…Police read the riot act
…45 suspected thugs arrested
By Dayo Johnson, Akure
THE spate of thuggery, blood-letting and violence ahead of the Ondo State governorship election scheduled to hold on Saturday has reached an alarming proportion.
Suspected thugs have literally held the state by the jugular as they maim, destroy and rupture peace in the state.
Palpable fear has gripped the people as many are lamenting that the ugly episode of 1983 was about to be reignited
The three major political parties, All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), have continued to trade blame as violence trailed their electioneering campaigns across the 18 council areas of Ondo.
Supporters of the APC and PDP are the worst culprits as they continued to flex muscles, brandishing dangerous weapons and inflicting injury on innocent people across the state.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that no fewer than 45 political thugs have been arrested following the spate of violence ahead of the poll. The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had, during a three-day working visit to the state, expressed concern over the spate of violence in Ondo ahead of the poll and insisted that the 17 political parties participating in the election should sign a peace accord
Yakubu said, “We are aware of the violence involving supporters of political parties.
“We will meet with traditional rulers and the political parties over the issue of violence.
“I am also glad that the National Peace Committee under the leadership of our former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), is going to intervene by organising the signing of a peace accord similar to what we did in Benin”.
The accord was indeed signed by the three contenders to the Alagbaka Government House, thus giving hope of peaceful campaigns and election on Saturday.
But events appear to be proving everyone wrong.
A litany of attacks
During a clash in Ayede Ogbese, Akure North area of the state between the supporters of the APC and PDP, many people were seriously injured while many houses were vandalised.
The cause of the clash remains unknown but the supporters freely used dangerous weapons as they engaged themselves.
However, the violence took a dangerous dimension when the campaign convoys of the candidates of the two parties, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (APC) and Eyitayo Jegede (PDP), were waylaid by suspected thugs and attacked in Oba Akoko in Akoko South-West local government area of Ondo.
Sophisticated weapons were freely used by the thugs who fired gunshots at each other.
Scores were injured while about 20 campaign vehicles were set ablaze and destroyed.
As usual, both camps traded blame.
While Akeredolu said his convoy was attacked by Jegede’s supporters, the candidate of the PDP insisted that Akeredolu thugs were the attackers.
The spokesperson for the Akeredolu/ Ayedatiwa Campaign Organisation, Richard Olabode, alleged that PDP thugs attacked the governor’s convoy in Oba- Akoko and set campaign vehicle ablaze.
On his part, Jegede insisted that APC thugs attacked him and destroyed 10 of his campaign vehicles.
A statement by Ondo State Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kennedy Petetei, said, “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State, Eyitayo Jegede, was, on Wednesday, attacked at Oba Akoko, with 10 of his campaign vehicles brutally vandalised.
“Jegede was at the palace of Oloba of Oba, Oba Nathaniel Adegoroye, the traditional ruler of the town, where he had gone to pay homage as part of his campaign visit to the town when the attackers descended on his campaign team.
“The attackers, who were hooded, stormed the location after alighting from the convoy of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who himself was passing by the area at the time.
“Eyewitnesses said neither Akeredolu nor the police operatives in the governor’s convoy did anything to stop the attackers.
“Everybody was taken by surprise. Akeredolu people were passing before they stopped abruptly and, before you say Jack, these masked men rushed down and started breaking Jegede’s vehicles.
“We had to run for safety and, by the time we ran, one vehicle was in flames while about eight others had their windscreens, side glasses and rear screen smashed”.
The PDP candidate also alleged that the attack was an attempt to assassinate him.
But replying, Akeredolu asked the police to investigate, arrest and prosecute culprits who attacked his convoy and that of Jegede.
Akeredolu, in a statement by his campaign organisation in Akure, expressed regret “over the incident that occurred in Oba-Akoko, Akoko South-West Local Government Area of the state on Wednesday, 16th September, 2020 where supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) were involved in violence resulting into burning and damage of campaign vehicles of both parties”.
The statement by the spokesperson for the organization, Olabode Richard Olatunde, described the violence as mostly unfortunate, considering the prevailing peace that the Akeredolu administration had maintained in the state.
Bloody clash averted
In the meantime, a bloody clash was averted in Ondo town when the campaign trains of the APC and ZLP met in the town.
It took the intervention of a former governor and National Leader of the ZLP, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, who is an indigene of Ondo town, to douse the tension.
Some supporters of the APC had reportedly blocked a major road in the town with a truck to restrain the ZLP governorship candidate, Hon Agboola Ajayi, and other party leaders heading to Ore for the flag-off of the party campaign.
The expressway was blocked against vehicular movement for several hours.
The personal intervention of Mimiko prevented a bloody clash as he personally ordered the truck to be removed after over three hours delay by the suspected thugs.
The ZLP, days later, raised the alarm that the campaign secretariat of Ajayi was attacked.
The Director General of Ajayi/Gboye Campaign Organization, Dr Kola Ademujimi, said thugs stormed the campaign secretariat located in Akure, firing gunshots and threatening to kill guards while destroying campaign billboards and other valuable items.
Reacting, the spokesperson for the Akeredolu Campaign Organization, Olatunde, said ZLP was merely looking for attention.
“As you can see, there is nobody talking about them in the state. Their political popularity has refused to grow. It’s a rejected party with no political structure”, he said.
Again on Tuesday, in lpele town, Owo, the hometown of Akeredolu, another orgy of violence took place, leaving no fewer than 10 persons seriously injured and over 20 vehicles and motorcycles destroyed by thugs
The PDP alleged that the campaign train of Jegede was attacked in the town by thugs loyal to Akeredolu.
It further alleged that policemen in the town supervised the attack on the campaign train. On its part, the Akeredolu Campaign Organisation said it was the thugs of Jegede that “unleashed coordinated attacks on the innocent people of Ipele”.
‘Police taking sides’
In a related development, the PDP in Ondo has accused the state police command of indiscriminate arrest of its leaders on the order of Akeredolu following the Ipele violence.
A statement by Samuel Fasua, on behalf of the Jegede Campaign Organisation, alleged that “the police was not fair to the PDP.
But the state police spokesperson, Tee-Leo Ikoro, denied the allegation of indiscriminate arrest of the party’s leaders.
“There is nothing like arresting any party leader, we are not partisan, we are doing our jobs professionally”, the spokesperson said.
“Those arrested are those who destroyed billboards in Ipele and we are also on the trail of those who destroyed billboards of the PDP too in the town”.
The PDP had also written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari in which it accused security agencies of culpability in the unending violence allegedly perpetrated by supporters of APC ahead of the election.
The party, in the letter, appealed to the President to call his party in the state to order and stop violence.
It warned that “the 1983 violence that engulfed Ondo State must not be allowed to recur”.
Shots ‘fired’ at Jegede convoy
Jegede echoed similar sentiment when he said politics shouldn’t be a do-or-die affair, rather it should be seen as a quest to serve.
“In regarding it as such, there will be no need for desperation or violent acts, as the people should be left to decide if they want you to serve them”, the PDP candidate said.
According to him, politicians, especially those from Ondo, should learn from the sordid events of the Second Republic in which many lives were lost and valued properties destroyed.
He added, “If anything happens to me before and after this election, our people should know who to hold responsible.
“The attack on my campaign train at Oba-Akoko by suspected APC thugs was a clear attempt to terminate my life”.
According to him, “the firing of live bullets sporadically at my vehicles by suspected political thugs confirmed the insinuation that some elements want to murder me before Election Day”.
Jegede alleged that those who fired at his convoy were thugs in the APC campaign vehicles with the governor in the convoy.
He pointed out that he had lodged complaints to security agencies and showed evidence that suspected thugs in APC vehicles fired at his campaign vehicles.
“Akeredolu has declared war on our state but he will fall on Election Day”, Jegede stressed.
“I urge our people to protect themselves and their heritage against the bully tactics of this dying government”.
In his principal’s defence, the Director General of Akeredolu Campaign Organization, Hon Victor Olabimtan, said “a drowning man will hold on to anything but I want to tell you that APC is not involved in violence”.
Olabimtan explained, “Let me give you an instance of the one that happened in Owo.
“The APC members were in Akoko South-West campaigning while the PDP people were in Owo to do their campaign but look at the destruction they left behind.
“In Akure here, anywhere they see anybody with APC cap, they will remove the cap on his head and beat him, when they see the vehicle of APC, they smash it and when they do all these things, they are the ones to report to the police and you will never see any of their property destroyed. “We don’t believe in violence, they are the ones orchestrating violence. “For instance they did what they did in Owo deliberately because they felt they will lose Owo and what they want to do is to destabilise the area before the election and create fear in people.
“They are even planning that on the day of election, they will unleash terror in Owo but they will meet law enforcement agents there”.
Akeredolu under ZLP fire
Speaking through the Director General of his campaign organization, Dr Kola Ademujimi, Ajayi, the ZLP candidate, also sharing his perspectives on the violent campaigns in Ondo, said, “l must tell you it is growing to an embarrassing level and I don’t think we have ever experienced violence like this since 1999, though it happened a bit during the Agagu administration and we were told it was because of many of his aides then.
“This time, it is the governor that is encouraging violence and this is disappointing.
“Three people have been killed by suspected APC thugs under the governor and I don’t think this is good for his image.
“The international community has even been campaigning against election violence and, if this does not stop, I am afraid it may have serious consequences on his image after losing this election because he’s going to lose this election and he may find it very difficult to come back to Ondo State.
“Suspected thugs of his party (APC) killed a young man in Idanre. This is happening because of the over bearing influence of the governor on the police.
“We want to appeal to the Commissioner of Police in the state that he should not encourage people or because he wants to support the government of the day he refuses to secure property and lives.
“A boy was killed in Idanre because he was wearing ZLP cap and we wrote a petition to the police only for the Commissioner of Police to claim he did not see the petition”.
l won’t tolerate war – Police Commissioner
The state Commissioner of Police, Salami Bolaji, who has been accused of siding with Akeredolu in the campaigns, defending himself, warned political parties to maintain decorum in the last days of electioneering.
“It was to avoid this kind of situation that we drew a timetable for the parties to ensure that no two parties meet same day at the same venue for their campaigns”, Bolaji said.
“Given this scenario, one wonders why they still cross each other’s path during campaigns.
According to Bolaji, he will not be a police boss to watch people turn campaigns into war zones and he would fold his arms.
He promised to unleash the law on any person or party turning campaigns into war.
The commissioner, who boasted that the situation in Oba-Akoko was put under control, warned those with evil mind about political campaign in Ondo to have a rethink or risk arrest.
“l would not hesitate to unleash the dragon of the law on anybody, group or political party discovered to be behind any political violence or destruction of property in the state”, he added.