By Dayo Johnson – Akure
Eleven of the 18 council areas in Ondo State have been identified as possible flashpoints for violence ahead of the governorship election scheduled for Saturday.
Speaking in Akure, during the pre-election briefing, the Co-chair, Yiaga Africa, an election watchdog, Dr Aisha Abdullahi said it was concerned about the seeming helplessness and failure of security agents to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity being perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors during campaigns.
Abdullahi, said that the pre-election environment was signposted by violent campaign rhetoric and hate speech.
“Yiaga Africa’s pre-election observation findings revealed a consistent trend of violence and arms stockpiling across some local government areas in the state.
“More worrisome is the attack on some female party supporters in Oba-Akoko who were allegedly beaten and stripped naked for wearing politically branded t-shirts and fez caps of one of the candidates.
“Notable LGs where incidents of violence and arms gathering were observed include Akoko South West, Akure South, Akure North, Akoko South-East, Akoko North- West, Irele, Idanre, Ese- Odo, Okitipupa, Ilaje and Owo.”
“The organisation is further concerned that election-day violence may occur in these locations if the security threats are not neutralized.
“The organization is further concerned with the seeming failure of the security agencies to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors during campaigns.
“Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the state may witness a further decline in voter turnout.
“The low turnout may further enhance chances for electoral manipulation in the strongholds of the major political parties particularly in rural areas where election rigging usually takes place.
”Also speaking, Mr Ezenwa Nwagu, Co-Chair, Yiaga Africa, called the attention of the Independent National Electoral Commission to notorious blind spots in riverine communities of Ilaje and Ese-Odo LGAs, stating that poll must commence early to avoid electoral challenges.
Nwagu urged security agencies to deploy professionalism, competence and independence during poll as political parties and candidates must be deliberately committed to the Peace Accord they subscribed to.