#EkitiStateDecides: Thirty-four candidates from various political parties will on Saturday (today) contest for the Ekiti State governorship election.
There had been tension and apprehension during the electioneering, especially with the deployment of more than 30,000 security men by the police and other security agencies in the state for the poll.
According to records by the Independent National Electoral Commission, in the 16 council areas of the state, there are 177 registration areas; 2,195 polling units; and 256 polling points, with 913,334 registered voters.
However, out of the figure, 667,270 are accredited to vote, representing 73 per cent of the registered voting population.
Among those contesting to succeed Governor Ayodele Fayose are the Accord Party candidate, Jacob Aluko, 69; the All Progressives Congress candidate, Kayode Fayemi, 53; the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Kolapo Olusola, 49; and 43-year-old Aiyegbusi Oladele of the Socialist Democratic Party.
Also in the race are the Labour Party candidate, Sikiru Lawal, 59; Amuda Kazeem of KOWA Party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance candidate, Ayodeji Ayodele, 62; and the Alliance for Democracy candidate, Ben Agboola, 49.
Meanwhile, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti State, Prof. Abdulganiyu Raji, has allayed fears that armed policemen drafted by the Inspector General of Police to the state for the election would harass the electorate.
More than 30,000 security personnel, as well as two helicopters, 250 patrol vehicles and five Armoured Personnel Carriers, had earlier been deployed in the state.
Expressing worries over the development, some voters said the heavy presence of armed policemen could scare them away from coming out to vote.
They said the state was rather too small for such a high number of policemen to have been deployed by the IGP, stating that it gave the impression that there was going to be war during the election.
However, Raji said there was no need to panic, warning those who have no Permanent Voter Cards to stay away from the polling units during the election. He noted that the Rapid Response Squad of the police would be stationed at strategic points in the state.
He also said the INEC gave enough time for registered voters to collect their PVCs and lodge complaints before the process was stopped on Wednesday.
He said, “INEC in Ekiti State is prepared for the election. We have 913,334 voters registered, out of which 667,270 have collected their permanent voter cards. This means that 667,270 will vote in Saturday’s (today) election.
“The Inspector General of Police has made public the number of security personnel drafted to the state. They are not harassing anyone. For each vehicle that went out to distribute election materials, we have a minimum of 15 armed policemen accompanying it.
“But on the day of the election (today), there will be no armed security men at the polling units. Election is a civil process, so no one will be intimidated.”
In preparation for the election, the REC said necessary measures had been put in place to ensure that there would be no delay in the commencement of the exercise.
He said, “All ad hoc staff and supervisors moved to all the registration area centres on Friday.
“By 5am on Saturday (today), the materials and ad hoc staff will start movement to the polling units. By 8am, we will start election.”
PDP chieftains go into hiding ahead of election
Meanwhile, some chieftains of the PDP in Ikere-Ekiti have gone into hiding as fear heightened among them that the police might clamp down on them in order to put their members in disarray ahead of the election.
One of our correspondents gathered that some of the party leaders in the town had however devised various means to evade the alleged planned arrest.
A former member of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had relocated to a hotel and would not go back home until after the election because the police were planning to arrest the chieftains of the party, including him.
When contacted on the telephone on Friday, the Public Relations Officer of the PDP in Ekiti State, Mr. Jackson Adebayo, told Saturday PUNCH that the planned arrest of the party chieftains on the instruction of the APC-led Federal Government had already started.
He said, “They arrested the deputy governorship candidate, they arrested Dr. (Samuel) Omotosho. They have arrested four persons now, but some have been released.
“They arrested some of our members last night (Thursday) and went in search of some this morning (Friday). They vandalised the houses of those they did not see. The security personnel shattered the house of Taye Fasuba. Those security men behaved like thugs.”
Calls put through to the APC spokesperson in the state, Mr. Taiwo Olatubosun, to seek the party’s reaction to the allegations were not answered.
However, an APC chieftain in Ilawe-Ekiti, Mr. Shina Awelewa, debunked the allegation.
Awelewa, a former Chairman of the Ekiti State Broadcasting Corporation, said the PDP leaders were making noise because they knew that security agencies had foiled their (PDP) plans to disrupt the election.
“The security agents are not arresting PDP chieftains. But, they are after the known PDP thugs who Fayose wants to use to cause violence during the election,” he said.
Denying the allegations by the PDP, the state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Caleb Okechukwu, said the police did not arrest anyone in connection with the election.
Ikere residents resist arrest of PDP candidate’s relatives
Meanwhile, a major crisis was reportedly prevented in Ikere-Ekiti on Friday evening when residents of the town prevented policemen from arresting Olusola’s relatives.
Armed policemen were said to have stormed the relatives’ house located at the back of a petrol station along Ado-Ikere Road, but found only those who were cooking.
Some residents, who were suspicious of the movement of the policemen, were said to have mobilised others who resisted the planned arrest.
The confrontation with the police was said to have forced the security personnel to shoot into the air and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, who refused to move.
Some of the people were reportedly arrested and taken to the Area Command along the College of Education Road.
The angry residents reportedly followed the arrested persons, while some of them were said to have been released after Olusola intervened in the matter.
Four out of those arrested were said to have been found with Indian hemp and held by the police.
However, Okechukwu said the police did not arrest any of the PDP candidate’s relatives.
Banks, govt secretariat, schools shut as workers shun offices, schools
As residents prepare for today’s election, banking operations in most commercial banks in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, came to a close as early as 12pm of Friday.
When one of our correspondents visited the banks on Adeyinka Adebayo Way, popularly known as Bank Road, there were notices pasted at the entrance of most of the banks, telling customers that they had closed, except for one which stated it would close by 2pm.
They however advised customers to make use of alternative channels such as the Automated Teller Machine points, mobile and internet banking.
One of our correspondents noticed as some of the bank customers were shocked on seeing the notices. As some lamented, others went to join the queues at the ATMs.
The notice by one of the banks read, “Dear esteemed customers, due to the governorship election taking place on Saturday, July 14, 2018, in the state, we shall close for business by 12pm today (Friday), July 13, 2018.
“Kindly visit our alternative channels. These are the ATM, POS, mobile banking and internet banking. Thanks for your usual cooperation.”
Similarly, some schools, including public and private, were shut throughout the day. A visit by one of our correspondents to some schools in the state showed that they didn’t open on Friday as their gates were closed.
Also at the state secretariat, a tour round the premises by one of our correspondents showed that many offices were shut while the expansive car park that used to be full of vehicles was largely empty.
A security man at the entrance of one of the buildings told one of our correspondents that most of the workers didn’t come to work on Friday while some came and left shortly after.
Even though there was no official declaration of public holiday by the state government, it was learnt that the workers stayed away in order to travel to the towns where they registered to vote.
One of our correspondents approached one of the workers closing for work at the secretariat around 11:30am.
“I have to leave early so I can travel to my hometown in Otun-Ekiti and participate in the election,” she said.
Residents storm filling stations, ATM points, markets for last-minute shopping
In the meantime, it was observed on Friday as scores of residents rushed to filling stations and markets in the state to make last-minute shopping ahead of today’s election.
There were long queues at filling stations as well as shopping malls.
One of our correspondents who visited Iworoko town and some other towns in the North Senatorial District of the state on Friday observed as many residents were in a hurry to shop.
One of the traders in Iworoko, who simply identified herself as Mama Dammy, said that the market day in the town was supposed to be on Sunday (tomorrow), but because of the election and the uncertainty surrounding it, the market was opened on Friday.
Due to the early closure of the banks, It was observed as scores of residents trooped to the ATM points to withdraw money as movement would be restricted on Saturday (today).
A resident, Mr. Remi Laoye, who came into the state from Ibadan for the election, said, “I exhausted the cash I brought from Ibadan and I need to withdraw some cash in case of anything. This is Nigeria, but I pray there will be no crisis.”
Population swells ahead of election
As residents vote for a new governor, several Ekiti State indigenes living outside the state have started returning to participate in the governorship election.
They said that they had to leave their bases to come home in order to participate in an exercise that would produce the next governor of their state.
One of them, Sir Michael Omodara, who resides in Ibadan, Oyo State, said his sons who reside in Ilorin, Kwara State, had also returned home to vote in the election.
One of our correspondents, who travelled from the state capital to Ishan-Ekiti early on Friday observed that there was a significant increase in traffic from the state capital to the North Senatorial District of the state.
At the New Garage, a central commercial motor park in the state capital, drivers confirmed that they had been experiencing an upsurge in the number of passengers entering the state from other states.
One of the drivers, simply identified as Kazeem, said, “We have a lot of people coming in from other states, especially from Lagos. We have been having more trips from Lagos and other states.”