Resurgence of violence raises concerns about Ekiti guber election
The spectre of politically motivated violence in Ekiti State has reared its ugly head is creating fears in the mind of voters, ahead of the governorship election holding this Saturday. Violence before, during and after election, has been a recurring decimal in the state, since the return of democracy in 1999. Hardly will election be held without bloodshed in Ekiti.
As the state is on the march again, to elect a governor who will succeed Dr Kayode Fayemi, there are concerns within and outside the state that the pre-election violence being recorded may affect the conduct of the poll.
The election is expected to be a three-horse race among Biodun Oyebanji of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Bisi Kolawole.
Pockets of violence have polluted the peaceful atmosphere that was being experienced before now in the state. Although, the number of casualties cannot be ascertained, but the killing of Tope Ajayi, a member of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) as well as a staunch member of All Progressives Congress (APC), and fears of reprisal attack has heightened tension in the state.
The tensed political atmosphere has led the security forces, loke the Army, Police and the Civil Defence Corps to deploy a large number of their personnel to the state capital. The streets of Ado Ekiti was deserted on Sunday, as rumours went round that rival union members were planning to take their pound of flesh.
The havoc is believed to be perpetrated by the leading political parties in the election. Though the candidates may not have expressly given their supporters the go ahead to unleash mayhem on their opponents, the overzealous supporters have been out of their way to attack their perceived political opponents. In the ensuing melee, life is lost and property destroyed.
Barely eight days to the conduct of the governorship election, Ajayi was shot dead by suspected political thugs during a bloody clash between the supporters of the ruling APC and SDP in Itaji-Ekiti, where another two persons were allegedly shot. The incident happened when Oni and Oyebanji’s supporters engaged themselves in free for all.
Apart from Ajayi, two persons who were shot during the violent act are said be receiving treatment at the Intensive Care Unit of the Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti (EKSUTH). The rival political parties have been engaging in a blame game over the incident, in an attempt to extricate themselves from the violent act.
Ekiti APC Publicity Secretary, Mr. Segun Dipe and the Director, Media and Publicity, Biodun Oyebanji Campaign Organisation, Taiwo Olatunbosun, accused SDP political thugs, who swooped on a faulty campaign vehicle belonging to APC candidate in Itaji Ekiti for the dastardly act.
The duo claimed that apart from killing Ajayi, the thugs also rained bullets on a vehicle belonging to the Special Adviser on Road Infrastructures to the Governor, Rufus Adunmo.
Dipe, however, called on the police and other security agencies to arrest the perpetrators for peace to reign in the state before and during the poll.
He said: “We were attacked, but we will not be daunted. We refused to be provoked. The hands of the law will catch up with whoever was the mastermind. We will not allow them to derail what is happening in Ekiti. The peace of Ekiti should not be tampered with. We now see the people opposed to peace in Ekiti, who have been creating mayhem in the state.
“As I speak with you, we are at the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital. The dead member had been deposited in the morgue, while the two injured are at the ICU section of the facility. This is not the kind of election our people deserved.
“We know the hands of the law will catch up with them. Desperation will not give you anything. I will not want to preempt the investigation going on an APC member was killed.”
Countering the accusation by the APC, the Director of Media and Publicity, Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, Jackson Adebayo, said APC should be held liable for the alleged heinous crime.
Adebayo said: “We were at the palace at Itaji Ekiti where Asiwaju Segun Oni was meeting with Obas in the local government area. Some people were outside the palace, suddenly we saw about five buses loaded with transporters, who are being used as political thugs by APC.
“They started shooting sporadically, we initially thought their intention was to scare us away, people were running helter skelter without knowing that they really targeted our members.
“They tried to force their way to where SDP governorship candidate was, in an attempt to possibly assassinate him. That was when they were repelled by security agencies that came to our rescue.
“But unfortunately, one of the thugs missed their vehicle because he fell down. We interrogated him and he said they were agents of APC. They left, we learnt one of them died later, but I would not know how.”
He continued: “On June 8 and 9, APC thugs stationed at the Ilejemeje local council popularly called the Mayegun boys allegedly attacked Chief Segun Akinwumi, a chieftain of SDP, threatening to burn his car and house before the intervention of the traditional rulers in the area.
“In the same vein, property belonging to Hon. Kehinde Babatola was vandalised on June 9 after our campaign train left the local government area.
“The second day, the thugs laid ambush at Ayegbaju Ekiti in Oye local government area where we were to have our campaign rally; on our way, they started shooting at our vehicles, but for the effectiveness of our security backup, there would have been lost of life.”
“Hell was, however, let loose at Odo and Oke Ayedun Ekiti in Ikole local government area where APC thugs unleashed terror, shooting sporadically at members of SDP who were meeting after Segun Oni Campaign train had moved to Ijesha Isu, enroute Ado Ekiti.”
Speaking on the politically motivated killings and violence in the state, the Police Public Relations Officer Ekiti Command, Mr Sunday Abutu, said: “there was a clash at Itaji-Ekiti between opposition parties’ members. Investigation to unravel what transpired and the number of casualties, as well as the possible arrest of culprits have commenced.”
There are fears among the electorate if history will not repeat itself, as they prepare for the governorship election on Saturday. In 1999, during campaigns for governorship election, unknown hoodlums unleashed mayhem on members of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), who were holding a ward meeting at the Matthew Area of Ado Ekiti. Also, the AD woman leader was bathed with acid. Though she was rushed to the hospital, she died eventually.
In 2003 election, violence believed to be caused by intra-party crises later festered and assumed full-scale proportion. Between 2003 and 2007 elections, many lives were lost, especially in 2005 and 2006. The political upheaval, remotely led to declaration of a state of emergency by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. The orgy of violence partly led to the political instability that reached its peak between 2006 and 2007, five governors governed the state within four months.
Also, 2007 governorship election was marred by violence. Electioneering campaigns of the two major parties; the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the PDP shook the state to its foundation as many people sustained injuries, while several lives were lost. Although Oni, who was the PDP candidate was declared winner of the poll, the three years he was in the saddle, was turbulent in the state because of the alleged pyrrhic victory at the election.
The election was eventually voided and a rerun fixed for April 25, 2009. Many will not forget in a hurry the Ido Osi macabre drama and how the local council was turned into the theatre of ‘war’. The violence was declared as unprecedented in the annals of the state’s political struggle. One Segun Ajayi lost his limb to the violence at Ado Ekiti. His decomposing limb was brought to the court by the ACN as exhibit to prove that there was violence during the rerun election.
The then Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ekiti, Mrs Ayoka Adebayo took to her heels and escaped from the state without announcing results of the rerun. She claimed that she was under intense pressure to announce result against her wish.
She resurfaced after 10 days to announce Oni, as the winner of the controversial poll. Following the announcement, INEC office in the state capital was partially burnt by hoodlums, while some houses, believed to be owned by PDP bigwigs were razed.
The 2014 and 2018 gubernatorial elections also did not go without the usual violence, so also the 2019 council polls. There were pockets of violence as a staunch member of PDP was shot at Okitiko area along Ise Road in Ikere-Ekiti, when some political thugs allegedly snatched ballot boxes from the electoral officials.
Just like what has become the norm, in March 20, 2021, the Ekiti East constituency 1 by-election was not free from violence. On that fateful day, no fewer than three persons were shot dead, while several others sustained various degree of injury.
Commenting on the renewed violence, the coordinator of the Media Support Centre, a civil society organisation, Mr Shakirudeen Bankole, expressed concern on the possibility of the violence escalating during the election, unless something drastic is done to nip it in the bud.
Bankole, who stated this at a three-day election reporting tips for journalists in Osogbo, urged reporters covering the election to be conscious of their safety before, during and after the election.
Worried by the current turn of events leading to loss of lives just few days to the election, the foremost traditional ruler in the state, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Adeyemo Adejugbe, has summoned emergency stakeholders meeting at his palace. Those invited to the meeting include the police, chairmen of political parties, all gubernatorial candidates, leadership of both NURTW and RTEAN, as well as that of Okada riders association, among others. The action of the prominent traditional ruler, a source said, is to douse tension and to restore sanity before the poll.