A stakeholders’ meeting convened by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the governorship election in Ekiti State ended abruptly as it was disrupted by party supporters.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, traditional rulers, diplomats and other dignitaries watched the show of shame in disbelief.
Governorship candidates, party leaders, traditional rulers and other dignitaries left the venue amidst a charged atmosphere as party faithful, mainly People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) members shouted at one another.
The parley which was held at Great Eagle Hall, Ikere Road, Ajebamidele, Ado-Ekiti, went on smoothly until organizers invited comments and questions from party representatives.
The row was sparked by comments made by the PDP representative, Dr. Samuel Omotoso, who raised concerns over alleged attacks and arrest of members of his party in some communities in Oye Local Government Area.
Omotoso, member of the House of Assembly, accused the APC candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, of boasting that he would be declared winner the Saturday’s poll “whether he loses or not.”
He also accused security agencies of partisanship in the build-up to the election which he said would not provide an atmosphere for a free and fair election.
The lawmaker’s refusal to adhere to the two minutes allotted angered supporters of other parties, especially the APC faithful who became restive with the constant mentioning their candidate’s name by Omotoso.
The audience, who wanted representatives of other parties and other stakeholders to be given the chance to address the gathering, urged organizers to stop Omotoso for using more than the time allocated.
Apparently uncomfortable with the allegation against Fayemi, the APC members raised their voices to shout Omotoso down but the PDP members responded by chanting their party slogan.
The PDP members who appeared to outnumber their APC counterparts inside the hall surged forward and started shouting “Eleka Ibo,” “Eleka Ibo” hailing their candidate who is also the Deputy Governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola.
As the PDP members surged forward, policemen and other security operatives inside the hall formed a ring around the high table where Yakubu, Idris and other dignitaries sat.
As the party members’ unruly behavior continued, the Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Obas who is also the Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, Oba Oluwole Ademolaju took over the microphone and urged party members to be orderly.
They defied the monarch and continued the row but the candidates led by left the hall one after the other leaving only PDP members who continued their shouting.
First to leave was the Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN) candidate, Chief Adebisi Omoyeni who was followed by Accord candidate, Chief Abiodun Aluko, Labour Party (LP) candidate, Dr. Sikiru Lawal, Fayemi, Olusola and others.
Earlier, the IGP Idris disclosed that a total number of 4, 390 combined forces of soldiers and other paramilitary will be deployed to complement the 30,000 policemen that have been drafted to Ekiti to monitor the election.
Idris added that Deputy Inspector General of Police (Operations), an Assistant Inspector General of Police and five Commissioners of police will be in charge to give directive and ensure that the election is conducted under conducive atmosphere.
The nation’s police chief warned political leaders and their supporters to refrain from arming thugs, saying whoever arrested will be prosecuted in line with the rule of law and laws guiding the conduct of elections.
Idris said: “We want all party supporters to refrain from all acts that can precipitate violence at the polling booths such as canvassing for votes, wearing of party insignias, dissuading voters from voting for candidates of their choices, loitering and blaring of siren on the day of election.
“We will also not tolerate ignoring of restriction of movement orders by the police. Don’t see election as a matter of life and death.
“Let me state that police will not hesitate to deal with anybody no matter how highly placed found flouting electoral laws.
“Let me call for the collaboration and support of the entire sister agencies and the INEC officials. Police officers have been warned to be of good conduct during and after the election.
“If you notice any misconduct on the part of any police, do not hesitate to report to the senior officers on the ground or contact me directly.”
INEC boss Yakubu said the commission decided to distribute the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to the ward level to motivate the electorate to collect to be able to exercise their franchise rights.
He said: “For transparency, all uncollected PVCs will be brought to INEC office in Ado Ekiti and warehoused for safe keeping until a new date is fixed to resume the PVC collection.
“However, since the Anambra State Governorship election held in November 2017, we have introduced an additional measure of transparency.
“I wish to reassure that our officials are under strict instruction to remain neutral. We have also accredited credible foreign and local observers to monitor this election.
“We are confident that with the arrangements we have put in place, Ekiti State Governorship election will be another good example of free, fair, credible and peaceful election and a further affirmation of the maturity of our democracy.”
Also affirming that the election will be credible, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti, Prof AbdulGaniy Raji, said a total of 913, 334 have been registered by the commission out of which 667,064 had collected their PVCs.
Raji said the commission still has a total of 246,270 unclaimed PVCs that were yet to be collected by owners.