By SESAN LAOYE
With few days to the governorship election in Oyo State, palpable fear has griped residents due to violence, which reoccurring in different parts of the state on daily basis.
The situation is not limited to the residents alone, all the stakeholders, including politicians, candidates, even the police, civil societies, INEC, and traditional rulers are worried and want a solution to it before the date of the election, which they believed that if prompt action is not taken, could mar the elections in the state.
In the past few days, there have been sensitization of the politicians, their supporters and the general public as to how peace could be maintained and allaying the fears of their fears that the election would be violence free and it would be free and fair.
It would be observed that since December, political thugs have been attacking themselves during rallies, and the situations have led to killings and maiming of innocent citizens of the state. For instance, there were skirmishes in Ogbomosho, Igbo Ora in Ibarapa area of the State, Ojoo, in Akinyele Local Government, Omi Adio in Ido Local Government area of Oyo State,, Oke Ado in the Ibadan Metropolis and Oyo township. The violence has become worrisome to the extent that virtually all the candidates are coming out to condemn it.
The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Engineer Seyi Makinde, while condemning the spate of violence said there is now the need for all the security agencies to move fast to douse the tension in order to save lives and property in the state which are likely to be lost if the present political thuggery go on unabated I f not nip in the bud by the security agencies who are saddled with the responsibility of protecting the people. As a way out of the situation the PDP Governorship candidate called the State commissioner of police, Director of the SSS and other security chiefs to move fast by calling meetings of all political party leaders and commit them to making an undertaking to ensure that there is peace in the state.
Makinde was of the opinion that the violent situation now in Oyo state, should not be allowed to compound the poverty level which he argued the present APC government has put the people. He further pointed out that the situation is what it is because ‘’some people who are already feeling defeat are not willing to relinquish power’’ He however warned that those causing trouble should know that Oyo State is the political headquarters of the South West and anything done to disrupt the peace of the state, could spread to other parts of the South West which could eventually affect the entire country.
He also called on traditional rulers to intervene in the ugly situation so that the warring politicians could sheath their swords, saying that the political ambition of individual does not worth the bloodletting of innocent citizens who struggle daily to make ends meet.
On the allegation that he deliberately avoided the BBC radio debate for all the Governorship candidates, Makinde argued that he already had a more pressing engagement to meet the people at Oranyan, Oke Ado, Felele, Orita Aperin, Beere and odinjo in the Ibadan Metropolis before the BBBC debate came up and blast the APC of accusing others of what they are guilty of.
‘’By the way why did the APC not raise similar alarm when I attended the first ever farmers Public debate and Mr. Bayo Adelabu who was similarly invited did not turn up and neither did he attend the Radio Nigeria- organized governorship debate to which he too was invited and I was there’’
Also the Oodua People’s Congress (New Era) during its lecture to sensitize the people and its members on what to be done during the elections warned that violence should not be used as a means of grabbing power. The organization, warned politician to desist from violence.
During the lecture delivered by Dr. Faleti Ademola of the Institute of Peace and strategic studies University of Ibadan at the De Ace Hall Yemetu Ibadan was of the opinion that to avoid vote buying, the Independent National Electoral Commission should arrange the polling booths in a way that voters would not be well positioned to exhibit their ballot papers to outsiders after casting their ballots and that the law enforcement agents should ensure that voters do not exhibit their ballot papers.
He also emphasized, the law enforcement agents should leverage on section 124 and 125 of the electoral act which states that’’ a person who gives voters money to vote or not for a candidate has committed an electoral offence and that anybody found liable could face a fine of N100, 000 or 12months imprisonment’’ if caught in in such act arrested, investigated and prosecuted, this , he said would s3erve as a deterrent to prospective vote- buyers.
He also wanted that security agents should be well trained on preventing and curtailing militarialisation of election. Militarization of elections defeats the purpose of free and fair and credible polls and that INEC should educate their officials and security agencies assigned to electoral matters to desist from inducement or intimidation and coerce of voters to vote for particular candidates, adding that all caught in the act should be adequately punished.
Dr. Faleti said that it is surprising and disturbing that buying votes as if one is in the market place is the order of the day now in Nigeria which according to him is embarrassing to Nigerians and members of the international community
He said the ugly situation is that when political office holder defy the law and corruptly assume office, they would always operate as if they are above the law, arguing that vote buying and their sundry criminal manipulation of the electoral process in Nigeria have left the citizens in a state of helplessness. ‘’As a matter of fact we have been married off to a mob. A mob that rules us by an example of their power not by dictates of law. A mob that rules by fear as an inalienable tool rather than by courage. A mob that accepts the status quo rather than challenge it. Our democracy has stagnated and will sadly remain so until we eliminate all sham elections which have the effect of throwing up the worst of us to lead the best of us.’’