26 April 2009

Nigeria: PDP, AC Run Neck-to-Neck in Polls

Lagos — The two major political parties in yesterday's re-run governorship election in some wards in 10 local government areas of Ekiti State, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Action Congress (AC) were running neck-to-neck in the elections declared last night by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in five of the council areas.

According to the results, the PDP polled 15,420 while the AC had garnered 15, 026 votes. This is, however, exclusive of the over 11,000 votes that the AC had recorded in its credit after cancellation of fraudulent figures by the Court of Appeal that ruled on February 17 in Ilorin on a matter brought to it by the AC regarding the 2007 election in the state.

A breakdown of the results released last night by INEC's National Commissioner for Operations, Mr. Adedeji Shoyebi showed that the PDP polled 1,925 votes in Gbonyin Local Government while the AC scored 2,871.

In Ekiti South West, AC got 351 votes; PDP (423); Ise Orun: AC 4,221; PDP 3,864; Ijero: AC 1,881; PDP 5,12) and Irepodun: AC 5,702; PDP (4,087).

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday postponed voting in two wards in Oye Local Government Area till today following acts of violence by suspected thugs.

The wards are Oye I and Oye II.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner in charge of Ekiti State, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, said the decision was taken due to the security situation in the area and the need to ensure that the people were not disenfranchised.

Sixty-one persons suspected to be thugs, were arrested during the re-run election, said, Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), B Operations at Force Headquarters, Mr. John Ahmadu.

Ahmadu, who was deployed to Ekiti State for the election, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone interview in Ado-Ekiti that the suspects were arrested with "incriminating" materials.

He said 36 persons were arrested in connection with the violence in Oye-Ekiti having been found with incriminating materials such as charms, bottles of alcohol and dangerous weapons.

"So far, 36 people suspected to be thugs were arrested in Oye-Ekiti town in connection with the crisis that led to the postponement of election in two wards there," he said.

He further said that 25 suspected thugs were also arrested by the police in other parts of the state for their involvement in violence during the election.

Ahmadu said, however, that the police were "battle ready" for Sunday's (today's) voting in two wards in Oye local government area. "We will match them with adequate security," he said.

The DIG denied claims that some people died in the reported skirmishes at Oye-Ekiti earlier yesterday that led to the postponement of the election there.

He also said the police were still hunting for the people that macheted a second republic Senator, Lawrence Agunbiade, at Ise-Ekiti while he was on his way to a relation's home before voting started.

NAN reports that the election was conducted in 61 wards in nine local governments but voting in Wards 1 and 2 in Oye Local Government areas were postponed to Sunday because of acts of violence by persons suspected to be thugs.

To ensure free and fair election, the INEC redeployed 1,500 personnel from outside Ekiti while three resident electoral commissioners from Imo, FCT and Jigawa were also brought in to assist the state resident electoral commissioner, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo.

The election began peacefully amid heavy police presence. However, no soldiers were sighted in Ado Ekiti, the state capital and in all the 10 local government areas where voting took place. But police helicopter was also sighted hovering in the sky at Usi Ekiti, the home town of former Minister of Aviation, Professor Babalola Borisade

In Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government area, voting commenced as early as 9.15am, in Igede-Ekiti, Awo and Osi in Ido-Osi Local Government, whereas in areas like Iropora and Usi ward voting was not on at about 10:30 am when THISDAY visited the area. However, there was a massive turn out of voters in Ikole, Awo and Ifaki.

Former Governor Segun Oni voted in his home town Ifaki around 9.50am.

Speaking to journalists, Oni said though there was tension in some areas, the election was peaceful.

He attributed the tension to the desperation of the Action Congress (AC), who he said was desperate in its bid to get to power.

The AC governorship candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in a telephone interview said it is regrettable that the "leopard would never change its skin", as he accused the PDP of snatching ballot boxes.

He alleged that supporters of the PDP were caught by vigilant AC members while trying to snatch boxes and stuffing others.

THISDAY investigation revealed that some prominent politicians in the area had petitioned the police alleging that some unnamed persons had stockpiled arms and ammunitions with the intention to attack them. They told the security agents that if election took place yesterday there would be serious violence. Last month, one person was shot dead in the area when supporters of the PDP and and the AC clashed.

Incidentally, both Senator Ayo Arise, a chieftain of the PDP and the AC governorship candidate, Fayemi, hail from the local government area.

As at 2pm when THISDAY left the area, angry youths stationed themselves in strategic areas in the town. Also there was a subdued tension in the Ilupeju area of the state.

In Ifaki, youths from the town were hostile, especially to journalists who came to cover the election in the morning.

Journalists were asked to show their identity cards before being allowed to carry out their duties.

However, yesterday's election was not devoid of violence as a chieftain of the AC in Ise, Orun Local Government Area and a Second Republic Senator, Chief Lawrence Agunbiade (a.k.a LACO) escaped death by the whiskers as he was attacked by some people suspected to be thugs with guns and matchets.

His Personal Assistant, Femi Ekundayo, was not spared as he received several matchet cuts on his head and back. Agunbiade's vehicle, a Toyota Sienna with registration number DZ18GGE was shot at.

When THISDAY visited the victims at the General Hospital, Ikere Ekiti, Agunbiade said he was on his way to Emure to hire some vehicles to convey policemen to the polling areas.

"When I received complaints from the police that they could not move their men due to lack of vehicle, I decided to help by hiring some vehicles in Emure.

"However, on my way back I was waylaid by thugs who fired several gunshots at my vehicle. When the shots missed me, they dragged us out of the vehicle and dealt us several machete cuts," he said.

He also alleged that his attackers were led by an official of Emure Local Government Area. He further alleged that his personal effects including phones and a briefcase were stolen by the attackers.

In Ado Ekiti, policemen arrested two young men with a vehicle marked 'NANS'. When the vehicle was searched, some machetes, axes and charms were discovered in the boot. They were detained at the Police Headquarters, Ado Ekiti.

Speaking on the election, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Election, Hon. Muhammed Sale Aliyu, who led other members of the committee to monitor the election, praised the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) for doing what he called a good job in Ekiti State.

According to him, "INEC did well by allowing all party representatives to witness the distribution of both sensitive and non-sensitive election materials. They were also allowed to accompany ballot boxes to the polling booths. We are also satisfied with the security arrangement"

Also commenting on the voting exercise, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said "The election was marred by large scale violence in many parts of Ekiti State. In most parts, the police looked elsewhere as PDP leaders and thugs had a field day. In other places, mobile policemen aided the rigging of the election by criminal gangs who were allegedly sponsored by the ruling party.

"In Ilawe, Ekiti South west where Mr. Dele Adeshina (SAN) and I pressurised the police to arrest six fake mobile policemen, who were brandishing guns at polling booths, the police only chased them away and let them off the hook.

"If what happened today (yesterday) represents the rebranding of Nigeria's democracy, then the country has a long way to go," he said.

From Nosike Ogbuenyi, Ademola Adeyemo, Toba Suleiman and Senator Iroegbu inAdo-Ekiti with agency reports

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