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Saturday, 20 October 2012

Mimiko, Akeredolu, Oke battle for Ondo top job

It’s principally a three-way race among the candidates of the Labour Party, Action Congress of Nigeria and the Peoples Democratic Party as the people of Ondo State go to the polls today to elect a new governor.

After months of preparations, campaigning and politicking, one among the incumbent, Olusegun Mimiko (LP); Rotimi Akeredolu (ACN); and Olusola Oke (PDP) will be elected the governor of the state in an exercise to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

While Mimiko’s running mate is Alhaji Ali Olanusi, Akeredolu has Dr. Paul Akintelure, and Oke has Mr. Saka Lawal.

There are several other parties fielding candidates in the election, though they are seen as the minor contestants in today’s high profile ballot. The list includes the Allied Congress Party with Mr. Adeuti Taye as the candidate and Tolupe Clement as his running mate.

The All Nigeria Peoples Party has Mr. Adeyemi Bolarinwa as the governorship candidate and Ikwuewumi Rotimi is listed as his running mate, while Mr. Ayodele Olusegun is named as the governorship candidate of the Better Nigeria Progressive Party with Mrs. Ijitola Modupe as his running mate.

The Change Advocacy Party has Mr. Omoyele Olorunwa as its candidate and Mr. Babatunde Bidemi as his running mate.

The son of a former senator, Mr. Olusoji Ehinlanwo, is the governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, with Mrs Oluyemi Damilola as his running mate.

The National Conscience Party has Mr. Oladipo Lawrence as its candidate, while Mrs. Ogbetor Benedicta is his running mate.

The rest are Mr. Abikanlu Olusola and Adefila Olusegun Cornelious as the candidate and running mate respectively of the National Solidarity Democratic Party, while the duo of Victor Adetusin and Mr. Moses Iorsheer are on the list for the People for Democratic Change.

INEC also cleared Mr. Omoregha Olatunji as candidate of the Progressive People Alliance with Alonge Ahmed named as his running mate.

A critical assessment of the parties cleared for the poll shows that the LP, the ACN, and the PDP exhibit the highest sense of seriousness and commitment than the others in the bid for the Alagbaka Government House presently occupied by Mimiko, who got there through a court decision that ousted Olusegun Agagu of the PDP in 2008.

INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, at the final stakeholders’ forum held in the state capital, Akure, on Wednesday, gave an assurance that the election would be the best in the history of the nation.

Jega told representatives of the various political parties, the candidates, security agencies, the media and other stakeholders that today’s poll would be hitch free and be better conducted than that of the widely acclaimed Edo State governorship ballot earlier this year.

The INEC chairman said he was satisfied with the preparations of the electoral body for the poll, adding that the officials of the commission would be impartial in the discharge of their duties.

He advised members of the National Youth Service Corps who would be engaged for the election to serve the nation with integrity. He warned that any members who involved themselves in malpractice of any kind would be charged to court.

Jega said that voters without (voter) cards should stay away from the polling units, adding that nobody would be allowed to vote without a voter card.

He said that those who wanted to stay back after casting their votes would be allowed, but “they must be orderly in their conduct.”

“We’ve done our best in discharging our duties although the task has been demanding and challenging. We’ve not been perfect. We’ve raised the bar and the challenge now is not to lower the bar but to increase it,” Jega said.

“We’re committed to ensuring that Ondo election will be the best we have conducted. We’re calling on all of you to give us the necessary support. We’re non-partisan; our officials know their responsibilities and we will do our best.”

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, who was also at the forum, said that security agencies would begin to restrict movement into Ondo State to ensure that the poll was violence free.

Abubakar said that restriction of movement into the state would start from 6 pm on Thursday to 6 am on Friday, while the second phase would start by 6 pm on Friday till 8 pm on Saturday.

He explained that the restriction order was to ensure that no party was allowed to bring in hoodlums to foment trouble during the poll.

The IG said this just as he announced that a counter-terrorism squad, soldiers and policemen from other states had been deployed in the state to ensure that nothing went wrong in the conduct of the election.

The IG said that restriction would be enforced on the waterways and no helicopter except those on election duty would be allowed to fly into the state on the day of the election.

INEC began the distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive election materials to be used for the conduct of the election on Thursday.

The materials had been kept in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Akure, since they arrived in the state last week. Representatives of various political parties witnessed the distribution of the materials and they expressed satisfaction with the condition which they met them.

The Resident Electoral Commission, Mr. Akin Orebiyi, said that the materials were being taken to the Forward Operational Base of Nigerian Navy at Igbokoda, the headquarters of Ilaje LGA.

He said that adequate security had been made for the materials to ensure that nobody tampered with them.

The early distribution of the materials, according to him, was to guide against delay of arrival of materials to far and difficult terrains during the poll.

Orebiyi said the collection of material by INEC signified the commencement of the governorship election.

Also on Thursday, the General Officer Commanding 2 Division, Nigerian Army, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Abubakar, warned troublemakers to steer clear of the state as he had ordered the soldiers to shoot any troublemaker who resisted arrest.

The GOC, who arrived at the 32 Artillery Brigade Akure, to address the soldiers to be deployed in the poll, said that nobody would be allowed to carry arms to the polling station, while directing soldiers to arrest anybody who violated the order.

“No movement on that day except for those on essential duties and those on election duty. No hunting on Election Day. I’m happy that the IG has said that there would be no fishing during the poll,” he said.

“I don’t want to hear that I’m going to the bush to hunt. Anybody with arms must be arrested. If he resists arrest, shoot him; I give you the order.

“Our purpose of being here in Ondo State is to support the INEC, the police and the people of the state to ensure a peaceful election.

“The last election conducted in Edo State was done under 2 Division and it was peaceful. I want the Ondo election to be peaceful also. You won’t stay at the polling units but provide security for the people.”

Abubakar assured the people of the state that the Army had mapped out strategies to identify fake soldiers, who might want to infiltrate the genuine troops deployed by the Nigerian Army.

The people of the state misinterpreted the restriction of movements order on Thursday evening for a curfew as they hurriedly closed their business premises and rushed to their various residences.

To ensure a hitch free exercise, INEC had held about 10 stakeholders’ forums with every group which has a significant role to play in today’s ballot since the agency unfolded the timetable for the poll.

Apart from this, various voter education sessions were organised for all the groups who would play crucial roles today at the state and LG levels to create necessary awareness about the election.

The state had remained peaceful despite the fact that the parties had been levelling serious allegations of violence against each other, most of which later turned out to be unfounded.

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