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Security concerns, violence, anxiety usher in general elections


Voters at polling booth

Five days to the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections, the country’s political temperature is rising dangerously.

While many civil society groups, as well as opposition figures are expressing doubts over the sincerity of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government’s ability to conduct a free, fair and credible general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says there is no cause for alarm as it is good to go.

Assurances by the INEC and security agencies notwithstanding, major opposition parties are engaging the ruling APC in a verbal joust, with key players across political divides also sparring one another mercilessly at intervals.

The rash of endorsements accruing to the two major parties, the PDP and the APC from a range of diverse socio-cultural organisations have also contributed its quota to the bickering in the polity and even led to factionalisation of regional blocs.

Nothing mirrors the distrust in the polity, as well as suspicion many have for the ruling government like the recent warning to the country’s political leaders by the United States that it would apply severe sanctions should their comments incite the people to violence that could disrupt the smooth conduct of the elections.

The U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, also warned public officials against being deceived by politicians who may issue illegal directives to them with the aim of manipulating the election disguised as genuine instructions from President Muhammadu Buhari.

Across the length and breadth of the country, apprehension is growing, just as many, including state governors are making comments that are classified as hate speeches or have the tendency to stir up violence.

Indeed some of the comments from otherwise statesmen have caused some opposition parties to threaten to withdraw from the peace accord some of them jointly signed.

The security of lives and property has also remained a major talking point going into the all-important polls, with the situation in the Niger Delta being a major concern.

For instance, many are of the view that the tense rivalry between the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress (APC) may mar the electoral process in Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Delta states if not properly managed.

Already, the build up to the election has significantly worsened the scenario.

And with tempers soaring over alleged plans by the APC-led government to rig the polls, the Coalition of Niger Delta Agitators (CNDA) has threatened to attack oil facilities if any attempt is made to confer undue advantage on President Muhammadu Buhari.

The militants have specifically warned that if INEC yields to pressure from the Presidency and APC, and fraudulently declares Buhari the winner of the forthcoming election, then they should be prepared for a break-up of the country.

“Very soon we shall start this process by totally stopping the flow of oil in the Niger Delta if INEC foists an incompetent and sick President Buhari on Nigerians, when it is very clear to all that the country is being run by a cabal with Buhari as a figure head,” said CNDA.

AS voters head to the polling booths in Bayelsa State, one issue that they would have to contend with is the lingering insecurity, which has taken the state captive.

Residents of the state who are extremely concerned about this development, are quick to recollect the turmoil that characterised the 2015 governorship election, when all sorts of political violence boiled over, claiming many lives.

Even though over 20 political parties and their 55 candidates have signed an agreement to conduct themselves peacefully during the election, the violence witnessed in the last few days of electioneering campaigns point to the fact that peace may be elusive.

Only penultimate Saturday in Tangbabiri, a community in Sagbama Local Council, many house were razed by irate youths after the killing of an APC supporter during a campaign. 

Similarly, two PDP members were killed and dumped in a bush in Ogbia recently, and a 22-year-old final year student of Niger Delta University (NDU) was also shot dead after a rally in Famgbe, Yenagoa Local Council.

As killings and violence continue in the state, Governor Seriake Dickson, who has accused the opposition of procuring arms to cause mayhem during the election, however, warned that the state would not succumb to any form of intimidation or harassment from the Federal Government.

Recently, the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, former Governor Timipre Sylva, and their supporters took to the streets in Yenagoa to protest alleged harassment and killing of their loyalists in Brass, Yenagoa and Sagbama.

And it is scenarios like these that have caused steady rise in fears and apprehension as resident told The Guardian that they feared that violence experienced in build up to the election might take a more dangerous twist.

But the state Commissioner of Police, Aminu Pai Saleh, has assured of adequate security throughout the elections, even though he noted that a major challenge to security of lives and property in the state is the terrain.

“We are collaborating with other security agencies to boost security, but our challenge is the electorate because the voter education has been too low,” he lamented.

On his part, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Elder Monday Udom has assured that INEC and Police would work together at ensuring that the elections are free, fair and credible.

IN AKWA IBOM, the build up to this week’s election has been the most intense electioneering campaign since 1999, as all major actors have being crisscrossing the 31 local councils soliciting support for their political parties, even though the dominant political parties remain the PDP and APC.

The PDP regards Akwa Ibom State as its stronghold, but it has not left anything to chance, but campaigning vigorously, especially in the wake of Senator Godswill Akpabio’s defection to the APC.

Speaking on INEC’s preparedness for the upcoming polls, the REC, Mr. Mike Igini said all was set for the conduct of free, fair, credible, acceptable and non-violent elections in the state where there are 2,119,727 registered voters.

“I am not frightened (about the upcoming elections) because it is a thing I have been doing before. This is going to be the third election that I am going to superintend, so there is not so much thing to worry about than how we are going to deliver a free, fair, credible, non-violent and acceptable election for the good of Akwa Ibom State and to the glory of God.”

On security, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Odiko Macdon said the command is ready for the elections as all necessary arrangements for a peaceful conduct of the elections were in place.

He has also allayed fears of violence in Etim Ekpo, Ukanafun, Ika and other such locations, where many consider as flash points.

Though the state appears to be calm at present, the PDP has persistently accused the APC of plotting to usurp power through intimidation. Residents, who spoke to The Guardian were of the view that despite the APC’s aggression, it would be an arduous task to overrun the PDP in the forthcoming elections.

DELTA State is where there is the likelihood that voter apathy may affect this week’s elections, despite the thousands that troop to campaign rallies and sundry political gatherings.

A Delta North APC chieftain, Mr. Leroy Edozien, the Secretary General of Ndokwa Neku Union, Rev. Jonathan Dike, and a PDP BoT member, Dame Esther Uduehi, are all worried at the number of uncollected PVCs still in the custody of INEC.

While Edozien insists that the figure of uncollected PVC cards as of January 2019 gives cause for deep concern, Uduehi is of the view that INEC has not done much about voter education and awareness in the state.

On his part, Dike lamented that apart from the major political actors, the electorate in the state appear unprepared to vote.

According to him, in the course of the group’s sensitization campaign, it was realised that a lot the people have not collected their PVCs and are highly disenchanted with the political class.

“A lot of people are yet to collect their PVCs and are not willing to do so. Some because of the distance from their communities to the local council headquarters where INEC office is situated, while others believe their votes would not count as politicians have perfected the art of rigging. INEC on its part does not appear to be ready in anyway. Delta State, for instance, has been without a REC until two weeks ago,” he said.

He described the security challenge in the state as alarming with the alleged “influx of strange Fulani men to the hinterlands with arms movement. Our worry is especially, on the rumoured belief of the APC that it must take over Delta State and Rivers State at all cost. We are also not comfortable with the military locking around our streets,” he said.

An elder statesman and member of Delta State Advisory Council, Paul Enebeli is optimistic that the state may not experience any major security challenge during the polls because of the way that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has managed to avert any conflict with the APC.

IN Cross River State, where three political parties the PDP, APC and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) have intensified electioneering campaign, there are indications that the outcome of this week’s presidential poll may determine the fate of Governor Ben Ayade, whose alleged unimpressive performance has buoyed APC’s governorship candidate, Senator John Owan-Enoh to give him a good fight.

A resident of Calabar, Mr. Martins Anyafulu said the voters were skeptical whether their votes would really count because of the arbitrariness displayed by the Federal Government in the suspension of their son and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Samuel Nkanu Walter Onnoghene.

Anyafulu said even though Nigerians were becoming more aware of the importance of elections in their national life, they see Onnoghen’s travails as a way of the ruling party doing unconstitutional things and preparing grounds to compromise judges in case matters end up in court.

“So, we the electorate have lost faith and confidence in both the umpire and the government because their body language suggests impending massive rigging and rigorous win-at-all-cost legal battle. However, this is the first time that there is a serious opposition in Cross River State after the election of Donald Duke in 1999,” he said.

But for the state’s REC, Dr. Frankland Briyai, there is nothing to worry, as the commission would never thwart the wishes of the people nor play the role of a partial judge in the impending contest.

Briyai added that the commission would engage 15,000 ad-hoc staff, mostly members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), staff of tertiary institutions and senior staff of federal ministries.

IN RIVERS, the halt in the stay of execution by the Court of Appeal against a Federal High Court injunction restraining INEC from featuring APC National Assembly, State Assembly and governorship candidates for the general elections has shot sky-high the political temperature in the state.

In fact, there is growing concern that supporters of the PDP and the APC might resort to extreme violence during the week because a lot is at stake. The outcome of this election will, to a large extent, determine the outcome of the March 2 gubernatorial election.

It is suspected that the similar violence that characterised the August Port Harcourt Constituency 3 inconclusive bye-election may spur voter apathy in Port Harcourt and Obio-Akpor, which have the highest number of voters in the state.

The frequent visit of diplomats from the United States, Britain and the European Union to Governor Nyesom Wike and other stakeholders to implore people of the state to shun violence in order not to mar the election process is a pointer to the fact that the state remains a major flashpoint.

INEC has embarked on a statewide sensitisation ahead of the forthcoming elections.

The state REC, Obo Effanga, who said the state has approximately 3.2 million registered voters, also lamented that over 600,000 PVCs were yet to be collected.

“Total registered voters in Rivers State tentatively will be put at 3.2 million voters. Total cards received by us for distribution and collection is 3.1 million. Total cards collected so far is 2.5 million and we have uncollected number of cards about 600,000 including the fresh 96,000,” he said.

While the APC is yet to hold a rally for President Muhammadu Buhari and its National Assembly candidates in the state, Governor Wike and the PDP have crisscrossed the entire state campaigning against the opposition.

Speaking on this week’s presidential election, Wike urged Nigerians to capitalise on the polls and put an end to the developmental darkness foisted on the country by APC-led Federal Government.

“If APC is not a blood sucking political party, they won’t be coming to Rivers State to attempt to campaign. In this state, they have nothing on ground to promote themselves. They think they will rely on state-sponsored violence, but that will fail them,” he said.

Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Usman Belel, who is the seventh police boss since Governor Wike assumed duty in 2015 has vowed to be apolitical, adding that his men would work professionally to fight crime and make the state safe for residents before and after the elections.

KOGI State has so far earned the infamous moniker of being one of the most violent states not only in the North Central, but also in the country. Unfolding events at this time are simply a confirmation of earlier noticed dangerous signs.

In fact, signals from Kogi East, Kogi Central and Kogi West senatorial districts indicate that the political landscape has been fouled by violent attacks on opposition candidates allegedly at the behest of the state government and the ruling APC.

The spike in politically-motivated killings, violence, destruction of opponents’ posters, billboards and vehicles, as well as the unwelcome intrusion in their meetings constitutes a major source of danger that many say still threaten the peace of the state.

Just last month, a youth leader/ward coordinator of Natasha Akpoti door-to-door campaign team for the Kogi Central Senatorial District seat, Enesi Ojo, of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was killed at Ihima.

Thugs loyal to APC allegedly carried out this dastardly act. The APC has since denied the accusation.

Also on January 14, 2019, some thugs at Ogugu in Olamaboro Local Council attacked Linus Enenche, who represents Olamaboro State Constituency at the state House of Assembly and his entourage.

Enenche, who defected from the APC to the PDP, had the windscreen of vehicles in his entourage smashed, many people were left wounded.

Apart from Akpoti of the SDP, the PDP candidate for Kogi West, Senator Dino Melaye, that of Kogi Central, Senator Ahmed Ogembe, and lately, the candidate ADC for Kogi East, Victor Adoji, have been raising the alarm over how the ruling party has been making it difficult for them to carryout their campaigns.

Earlier on, Melaye’s campaign team had accused the state government of sponsoring agents to intimidate him and his supporters and also vandalise his billboards.

Adoji while also complaining about undue harassment from government agents said: “Peaceful rallies and other legitimate electioneering endeavours have been hampered by thugs allegedly sponsored by the state government and its agents.

“Thugs allegedly sponsored by the APC invaded and destroyed our campaign zonal office in my country home. Several properties, including that of our party (ADC), and my campaign posters, were destroyed. Our supporters are also being subjected to perpetual threats and harassment by stakeholders of the ruling party,” Adoji alleged.

But the Director General, Media and Strategy to the Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, Mr. Kingsley Fanwo, described the allegations as false.

“All those allegations are cooked and unintelligent propaganda because those people are not on ground. They should tell us the names of the ADC exco members in Kogi State,” he said.

He added that Adoji and his party were crying wolf so that when they lose, they will have someone to pin their loss on.

“We are not interested in thuggery. Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State didn’t come to power with thugs and he is not interested in thuggery, but has empowered Kogi youths in agriculture and other trade that will make them become useful to themselves and the society.”

Last Sunday, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council (PDP-PCCO) also raised the alarm over the alleged secret execution of political opponents in Kogi State.

The organisation alleged that no fewer than three members of the SDP were murdered on Friday in the state.

Spokesperson of PDP-PCCO in the state, Austin Okai Usman, in a statement entitled: “Kogi State Is Under Siege,” said: “Nigerians may recall that January 6, 2019, this council uncovered a plot by the outgoing accidental Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Adoza Bello, and his agents to roll out violence in the state targeted at members of the opposition.

“Not only was this revelation made to the world and selected foreign missions, the council noted that the state government would bankroll the project.

“Whereas agents of the government screamed blue murder and employed all the outdated tricks to cover up their plot to endanger Nigeria’s democracy, the events of the last three days have clearly validated our intelligence report.

“It is for this reason that the attention of the highest echelon of the Nigeria Armed Forces, the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Police Force is drawn to the fact that on the last count, paid agents of the Kogi State governor, provided with full security and supervised by a member of the cabinet of the outgoing Governor Yahaya Bello have summarily executed three members of the opposition, especially the Social Democratic Party (SDP) by gunshot.

“We note that this operation lasted for at least two hours three minutes starting from 1:30am on January 11 2019. While this ‘point and kill’ operation went on, every access members of the opposition had to security agents were either interrupted or cut off. Members of the opposition who could phone local police formations were ignored as the phone calls rang out.

“We also wish to draw the attention of the Embassy of the U.S and Germany, as well as the High Commissions of the U.K. and Canada that perhaps, the prediction of the disintegration of Nigeria by 2015 is still valid as all indices point to a fact that the date merely changed and that Kogi State, being a former capital of Nigeria, with access to waterfront resources has been designated as the point from where the first shots signifying commencement of the second Nigerian civil war will be fired.”

ACROSS the South East, activities have gone full throttle in order to ensure that elections were not only hitch free, but that the level of apathy witnessed in previous exercises was drastically curtailed.

Be that as it may, one challenge that the exercise may face in the zone is the campaign being mounted by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), asking people of the area, which they call Biafrans, and their kith and kin in the South South to stay away from the polls.

The outlawed group said it would use the February 16 presidential and National Assembly election for its referendum, adding that “boycotting the process will convince the rest of the world of our seriousness to quit the contraption called Nigeria.”

Apparently in realisation of the damage that the success of IPOB’s referendum will do to its reputation, INEC in the five states of the South East has embarked on sustained public enlightenment and awareness creation in all nooks and crannies of the geo political zone in order to raise voters’ interests and ensure that the polls would be hitch-free.

Enugu State Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu told The Guardian that the command would do its best to provide security for lives and property, and also ensure hitch-free elections.

“We have embarked on town hall meetings that have been held in the zones. We’ve had meetings with the clergy, commercial transporters and market men and women to let them know the need for election that was free and fair.

We have been talking to the youths through our various visitations to schools. These are processes we have put in place to ensure that we get it right. We have also engaged political party leaders and their candidates, as well as done jingles, and taken our campaign to media houses.

More importantly, we are working with our sister agencies to ensure that nobody suffers any harm or injury on election days.

“We have brought together contestants for various positions in the state, and they have undertaken to promote peace and ensure the orderly conduct of their supporters. We also assure everyone that every polling booth in the state would be secured. And for convenience and safety of ballots, there would be restriction of movement of persons, except those that are on essential duties who would be allowed to move with proper accreditation from INEC.”

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Dr. Emeka Ononamadu on his part said the agency has mounted sustained awareness creation programmes, including visits to stakeholders and communities to sensitise them on the need to prepare and participate in the elections.

“We currently have less than 200, 000 uncollected PVCs and this is one of the lowest figures in the country. We achieved this by sacrificing our comfort and moving from community to community, including weekends.

The door-to-door exercise saw us visit various communities. We have interfaced with civil society organisations on the campaign to enlighten our people on the need for them to come out to vote. We have had meetings with stakeholders, traditional rulers and religious leaders from the entire state where we encouraged them to spread the message to their followers.

“We have also tackled voter apathy in the state. What we met on ground was 1.4 million voters and presently we have increased it to 1.9 million voters,” Ononamadu said, adding that the agency has carried out enough enlightenment campaigns in order to “ensure that we do not have anybody who will say that he or she has been disenfranchised at the end of the day. We are working with every relevant stakeholder and I assure that we havereceived tremendous support and our partnership has worked well.”

IN Imo State, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Francis Chukwuemeka Ezeonu said the commission has mapped out segmented programmes that have sufficiently educated voters and cause them to effectively cast their votes.

According to Ezeonu, public enlightenment activities have been carried out by the commission in the 645 autonomous communities in the 305 political wards, in the three senatorial districts, in the 27 local councils of the state.

A State Inter-agency Committee on Voter Education (SICVEP), headed by the REC has also been holding quarterly meetings. The committee’s membership also includes newsmen.

The State Inter-agency Committee on Security is also in place, and its membership is drawn from the Nigeria Police, as well as other sister security agencies. This committee meets regularly to brainstorm on security matters.

Ezeonu, who disclosed that out of 2.27 million registered voters in the state, about 540, 000 were yet to collect their PVCs, added that for timely distribution of voting materials on election day, 106 activated Registration Area Camps (RACs) and Collation Centres have been created by the commission in the state.

This is to ensure that officials don’t have to drive more than 20 minutes from any RAC to polling point in the election, where 20, 000 ad hoc workers are taking part.

On February 14, the REC said, all sensitive materials would be conveyed to the RACs from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Owerri Branch, in the presence of the security agencies and accredited journalists.

The Professor of Biochemistry also disclosed that a foundation, Westminster Foundation for Democracy had engaged and trained 409 corps members to undertake voter education in the state, while the National Commissioner supervising Imo and Abia states, Prof. Okey Ibeanu, has begun the inspection of electoral facilities in the state.

BARING any untoward developments, the forthcoming general elections would open in Abia State with a large turnout of voters. This is because voter-education has been sustained by INEC in the state on diverse media, including electronic media, and at different fora where registered voters were urged to come out and collect their PVCs.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Geoffrey Ogbonna told The Guardian that the state Police Command and sister security agencies were jet set for the polls.

It would, however, be recalled that the INEC office in Isiala Ngwa Local Council, which is located at Umuikaa was last weekend razed down and APGA, led by its guber candidate, Dr. Alex Otti accused the PDP-led state government of being responsible for the action.

Otti alleged that the place was burnt down in order to destroy the uncollected PVCs, most of which belonged to APGA supporters and its potential voters.

At the Isigate Market in Umuahia, transporters and traders who interacted with The Guardian said they were willing to discharge their civic responsibility as far as the atmosphere was right.

An All Progressives Congress (APC) member in Ofoeme in Umuahia North Local Council, Mr. Obioma Oburuoga predicted peaceful polls in the area saying, “our people are poised to vote, having registered massively this time more than they ever did for past elections.”

But a former APGA leader in state, who is now a top member of the PDP, Ochiagha Reagan Ufomba lamented Buhari’s failure to sign the amended Electoral Act, which he said would have addressed the issue of Smartcard Reader and the use of Incident Forms.

He said that as at now, the electorate seems poised to vote judging from the fact that the electioneering campaigns have been largely hitch-free.

ANAMBRA State is home to the vice presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr. Peter Obi, even though the APGA-led government has thrown its support for APC’s Buhari.

But with just five days to the presidential and National Assembly elections in the state, all appear drab and dull.

Unlike preparations and build up to past elections in the state, the atmosphere this time around shows apathy, as the people have up till now not shown the enthusiasm with which people embrace electioneering campaigns and elections.

Presently, only candidates of three political parties are seen to be in serious contention for various elective offices that are up for grabs in the state. The parties are APC, PDP and APGA.

On the level of readiness, the state’s REC, Mr. Nwachukwu Orji said all was going as planned as he had already taken delivery of non-sensitive materials, and conducted training for ad hoc staff.

The INEC chief, who said sensitisation of members of the public on the exercise was ongoing, also appealed to those among them that are yet to collect their voter’s card to come forward and claim them.

AWARENESS campaign against electoral violence and voter education ahead of opening of polls notwithstanding, the atmosphere in Kano State is tensed and suffused with aggressive political campaign and rallies.

And in the midst of these unfolding political activities, pockets of violence are being recorded. This happens largely during campaigns and rallies of major political parties, and has led to the maiming and death of supporters of rival parties.

For now, INEC and security agencies have continued to perfect strategies and explore ways of managing the already tensed atmosphere in order to ensure credible and violence-free polls.

All the same, these bodies (INEC and security agencies) will need to go the extra mile to prove their neutrality in order to shame critics, who challenged their capacity to work towards delivering acceptable elections.

Clearly, the fight for the soul of Kano State is largely a supremacy battle between two old friends and political associates- that is the incumbent governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso.

Even though Abba Kabiru Dambatta is contesting the gubernatorial election on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many say Senator Kwankwaso is indeed contesting the election by proxy against Ganduje, in an attempt to regain his political dynasty, which many say is ostensibly on the verge of collapse.

Stakeholders also insist that if not well-managed, violence may cripple elections in the state, even though just over two weeks ago, 21 gubernatorial candidates, including the ruling APC and PDP signed a peace agreement, not to directly or indirectly instigate violence before, during and after the general elections in the state.

Since the accord was signed, at least five persons have been reportedly killed and many others wounded during political rallies.

This, many say is a gross violation of the peace accord just as the APC and PDP are trading blames, and accusing each other of frustrating the peace agreement.

But the State Police Command said it is prepared to deal decisively with anyone or group of persons that perpetrate violence, or is deemed to have breached the law.

Public Relations Officer of the Command, Abdullahi Haruna told The Guardian that officers and men of the command have undergone series of capacity building programmes regarding security management during election”, saying the command and other security agencies would deploy massively to protect INEC officials and voters during the polls.

On the level of preparedness, INEC spokesperson in Kano, Mohammad Garba Lawan said the “commission is fully prepared for the election. In terms of logistics we have started deployment of non-sensitive materials to our local government offices. Let me also reaffirm that INEC is deploying card reader machines for the election. We have received enough upgraded machines and 10 per cent more as backup in case of default. INEC has abolished incidence form and that means, the machine must screen and accept voters PVCs before they can vote.”

Garba said the commission has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to provide mobility that will ease vehicular movement of INEC staff and material to voting points.

SOKOTO State office of the INEC last Wednesday concluded a three-day training programme for the 17, 000 ad hoc staff that would participate in the in the general elections, even as other logistics have been duly handled.

According to the INEC’s Administrative Secretary in the state, Alhaji Yunusa Jika Kura, one polling officer and three assistant polling officers would man each of the 3, 035 polling units in the state.

He explained that while the polling officers (POs) were recruited locally, collation officers/returning officers (CO/ROs) were recruited from Abuja.

On the issue of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), he said that as at the beginning of this month 132, 938 were still unclaimed, adding that sensitisation by way of radio jingles were still going on to get the owners to come and claim them.

Kura who called on voters to come out and claim the remaining PVCs out of the 1, 829, 997 received from Abuja, assured that elections would be conducted in villages in Rabah Local Council, where bandits recently killed over 65 people and thousands rendered homeless.

“We have been assured of tidy security arrangement, and the provision of a level playing ground for the election to be conducted in the affected areas,” he said.

He said the commission stepped up sensitisation workshops for the for security agents, women groups, religious and traditional leaders, youth groups and NGOs all in a bid to keep them abreast of the electoral process.

The INEC boss informed that non-sensitive materials were already being moved to the local government areas, while MoU had been signed with the NURTW for the provision of vehicles for election operations.

The State Police Command has equally expressed its preparedness to ensure a violence-free election after it successfully organised two workshops on democratic policing for officers and men of the command.

Presidential Election Divides Leaders
FOR politicians and voters in the South West, this weekend’s election is of great importance to them and the zone.

In fact, they believe that its outcome would determine not only the party to beat in next month’s governorship election, but will also present an opportunity to determine the political future of the region in 2023.

While politicians of note in the zone are upbeat even in the midst of last minute consultations with critical groups and stakeholders, RECs in most states in the zone have equally expressed their readiness to conduct free, fair and credible elections.

Security agencies have equally pledged to ensure that lives and properties in the area are kept safe before, during and after the election.

The cracks among opinion leaders in the region in the wake of pitching tent with APC’s Buhari and PDP’s Atiku have been very visible, and is part of what has seriously polarised the zone.

While the Afenifere Group headed by Chief Ayo Fasanmi has endorsed Buhari’s re-election, the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) has openly declared its support for Atiku.

The inability of the South West Zone to adopt a consensus candidate has also been traced to the leadership tussle that is currently rocking the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), where its Secretary General, Dr. Kunle Olajide denounced Col. Samuel Agbede (rtd) as president of the apex Yoruba socio-cultural group.

Other Yoruba groups like Atayese, O’dua Peoples Congress (OPC) are also not insulated from the sharp disagreements regarding their choice of presidential candidate.

Observers believe that voters and leaders of the geopolitical zone have never been this divided in the recent past hence they are of the opinion that the presidential election, despite the preeminence of the APC in the zone can still go either way.

In all of these, what has filled most of them with potent fear for the elections is the increasing popular voters’ inducement, vote buying also known in local parlance as “see and buy,” which they urge security agencies to put an end to in order to make the elections credible.

The National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Oyo State has gone to great lengths in sensitising and enlightening residents on the need to see the national assignment as a major civic duty, according to the state director of the agency, Mrs. Dolapo Dosunmu.

The Administrative Secretary of INEC in the state, Mr. David Asemo, who spoke on behalf the REC, Mutiu Agboke, emphasised that the body was ready to conduct free and fair elections, adding that security agents in the state were equally ready to go.

But a public affairs analyst, Comrade Muyiwa Apara, said judging from complaints by residents of the state of their inability to collect their voter cards, INEC has not demonstrated capacity to perform creditably.

According to him, “People have complained of inability to get their PVCs, and the processes of collecting the PVCs are strenuous. Nigerians are not getting the best. They should make the processes easy, and they also need to be innovative and creative.”

Joining forces with other security agencies, the Oyo State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), said it is fully prepared for the election.

Speaking with The Guardian, the Public Relations Officer of the Command, Olusegu Oluwole said: “We are fully prepared for the elections. We are giving equal opportunity to all political parties and those that require our services.

Our officers and men are fully on ground. Apart from volunteers and undercover officers, 350, 000 officers and men have been deployed.

The Oyo State Police Command has equally vowed to deal decisively with politicians and individuals that would engage in any form of violence before, during and after the election.

The state Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Odude, who spoke during a stakeholders meeting and signing of peace accord with political parties’ leaders, candidates, supporters, INEC and other critical stakeholders in election warned that politicians and their supporters who fail to play by the rules would be adequately dealt with.

EKITI STATE is calm and the atmosphere right as the political parties continue to convince prospective voters of their capacity to steer the country in the right direction.

At strategic locations and at different entry points into Ado Ekiti, the state capital, and even within, armed soldiers, mobile policemen, NSCDC and FRSC operatives have been deployed, where they stop and search persons and vehicles, including commercial motorcyclists.

The Public Relations Officer of the Ekiti State Command of the Nigeria Police, Caleb Ikechukwu said officers and men of the command have been readied for the exercise.

He said: “All political parties have been sensitised and have been asked to play by the rules. We have deployed our men in all these vulnerable areas that have been identified by INEC and the NOA because there is concrete collaboration with these agencies on information sharing. We are raiding areas that might pose challenges to the conduct of free and fair election, and we have also engaged with politicians.”

The INEC’s Public Relations Officer in the state, Alhaji Taiwo Gbadegesin said the commission has “undertaken all necessary training for our ad hoc staff. We have taken delivery of non-sensitive materials and distributed same to all local councils. We have had stakeholders meeting with the traditional rulers, religious leaders, youths, people living with disabilities and the political class all in a bid to ensure a peaceful poll.

THE state REC, in Osun State, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje who informed that sensitisation meetings have already been held with critical stakeholders including, security agencies, religious leaders, political parties and the media, added that the commission was putting finishing touches to preparations for a free, peaceful, credible hitch-free poll in the state.

While reiterating the commission’s commitment to deliver on its mandate and live up to expectation, he noted that steps have been taken to prevent vote buying and other electoral malpractices, warning that anybody caught committing electoral offences would face the wrath of the law.

Agbaje stressed that with controversies generated in the build up to the election and the global attention, which the up coming election has brought on us, the commission cannot afford to deliver on its expectations.

The state PPRO, Folasade Odoro said the command was ready to discharge its responsibilities diligently, and urged eligible voters to go about their civic duty without any fear of molestation.

ONDO STATE may not be preparing for governorship election, but some residents have serious concerns, which border on violence, fairness and credibility of the polls.

As days pass by, the impending implosion in the ruling APC looms larger as Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is being accused of sponsoring some candidates in opposition party against the party.

Nonetheless, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ondo State, Chief Rufus Akeju, affirmed that the commission is ready to conduct the polls in all the 18 councils and the 3,009 polling units of the state.

Akeju regretted that a total of 398, 958 Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were yet to be collected out of the 1, 828, 219 people that are registered and qualified to vote.

KADUNA STATE’s infamous reputation as a boiling cauldron is yet to be erased as stakeholders in opposition parties are already protesting the alleged deployment of a machinery to rig the elections by Governor Nasir el-Rufai.

This is happening as the state Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Ahmad Abdulrahaman, has expressed readiness for the conduct of hitch-free general elections in the state.

Abdulrahaman, who said his men would work towards ensuring the security of lives and property during the election, however condemned the attitude of politicians towards the polls, describing some of them as primitive and acting like children who are still learning.

While addressing participants at the “National Day of Action Walk for Vote Not Fight Campaign,” he said, “Up till today, the people that want to take up the mantle of leadership in our country are still behaving as if they are children that are in the process of learning.

“Otherwise, how could politicians be so naive, to be sending young boys and girls to be destroying common posters, billboards and banners of their opponents. I think we are supposed to have been 100 years above that. Unfortunately some of our politicians are acting primitively.”

Noting that the command would ensure that a credible election is conducted, he added that it was equally ready to ready to deal with those who indulge in anti-social and undemocratic activities.

Meanwhile, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) condemned plans to involve the state-owned security outfits in the conduct of the elections, warning that opposition parties would resist any attempt by el-Rufai to rig the polls in the state.

“We wish to draw the attention of Nigerians, particularly, the Nigeria Police, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and all relevant security agencies and stakeholders to the grand plan by Governor el-Rufai to use state-sponsored security operatives to manipulate and rig the 2019 general election,” the group said.

CUPP, which further alleged that el-Rufai was lobbying to influence the transfer of all indigenous police officers and men serving in Kaduna State out of the state command, added, “this is uncalled for and unnecessary at this crucial time of the election.

El-Rufai is also working hard to obtain the approval of INEC and influence the Kaduna State Police Command to accept his state-sponsored Kaduna Vigilante Services popularly referred to “Kato da Gora” to participate in the election as part of the election security team; this is unacceptable.”

Also, the Joint Action Committee on Northern Youth Associations (JACON) has said that the body bags threat to international observers by el-Rufai was meant to scare them away from the general elections, saying that the youths in Kaduna were ready to ensure that votes count and they must be guarded.

In clearing the air, INEC’s Public Affairs Officer in the state, Hajiya Fatima Aminu Bande said the commission would not work with any security operatives outside personnel from Federal Government security outfits to ensure that a free and fair election.

She said: “INEC relies entirely on the Nigeria Police for the protection of its personal, ad-hoc staff and materials during elections, and only those security agencies recruited by the Federal Government will be used.”

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