By Demola Akinyemi, Ilorin
Since the journey to the February 2015 elections began, it has been crystal clear that the supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State are desperate about power. The former has not hidden its deep interest to hold on to power, banking on the continuity of its achievements while the latter’s campaign slogan is freedom from the incumbent.
There was, however, respite that the elections would not be marred by violence when the leaders of the contending political parties, penultimate Saturday, at INEC office in Ilorin, the state capital, signed a peace accord.
The peace agreement, dubbed “Ilorin Accord”, was signed by 15 parties and their candidates out of the 16 expected to take part in the elections. Labour Party was the only party absent at the event which took place at the INEC headquarters in Ilorin.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Dr. Emmanuel Onucheyo, described the event as the first of its kind after a similar exercise by the national headquarters of the commission.
The state governor and candidate of the APC, Alhaji AbduFattah Ahmed, and his counterpart from the PDP, Senator Simon Ajibola,who earlier embraced one another to the delight of those in attendance, pledged support to the initiative.
Ahmed asked the organisers of the event to replicate the accord at the local government level in the state as he noted that, without peace, credible elections would be impossible.
The signatories pledged to ensure that their supporters follow the pledge they had made towards peaceful conduct in all aspects of the elections.
Part of the commitment in the accord includes ensuring that campaigns are based on issues and devoid of religious, ethnic or tribal profiling and refraining from making statements that have the capacity to incite violence.
It included a provision to forcefully speak against provocative utterances whether perpetrated by their supporters or opponents. The agreement committed the signatories to the monitoring of adherence to the accord.While hinting that a monitoring committee, consisting of statesmen and women as well as traditional and religious leaders may be set up, the accord tasked all the institutions of government involved in the electoral process, including INEC and security agencies, to act and be seen to be committed to the agreement.
Earlier, Kwara State commissioner of police, Mr. Salihu Garuba, had read a riot act to politicians in the state, saying any politician who carries firearms or dangerous weapons will be arrested and prosecuted.
Speaking at a security meeting with political stakeholders in Ilorin , the police commissioner said the state police command would not tolerate proliferation of firearms.
“We are not going to give anybody permit to carry guns. We would not allow anyone to kill us. If you have disagreement with your opponent there is a better way to settle it through the ballot. And if you have cars with factory-fitted tinted glasses, please come and obtain official permit so that you can use it”, he said.
In view of this,the two rival political parties have since commenced their campaigns wooing voters with various promises.
The ruling APC kick started the campaigns followed by the opposition PDP. Infact,the presidential candidates of the two rival political parties have also visited Kwara to drum support for their parties.
The presidential campaign team of the APC visited Ilorin, penultimate Saturday, while that of the PDP visited penultimate Monday.
But contrary to expectations, particularly because of the “ILORIN ACCORD,”the campaign turned bloody last Wednesday when the campaign team of the APC visited Isapa in Ekiti local government area of the state.
The campaign team was attacked and two people were feared dead following gun shots they received while about 20 others sustained critical injuries.
Three campaign vehicles of the APC were vandalised.
Meanwhile,Governor Ahmed has said he will not participate in any debate with the opposition PDP in the state, saying debate is not a key issue to him. Supporters of a politician, who laid ambush, were alleged to have carried out the attack in Isapa when Ahmed ‘s campaign train arrived the town.
Sunday Vanguard reliably gathered that the hoodlums attacked and destroyed the APC campaign vehicles.
The attack caused panic as people ran helter skelter.
However, despite the attack, the governor led other members of the party to address a large crowd of supporters in the town. .
Ahmed described the attack as unfortunate, saying he was committed to peace.
“We have remained committed to a peaceful campaign everywhere we have gone to and we have been to virtually all the communities in this state without any problem”, the governor said.
“However its quite unfortunate that as we were coming here our advance team was met with resistance by some misguided youths. Some of our people were shot and they have been rushed to the hospital. One of them was very critical and we don’t know what will happen to him but we are praying that he survives.