Candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), governor Rotimi Akeredolu; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede; Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) Agboola Ajayi yesterday signed a peace pact ahead of the governorship election slated to hold this Saturday in Ondo State.
They signed the pact in Akure, the state capital, pledging to shun violence and avoid actions that may undermine the peace accord before, during and after the election.
The event, facilitated by the National Peace Committee (NPC), had the chair- man of the Independent National Elec- toral Commission (INEC) Prof Mahmood Yakubu and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, in attendance.
Others in attendance included the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bi- shop Matthew Kukah; executive director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo; traditional rulers from the state and the DIG Of Police, Research and Planning, Oyebade Adeleye.
The build up to the election had recorded incidences of violence, resulting in trading of accusations and counter accusations between the two leading parties, APC and PDP.
Speaking at the event, the electoral umpire, INEC, called on all politicians and their supporters in Ondo State to be peaceful, even as he urged them not lower the bar in the conduct of free and fair elections in the State.
The commission’s chairman, Prof Yakubu, assured the peace committee of INEC’s commitment to transparent and credible elections.
“The votes will count. I call on all political parties and candidates to abide by the letter and spirit of the Peace Accord by appealing to your supporters to maintain the peace before, during and af- ter the elections,” he said.
Yakubu said without peace, it’s de- ployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and the credibility of elections would be undermined.
He recalled that the last governorship election in the state four years ago, exactly on November 26, 2016, was free, fair and credible.
According to him, “You may also recall that it was perhaps the only governor- ship election in the history of Ondo State since 2003 whose outcome was not chal- lenged at the Election Petition Tribunal.
The chief electoral officer said, “This is in spite of the fact that three of the contestants were senior lawyers”.
He noted that barely three weeks ago in Benin City, political parties and candidates in the Edo State governorship election also signed the Peace Accord.
Yakubu averred that the intervention of the NPC has, without a doubt, contributed in no small way to the peaceful Akeredolu
conduct of the election whose outcome has been adjudged as credible.
He however expressed concern that the Ondo State governorship election is generating tensions. “The charged atmosphere demands that political parties and candidates should affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to peaceful elections which, I understand, are the five cardinal pillars on which the Peace Accord rests.
Yakubu continued: “Without peace, our deployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and, above all, the credibility of elections will
“Even worse, public health will be jeopardised as observance of safety protocols in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic will be impossible to achieve in an atmosphere of disruption, violence and disorder. It is, therefore, important for eve- ryone to maintain the peace”.
Election Not Do-or-die Affair, Sultan cautions
Corroborating the advise of the INEC boss, the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Sa’ad III, appealed to all contestants in the forthcoming Ondo election to allow peace reign before, during and after the poll.
Abubakar urged the candidates to obey the rules of the game and shun any form of violence so that the election will be free, fair and credible just like in Edo State.
He noted: “I like to make it clear to all of us as citizens of this country and for the players who are going to be on the pitch on Saturday to contest for one, single seat of governor of Ondo State for the next four years.
“I like to call on you to see the signing of accord this morning not just a mere ceremony or formality but a commitment by all of you. In fact a covenant which you all be responsible for the outcome at the end of the day.
“Let all of us obey the rules of the game, I call it game because election is a game where there must be only one winner and for others who do not win, I won’t call them loser.
“There can only be one winner and that winner has already been ordained by Almighty God before the vote is even cast.
We don’t know who is that person.
“So, as a contestant tell the citizens of Ondo State what you can’t do and what you will do for them and their votes must count as INEC has as- sured us that every vote must count.
“Talk to your supporters to remain peaceful, do not allow thuggery to take place anywhere not only near the polling booth even in entire state throughout the duration of election on Saturday”.
While maintaining that power belongs to God, the Sultan said, “God gives it to whom He wants, at the time He wants, and He takes it away from the person or persons without even alerting them, so let’s not play God.
“Do not sign this accord, if you know you are not going to keep peace in election of Ondo Sta te of Saturday”.
Army Personnel Will Conduct Themselves Professionally – Buratai
Meanwhile, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Baratai, has commended the officers and men of Nigerian Army for the display of professionalism during the September 19 governorship election in Edo.
Buratai gave the commendation at the opening of the chief of army staff’s combined first, second and third quarters’ conference yesterday in Maiduguri, Borno State
He said that the performance of officers and men of the Nigerian Army during the election was adjudged satisfactory and highly commended by all sections of the society, even as he assured that personnel who will be deployed to Ondo will conduct themselves professionally.
Buratai said their conduct was in tune with his strategic directive for 2020 which is ‘’to Sustain the Professionalism and Responsiveness of the Nigerian Army in the Discharge of its Constitutional Roles.”
He said he was happy that his directive on professional conduct was permeating through the ranks as was evident during the recent conduct of Operation Safe Conduct in Edo State.
His words: “On this note, I want to congratulate the GOC, officers and men of the 2 Division Nigerian Army for their professional conduct during the Edo State election.
“This is the standard that must be upheld always and I expect nothing less in the coming Ondo State governorship election on the 10th of October.
“We must continue to chart progressive paths towards tackling the security challenges confronting the nation”.
NSCDC Deploys 7,079 Personnel,Sniffer Dogs
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) has deployed 7,079 personnel for the Ondo governorship election.
This is even as it had earlier deployed snif- fers dogs and mobile surveillance vehicles ahead of the polls to ensure a hitch free exercise.
The commandant-general, Abdullahi Gana Muhammadu, in a statement by the corps spokesman, Emmanuel Okeh, made the disclosure yesterday, while addressing officers and men at in Abuja.
Okeh said Muhammadu also directed the deputy commandant-general Operations, Kelechi Madu, to relocate to the state to personally coordinate the operations with a view to ensu- ring optimal performance and result.
Maduwillbeassistedbyfour assistantcom- mandants general ( ACGs) in charge of Zone A, Lagos, and Zone G, Abeokuta, along with the seven commandants from neighbouring states.
The CG said, ‘’We are deploying 7,079 per- sonnel for Ondo election and the team is to be led by DCG Operations. Among those to assist him are 4 ACGs and 7 Commandants.
“Their deployment is to have them sup- port their counterpart in Ondo command. We settled for commandants from neighbou- ring states like Lagos, Edo, Kwara, Ekiti, Ogun, Osun and Kogi.
“Equally, personnel from the SWAT unit, Counter Terrorism unit (CTU), Chemical Bio- logical Radioactive Nuclear and Energy unit (CBRNE), Kernnel (K9), Disaster response unit have also been deployed.”
Others also deployed are from the Medical, Crisis Management, Special Force, Anti-vanda- lism unit as well as those from the Critical Pro- tection Unit (CIPU) of the corps to ensure the protection of critical infrastructure and natio- nal assets, which are usually the target of van- dalism during and after elections.
The Civil Defence boss added that those de- ployed for the election duty have been trained on the protocols of COVID-19 and have alrea- dy been provided with face masks and hand sanitisers.
He warned them to remain apolitical and avoid any form of compromise while carrying out the their assignment.
Ensure Ondo Poll Reflects People’s Will, US Tells INEC, Security Agencies
Meanwhile, the United States has called INEC, political parties, and security services to ensure that the Ondo election is peaceful and reflects the will of the people of the state.
In a statement issued yesterday by its Mission in Abuja, the United States stressed that it remained committed to the US-Nigeria partnership. It stated:
“The United States urges all stakeholders to continue to work toward free, fair, transparent, and peaceful elections in Ondo State.
“We reiterate our hope that all participants in the democratic process, including the INEC, political parties, and the security services, will take concrete steps to ensure a peaceful election that reflects the will of the people of Ondo.
“The United States remains committed to the U.S.-Nigeria partnership as we work tog- ether to achieve our mutual goals of peace and prosperity for the citizens of both our coun- tries”.
It would be recalled that in the build up to the Edo governorship election, the US threatened to impose visa restriction on election riggers.
By CHRISTIANA NWAOGU, TUNDE OGUNTOLA, TOPE FAYEHUN,