By Maria Famakinwa
As Ondo State prepares for the gubernatorial election scheduled for October 10, concerned residents of the State and Independent National Electorate Commission (INEC) have called on candidates of different political parties to play the game by the rule to prevent pre and post- election violence.
Many are particularly disturbed due to the frenetic moves by key players to outdo each other violent clashes reported in some local governments coupled with the burning down of a section of the INEC building housing the card readers. These they said are pointers to the fact that there is need for urgent sensitization of the masses to understand that election should not be a do-or-die-affairs and that in any contest, there will surely be a winner. Experts are of the opinion that candidates should avoid character assassination, hate speeches, make their campaigns issue-based and call their supporters to order so as not to heat-up the polity.
Ondo INEC Resident Electoral Commission (REC), Ambassador Rufus Akeju, said recently at a training session for security operatives in the state that INEC is committed to conducting a credible and acceptable governorship election in the state. Akeju, while placing emphasis on the roles of the security operatives, noted that there is the need for synergy in the interest of the nation’s growing democracy. He urged security operatives to assist INEC by doing the needful at ensuring a free- and- fair election, saying that violence-free-election is achievable in the state.
The Director -General of the Electoral Institute, Dr Sa’ad Idris, equally called on INEC to add value to the forthcoming poll by providing adequate security for electoral staff, voters, observers and other stakeholders on election day.
A political analyst, Mr Sunday Clement, who described election as a process that enables the electorate to determine fairly and freely who should lead them at every level of government periodically, added that the democratic process rests on a fair, universally accessible voting system through which all citizens can easily and accurately cast their votes. While calling on security operatives to be more proactive at ensuring a peaceful gubernatorial poll as October 10 draws near, said, “Citizens’ capability to express unlimited opinion of choice in trustworthy elections is the bedrock of democratic societies. Reported cases of violence across the state since the political campaign started is not healthy for our democracy and can affect the conduct of a credible poll in the state”.
In the submission of a political sciencist, Mr Bodunde Odunewu, who described the burning of INEC office in Ondo State as disturbing, said, “This is sad and shameful, after more than two decades into uninterrupted democratisation. Why is our elections always characterise by violence? We need peaceful election in Ondo State and we are calling on INEC to up its game.
“INEC is the only body saddled with the responsibility of conducting credible, free and fair election and also has mechanism and structure to check the conduct of erring politicians, parties and candidates. The electoral body should draw the attention of security agencies to the despicable acts of political actors who are bent on sacrificing decency, civility and healthy competition on the altar of electoral victory. It does not matter the status of the person, nobody should be above the law.
“Everyone has a role to play to ensure credible governorship poll in the state. Religious leaders, traditional monarchs and community leaders should speak out against violence so that their followers can get the right message and pass it to others. No blood of anyone is worth the ambition of any candidate. I read last week that someone was killed in Idanre for belonging to a particular party, this act is condemnable and not healthy for our political system. Urgent steps should be taken to bring perpetrators of this dastardly act to book so as to serve as deterrent to others. Otherwise, we might be sending wrong signal to the electorate and may lead to voter apathy. We need to guard against pre and post election violence. We crave for conducive environment where voters will be free to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice. Ondo State is known to be peaceful and we want this to reflect in the conduct of the coming governorship poll in the state.”
An educationist and a community leader, Omolere Adebayo, called on parents to work on their children so as not to be used by desperate politicians to achieve their aims. The man who maintained that free-and-fair election can be achieved if youths refused to be used by politicians, wondered why politicians will keep their children in safe havens during campaign and start distributing face caps, branded shirts to youths whom they have failed to employ.
His words, “This is the period that parents must wake up from their slumber and talk senses to their children. How many of the politicians’ children are seen wearing branded face caps and shirts? It is the children of the poor masses they use for their political campaigns after giving them peanuts. These are the same youths of whom majority are jobless graduates. Why is it that it is during political campaigns that they remember the youth? If any of them is killed during campaign, it is the parents who bear the pain. That is why parents must keep eyes on their children. As a leader in my community, I have spoken to parents in my area on why they must talk to their children. No matter the amount given to them, it does not worth risking their lives for.”
Sharing a similar sentiment, a minister of God, Mrs Omolara Iyaduni, called on mothers to warn their children against being used to foment trouble before, during and after the election and reminded them that in any election violence, women and children are the most vulnerable. She said,”We are calling on political stakeholders in the State to give peace a chance and remember that the state has been existing before now and after the election, the state will still remain.
“Candidates should call their supporters to order, because a successful poll can only be possible in an atmosphere of peace. When I saw the gory picture of a party supporter killed in Idanre, I wondered if this is what democracy entails. Ondo State should not be turned to a war zone because of an election that will come and go. We are appealing to law enforcement agencies across the state to identify areas prone to violence and ensure peace. Government can as well use the various mass media to educate the pubic against any act of political violence. This can help our youths to rethink, because those who were killed during political violence in the past never achieved their aims.
“Parents should also talk senses to their children and let them realise that no politician means well for them. Politicians only see youths useful during election campaigns, but when it is time to give juicy offers, they remember their families. Besides, I believe that if youths refuse to wear any branded cap or shirt in support of any party, there will be a peaceful poll. You can see that they are the ones putting on branded vests to campaign. That is why I am calling on parents to discourage their children from being used by those seeking political offices, because if they fall victim of election campaign, they will be left alone.”