VIOLENCE has continued to mar campaigns by political parties ahead of Saturday’s Ondo State governorship election.
The major political parties in the race – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) – are trading blames over the violence that rocked campaigns in the state capital, Akure, Owo, the hometown of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the Akoko axis, Ipele and other parts of the state.
A few days ago, sporadic shooting at campaigns pitched the parties against each other. Scores of supporters were injured.
After disruption of campaigns in Akoko, Owo and Ipele, sympathisers were hospitalised.
Guns boomed in Akure at the weekend as supporters of the major parties clashed.
Miffed by the persistent violence, House of Assembly Speaker Bamidele Oloyelogun advised parents and guardians to caution their children against involvement in thuggery.
The National Peace Committee led by former Military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, called for a free and fair poll, urging political parties and their supporters to shun violence.
APC publicity secretary Alex Kalejaiye accused the PDP of fuelling violent attacks through its campaign slogan “Eyitayo Must not Fail”.
He described the campaign slogan as a new version of the old “do-or-die” approach to election matters.
Kalejaiye said: “The APC has it on good authority that the PDP youths are easily moved to action once they hear the slogan.
“It is an indication that the PDP candidate and leaders are very desperate for power.
“This seeming desperation in the camp of the PDP standard bearer induces the party thugs to go wild and destroy anything in sight.
“So many innocent people have fallen victims in the last one week, and vehicles destroyed because they display Akeredolu stickers.”
The publicity secretary urged the leaders of PDP to educate their followers to exhibit better conduct ahead of the election.
Kalejaiye said no member of the APC had been indicted for campaign violence and urged members to continue to tread the part of honour and maturity throughout the campaigns.
Oloyelogun, who was on a sensitisation tour of the Ondo North Senatorial District, said violence will not lead to peaceful poll.
Oloyelogun, who led other lawmakers, said the tour was to enlighten, mobilise and engage residents of the state on the need to have a peaceful and credible election.
According to the Speaker, the state can only advance and develop under a peaceful atmosphere hence the need to eschew violence.
“The theme of our programme in all the senatorial districts is to mobilise and sensitise our people on the need to have a free, fair, credible and peaceful election on Oct. 10.
“We thank God because the people listened to us.
“I want to beg them to please allow peace to reign so that we can have a peaceful election.
“I also appeal to parents not to allow their children to be used as thugs. If I was used as a thug, I would not be where I am today.
“My parents, when I was young, would tell me that I should not get involved in thuggery. They would also tell me that I could become a governor.
“So, I also tell our people that thuggery is not the answer. Let them vote and go back to their respective houses.”
Also, Mr Olugbenga Omole, a member representing Akoko South West Constituency 1, said the legislative arm was aiming to sensitise people on the importance of participating in the election.
“We, as a legislative body are with this outing, set to further enlighten and sensitise our constituents to shun violence and to preach to them that nobody’s blood is worth an election.
“You can see that I put on a shirt with the inscription: ‘Election no be War!’
“Today is the third day of this tour across the senatorial districts.
“They don’t have to fight or kill each other because of election.
“Election will go and we will still interact with one another. We thank God for this because the response has been fantastic.”
Yesterday, the state government raised the alarm over an alleged plot by Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, to stage an attack on himself in Owo.
It said the plot was abolished and the campaign to Owo cancelled after relevant agencies were informed.
Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo, told reporters in Akure, the state capital, that Ajayi hatched the plot for it to be seen as if it was carried out by supporters of APC in Owo.
Describing the plot as a threat to democracy, he said the motive was to create crisis and play the ignoble role of an underdog and victim to attract public sympathy.
Ojogo said: “He planned attack against himself at Owo. It failed. Contest must be made friendly. We are appealing to the security agencies to up their game as we get close to the election.
“Agboola Ajayi arranged hoodlums to shoot at his convoy while at Ijebu Owo, the strong base of Akeredolu. It was orchestrated to coincide with the visit of the INEC and IGP to the state.
“The Ondo State Government has implicit confidence in the capacity of the security agencies to unravel the circumstances leading to skirmishes in the last three weeks.
“We are, however, persuaded to believe that most of such attacks are organized by ‘the loud victims’ to demonize the government and paint an savoury atmosphere of insecurity as we approach the October 10 election.
But, Ajayi said he suspended his campaign in Owo because intelligence reports revealed that Akeredolu had perfected plots to attack his supporters at the rally.
The deputy governor said the ZLP woman leader in Owo and many supporters were physically attacked on Sunday and their properties destroyed.
Speaking through the Director General of his campaign organisation, Dr Kola Ademujimi, Agboola said he had conducted a clinical campaign across the state without any blemish.
“We urge our teeming supporters in Owo Local Government Area to continue with the house to house campaign and mobilisation.”
In a statement by General Abubakar, the Peace Committee urged stakeholders to live up to the principles of impartiality, neutrality and statesmanship.
The Peace Committee called on the candidates, security agencies, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the civil societies, the traditional rulers and the people to support the peaceful process in the State.
The source said the purpose of the meeting is to seal an agreement that will enable the ZLP to collapse its structures across the 18 local governments for Jegede.
The Peoples Demoratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) will resume alliance talks today, it was learnt.
Sources said the ZLP candidate may step down for PDP candidate Eyitayo Jegede should they agreed on a pact.
Sources said former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso and Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde are leading the PDP team in talks with the ZLP leader, former Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
The sources within the PDP disclosed that the party’s national leaders have not foreclosed the possibility of reaching an agreement with Mimiko before Saturday on the need to dump the ZLP candidate and support his estranged political son Jegede.
It was gathered that the PDP felt that Ajayi’s participation will only give room for a spoiler game that will thwart the chances of the party in the election.
Although, the two parties had denied any alliance talk, a PDP chieftain, who spoke in confidence, said talks between Mimiko and PDP leaders were ongoing.
According to him, “Makinde and Kwankwaso have relocated to Akure since last Saturday pretending to be campaigning for Jegede, but their mission is to seal the alliance between PDP and ZLP with Mimiko today.
“There is no way the two parties will go into the election without merging that they won’t fail woefully. They both have their strongholds, but there is no way the stronghold of Jegede and Ajayi can make any of them governor.
“Our leaders are still mounting pressure on Mimiko, who is also interested in using the PDP platform for his 2023 ambition.
“We are very hopeful that before the end of tomorrow (today), an agreement would have been sealed between the two parties.”