeply disturbing. I have instructed the police authorities to fish out the perpetrators and ensure they face the music. Our condolences to the families that lost loved ones and those who were injured. Government would not relent in efforts to always ensure safety of lives and properties. We shall ensure all purveyors of violence are brought to book,” the Governor added.

MEANWHILE, the former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose also described the unfortunate incident as “clear evidence of state sponsored terrorism against her own citizens, who have rejected the party in government.”

The former governor said killing of innocent people, just because of a five-wards House of Assembly by-election was barbaric and shameful.  “I thought we have gone past this barbarism in Ekiti State especially when we are confronted with national insecurity to which the government has no solution. What was witnessed today in Omuo Ekiti is nothing but terrorism against the people of Ekiti, knowing that time has caught up with them and they are no longer popular.’

Another former Governor, Chief Segun Oni, in a statement he personally signed condemned the sad incident, expressing sadness over the killings of the innocent electorate. “It is very unfortunate that what happened in Ekiti east happened. If an ordinary constituency election could be disrupted with people killed and injured like that, what will happen if the whole state were taking part?”

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On its part, the APC also condemned in strong terms the dastardly act in a statement by the Director of Media and Publicity of the party, Elder Sam Oluwalana.  The party condemned the unwarranted shootings by suspected thugs at unit 7, ward 7, which is the polling unit of Senator Biodun Olujimi.  Oluwalana explained that irrespective of the party or personality involved, no life should be lost over any election in Ekiti.  “It is unfortunate that a very peaceful and transparent election could have turned so bloody. The APC is law abiding, peaceful and as such has no reason to be violent. ”

In another development, a front line aspirant in the coming gubernatorial election in Ekiti State, Kayode Adaramodu, condemned the needless killings.  Adaramodu sympathized with the injured and the families of those who lost their loved ones while urging the State Governor, Dr. Fayemi, and the relevant security authorities in the state to ensure the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of this barbaric crime.

At the time of this report, the Chief Magistrate Court sitting in Ado Ekiti has remanded three suspects in the Federal correctional centre for alleged murder and attempted murder. They are Adenijo Olusola, 38 alias Solar, Paul Folorunso, 45 and Adebayo Serifat, a female, 40. They were arrested in connection with the shootings that claimed lives and injured others.

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