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Ekiti and Resurgence of Electoral Violence

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The orgy of violence has refused to disappear from the electoral process.

Like every other states in the federation, violence has found a comfort zone in Ekiti State. It has always occurred either before, during or after election.

In 1999, during the campaigns for governorship election, unknown hoodlums unleashed mayhem on members of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) who were holding a ward meeting at the Matthew Area of Ado Ekiti. Also, the AD Woman Leader was bathed with acid. Though she was rushed to the hospital, she died eventually.

In 2003 election, violence believed to be caused by intra-party crisis later festered and assumed full-scale proportion. People were reportedly injured, but no life was lost.

Between 2003 and 2007 elections, the state witnessed violence and many lives were lost, especially in 2005 and 2006. The political upheaval, remotely, led to a declaration of a state of emergency by the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was alleged to have coerced the State Assembly to impeach the democratically elected governor, Ayo Fayose. The political instability reached its crescendo in the state between 2006 and 2007 that it had five governors.

Also, the 2007 governorship election did not go without violence. As the election drew closer, electioneering campaigns of the two major parties; Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were marred by violence, which led to people sustaining injuries and some others losing their lives. Although Segun Oni, PDP candidate, was declared the winner of the poll, peace took flight from the state throughout the three years he was in the saddle.

His election was eventually voided and a rerun fixed for April 25, 2009. The mayhem that took place during the rerun election was unprecedented. One Segun Ajayi lost his limb to the mayhem at Ado Ekiti. His decomposing limb was brought to the court by the ACN as exhibit to prove that there was violence during the rerun election.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mrs Ayoka Adebayo,in fact, had to escaped the state without announcing results of the rerun. She claimed that she was under intense pressure to announce result against her wish. On May 5, barely 10 days after her disappearance, she came out of her hiding to conduct the second rerun/ supplementary election in some local governments.

The rerun was not without usual violence. Reporters covering the poll were mercilessly beaten, while at the venue of the counting, thugs had a free day. Adebayo  went ahead to announce the result, which gave Oni victory. Following the announcement, INEC office in the state capital was partially burnt by hoodlums while some houses believed to be owned by PDP bigwigs in the state were razed.

On May 6, 2009, Oni was sworn in for the second time in three years but he was, however, removed by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State in October 2010. Fayemi took over and spent four years.

The 2014 and 2018 governorship poll did not go without the usual violence. Also the 2019 council poll dogged with political mayhem. There were pockets of violence as a staunch member of PDP was shot at Okitiko area along Ise road in Ikere-Ekiti, when some political thugs tried to snatch ballot boxes from the electoral officials.

Last Saturday’s in Ekiti East Constitutency 1 was not free from the general malaise that afflicts the conduct of elections in the state.

For residents of Omuo-Ekiti, headquarter of Ekiti East Local Government area of Ekiti State, Saturday, March 20, 2021 will not be forgotten in a hurry, following the violence that marred the bye-election to fill the vacant position in Ekiti East State Constitutency 1.

By the time the dust raised by the bloody violence, not less than three lives were lost, while some individuals who were currently battling their lives at hospital sustained varying degrees of injuries.

The Commissioner of Police, Tunde Mobayo, had before the elections assured residents of the constitutency of the safety of their lives and property as adequate personnel would be drafted for the polls.

The signal of war started manifesting on Friday night, when the private house of the PDP candidate, Akinrinade Adeniran, was attacked and his cars were riddled with bullets by political thugs.

The elections commenced on a peaceful note across the five wards and 39 units as there was a massive turnout of voters with the electorate, mostly women and elderly people trooped to various units as early as 8.30am to excercise their franchise.

But, in spite of Mobayo’s assurance and voters enthusiasm, suspected political thugs in cohort with security operatives were on rampage in some polling units.

The by-election, which was to fill the seat made vacant by the sudden demise of the erstwhile All Progressives Congress lawmaker representing the constituency, Juwa Adegbuyi, commence in a peaceful manner before situation went awry and violence erupted following shooting from dreadful masked political thugs.

The thugs stormed ward 007 unit 007 where the Senator representing Ekiti South, Biodun Olujimi, voted and released gunshots on voters. Olujimi narrowly escaped being caught in the hail of bullets by whiskers. She had just voted when the mayhem broke out.

Three persons, including a a female police officer, were shot dead by the  thugs in the orgy of violence while six others were injured.

Among the injured were a National Youth Service Corps member, an official of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and two policemen. The injured who were rushed to Omuo General Hospital are now receiving treatment.

Killed in the fracas were a female police officer, a 50-year-old Bola Adebisi, and a 35-year-old Tunde Ogunleye.

Apart from the shooting, there were also reports of ballot box snatching in ward 009 units 008 and 009. The security personnel manning the polling units had to took to their heels to prevent being trapped in the violence on hearing the staccato of gunshots. And this forced Independent National Electoral Commission to immediately suspended further voting.

A policeman, an officer of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, a Corps member and presiding officer, as well as one other sustained various degrees of life-threatening injuries from gunshots wounds.

Narrating how the gory incident began, Olujimi said she narrowly escaped being shot as thugs invaded her polling unit at Ward 7, Unit 007, following which she was whisked away by party supporters.

Olujimi who said the violence in her unit was perpetrated by APC thugs with the alleged compromise of police officers, said, “APC leaders were the masterminds of the attack having mobilised people from all over the state for the bye-election taking place in just five wards.

“The leaders of APC came to the polling unit, in fact, we greeted warmly. After they left, some APC thugs who stayed behind pulled out guns and started shooting indiscriminately. They picked the ballot box and started shooting as they went along. This is the first time I witnessed such in this locality.

“Before we knew it, a man was dead on the floor, people were shouting ‘Bola, Bola’. I looked at Bola, they poured water on him, it was too late. There was also a corps member that gun had grazed his ears.

“As I was going out to get an ambulance to even try if we could rescue him, I saw the policewoman that was guarding the ballot box, she had been shot in the back of the neck and blood was coming out from her nose and everywhere. She was just screaming, at a stage, she got quiet.

“People who had dispersed because of the gunshots started coming out of the houses, some with injuries. We took them to Omuo General Hospital, they could only take the simple cases, I had to get one bus and an ambulance to take the others to Ikole General Hospital.”

Olujimi, who wondered the reason for the desperation allegedly on the part of the APC for a tenure that would end in 2023, alleged the APC-led government officials relocated to Omuo-Ekiti with retinue of their security aides.

“It is all about lack of confidence in themselves because you don’t need this kind of heavy artillery for a bye-election. With the bloody violence , there was no poll. This election must be canceled.” she said.

Adeniran, who decried the alleged show of brutal force by the ruling party, said: “They invaded my compound on Friday and smashed my car’s windscreens with gunshots. They also shot at the roof of my building. This is no longer democracy.”

But, an APC federal lawmaker who hails from the town, Femi Bamisile, desrcibed the shooting as “unfortunate, appalling and unbelievable”,  saying no election worth the blood of any Nigerian.

“In any election where people are being lost, that is no longer democracy. APC was  fully prepared for this election and canvassed for votes and we never wanted to kill anybody. I really don’t understand how it happened. I didn’t want to believe that it was our party. Election started peacefully what could have erupted shootings and killings?”, he asked.

Confirming incident, the Ekiti Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, said six persons, including one Corps member and two policemen were shot.

“Today, some hoodlums attacked ward 7 unit 7 during the House of Assembly bye-election. In the process, six people were injured, among them were two policemen and one National Youths Service Corp(NYSC) member who are currently receiving treatment in Ikole General Hospital”.

Following the attacks on voters, electoral officials and security personnel, the INEC suspended the bye election indefinitely. The commission said to continue the election would amount to rewarding bad behavior.

INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said: “The Commission made adequate arrangements for the election. Personnel and materials arrived on time in all the 39 polling units spread across 5 Wards of the Constituency for the 23,670 registered voters to exercise their franchise in a free and fair process.

“However, no sooner had voting commenced than unidentified gunmen unleashed mayhem at some Polling Units, thereby disrupting the process.”

“The Commission commiserates with the innocent victims of this dastardly act and affront to our democracy”.

The two main parties in the state, the APC and PDP launched into a war of words over the killings.

The PDP in the Southwest condemned the killings and violence that marred the by-election.

The Zonal Director of Media and Publicity, Lere Olayinka, accused the Police of collaborating with thugs to foment trouble even as he described the violence and the killing as saddening.

He said: “During Fayemi’s first tenure, it was in this same Omuo Ekiti that Michael Ipinlaye and Kehinde Fajuyi were killed by thugs while Foluso Ogundare was killed in Akure Ekiti and Ayo Murphy Jeje and Juliana Adewumi were killed in Erijiyan Ekiti.

“Also, during the 2019 local government elections in which only APC contested, one person was killed in Ikere Ekiti”, it added.

The immediate ex- governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose, blamed the APC for the violence, describing it as a “state sponsored terrorism”.

Fayose, in a statement titled, ‘Killings during Ekiti Assembly by-election is state terrorism, evidence of rejection of APC – Fayose’, said the “killing of innocent people in the House of Assembly by-election was barbaric and shameful.

He said: “I thought we had gone past this barbarism in Ekiti State, especially when we are confronted with national insecurity to which the government has no solution.

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