By Jethro Ibileke
To ensure a hitch-free gubernatorial election on Saturday, 18 June, hundreds of heavily-armed security operatives from various agencies have been deployed to Ekiti State.
The residents are expected to come out on Saturday to cast their votes across the State.
Recent clashes among supporters of some candidates of the various political parties, which had resulted in deaths, have become a cause for worry to many residents.
Cases of kidnapping and armed robbery which have been very rampant in the State, particularly along the Akure/Ado Ekiti road, also posed threat to the election.
Checkpoints at entry points into Ado Ekiti, the State capital, are manned by armed soldiers.
Reports also have it that personnel drafted in from neighbouring states to beef up security have been posted to every community in Ekiti.
A convoy of heavily-armed operatives of the various security agencies on ‘operation show of force’ was sighted by PMNEWS along Bank Road, by the old INEC office.
There is water-tight security at the new office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), located along New Iyin Ekiti Road.
Hundreds of operatives made up of anti-riot and regular policemen, operatives of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) mount guards inside and outside the premises.
The security operatives have however been very civil in their dealings with the residents.
A resident who gave his name simply as Idowu, told our Correspondent that the heavy presence of security operatives is a reassurance for him that he could come out freely to vote for the candidate of his choice.
He said: “I am happy with their presence, it gives me confidence that I can come out tomorrow to vote. I will be travelling to Iropora, my home town this afternoon, to enable me to vote tomorrow.”
Others who spoke on the condition of anonymity also expressed similar sentiment about the proof of the security operatives.
A resident who gave his name as John Elegbeleye, however, lamented the seeming militarization of elections in the country.
He blamed the situation on what he called the greedy attitude of politicians and their supporters.
“If we cannot elect our leaders without the heavy presence of security operatives, then, the elections are not free. Their presence alone can intimidate some of the electorate.
“But, I blame the situation on the greedy and I-must-get-it-all attitude of our politicians and their supporters,” he said.
Meanwhile, a son of Ekiti, Mr Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria has advocated the arrest of thugs and vote buyers in the state.
As he put it: “Because the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Alkali Baba has read the Riot Act to the leaders of all political parties in the State we call on the Commissioner of Police and Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti State to ensure that the election is not disrupted by any group or individual. We also call on the Independent National Electoral Commission and the anti-graft agencies to stop the disgraceful conduct of vote-buying by arresting purchasers and their agents to prosecute them.”
Below is his statement:
Arrest And Prosecute Thugs and Vote Buyers in Ekiti State
Last year, the Ekiti East 1 State Constituency by-election to fill a vacancy in the Ekiti State House of Assembly conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission on March 20, 2023, was violently disrupted by armed thugs. During the mayhem unleashed on law-abiding voters, three people were brutally killed while four police officers were severely injured. The Independent National Electoral Commission was compelled to suspend the by-election indefinitely over cases of violence. Up till now, the by-election has not been held for fear of another disruption by the influential thugs.
Even though the suspects were arrested and charged before the Ekiti State High Court the case has not been diligently prosecuted. In the recent past, the Ekiti State Government compromised the cases of notorious electoral offenders. Hence, thugs have taken advantage of such official impunity to attack political opponents and scare voters who are desirous to exercise their franchise in the governorship election scheduled to hold on Saturday, June 18, 2022.
Because the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Alkali Baba has read the Riot Act to the leaders of all political parties in the State we call on the Commissioner of Police and Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti State to ensure that the election is not disrupted by any group or individual. We also call on the Independent National Electoral Commission and the anti-graft agencies to stop the disgraceful conduct of vote-buying by arresting purchasers and their agents to prosecute them.
Since the Independent National Electoral Commission has repeatedly assured the Nigerian people that their votes will count the members of the ruling class must not be allowed to turn democracy into plutocracy in the country.
Femi Falana SAN