By Josef Omorotionmwan
ALL those who say we should thank INEC and the security agencies for the Ondo war that has just been successfully prosecuted certainly know what they are talking about.
The citizens of Ondo State are peace-loving people but they are not the type of people that are likely to pray for their enemies.
Put differently, in spite of their peaceful mien, they would bite off your nose and even pursue you into the hole if you looked for their trouble, particularly on issues of elections.
From time, the people have become allergic to election rigging. Ondo has been land of enlightenment; certainly, not a safe haven for electoral frauds.
Sometimes, it is easier to imagine what happened by looking at what did not happen. Early enough, the people have developed zero-tolerance for election fraud. For lack of space, we shall only restrict ourselves to recent history.
A man we shall simply identify as Professor captured the total essence. Prof. was not only profound in the books; he also knew when to run away. In 1965, he was the NNDP candidate for the Western Region House of Assembly election, against a trader candidate of the AG.
There was an attempt by the ruling party, NNDP, to rig the election in Prof’s favour. Prof openly rejected the victory and “borrowed leg”.
People who had election victories bestowed upon them through media announcements did not live to enjoy such victories. They got consumed in what was popularly known as operation wetie, in which such people were given thorough petrol bath, set ablaze and left to burn to ashes.
In 1979, all those caught stealing or stuffing ballot boxes in then Ondo State were roasted alive in their hundreds. Every election year has indeed been a year of revolution – a revolution that swept away everything that came its way. In 1983, the stealing of Michael Ajasin’s votes for Omoboriowo was visited with wanton destructions of immeasurable proportion.
By 2007, the modules operandi had shifted from open brutal violence to the courtrooms. And till this day, the people of Ondo State are still counting the monumental losses from PDP’s stealing of the election, in financial terms as well as its heavy toll on governance and the State’s economy.
These are some of the pains that INEC and the security operatives took away from us because of the peaceful election in Ondo State, the penultimate Saturday.
Election materials and personnel arrived at polling stations in good time, as against the tardy behaviour of the past. There were however scattered reports of manipulations in some polling centres but those were purely infinitesimal, compared with the past. Most importantly, the results were released in good time. Gradually, we are getting there.
The type of security arrangements put in place by the Police and other security agencies were mind boggling.
Three full days to the Election Day, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, caused all roads leading to Ondo State to be closed. More than 20 armoured carriers of patrol security personnel and Marine Policemen were provided at the riverine areas.
At the peak of it all, Abubakar decreed, “There would be no fishing on the election day. Whatever fish you have on that day, you will stay at home and eat it….”
The Nigerian Army was not left out. The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 2 Division Nigerian Army, issued a shoot-at-sight order against hoodlums who might attempt anything funny to disrupt the polls.
He also decreed that there would be no hunting on Election Day – all to checkmate those who might want to carry arms under the pretext of going to hunt for animals. In essence, our security forces made the Ondo State electorate fishers and hunters of votes and nothing else!
As happened in Edo State, soldiers mounted checkpoints on major roads while the INEC office was heavily fortified against the ugly incidence of bombing and other criminal activities.
Elections are beginning to take serious shape in this country. The Ondo war was well fought. The three leading contenders at that war – Olusegun Mimiko (Labour), Rotimi Akeredolu (ACN) and Olusola Oke (PDP) – prosecuted very aggressive and purpose-driven campaigns. They transversed the entire State in their individual efforts to woo the voters. The incumbent really fought the battle of his life.
That is how it should be. Anybody who wants gold must be prepared to dig deep because gold cannot be got on the surface of the earth.
Governor Mimiko worked before and during the election; and there is no reason to expect any less from his second term victory.
Initially, the odds against him were many: He has broken the jinx that has long existed in that State – that nobody gets a second tenure in that State! By the time Ondo people saw superior performance, they bowed.
Mimiko has remained undaunted by the heavy forces of the opposition in the State. As the only State in the entire Southwest that is outside the ACN fold, the ACN did everything to capture Ondo State.
The ACN only came a distant third, no thanks to imposition of a candidate! The heavy arsenal of the PDP in an attempt to capture the State into its nation-wide fold also came to naught. The moral message in all this is that performance is better than promises.
The Ondo State war is over. A voter turn-out of just 39.37percent (1,638,950 registered voters and 645,597 turn-out) has not much to recommend it. We could as well be our own enemies.
How many native people will be bold enough to come out to vote in the face of the heavy militarisation of our streets on Election Day?
With all the heavy costs, particularly in security, how can we sustain a general election involving 36 States and Abuja? As long as we depend on bloated security for our elections, we must begin to perfect our plans to import election peacekeepers for such big outings.