For a hitch-free Ondo election

Today, the Ondo state electorate are expected to come out en masse to vote for their preferred candidate in one of Nigeria’s off season governorship elections being conducted in the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Given the readiness of INEC, security agencies, the political parties and their candites as well as other stakeholders, the stage is now set for the successful conduct of the poll. Already, the candidates for Ondo decides have signed a peace accord.

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has declared the readiness of the commission for a transparent, free, fair and credible election in Ondo state, saying that the successful conduct of the Edo state governorship election has put the commission under pressure to sustain the tide. He made the in Akure, the Ondo state capital, while addressing the opening of a two-day stakeholders meeting for the Ondo governorship election, where he also declared that only the people of Ondo will determine the winner of today’s election.

Assuring the people that their votes would count, the INEC chairman disclosed that the commission has moved in and configured enough card readers as replacement for about 5,000 that were recently gutted by , while putting the fire service on alert.

Despite security concerns raised across the state, few days to the poll, with a preponderance of the political parties accusing one of the leading political parties of instigating ahead of the polls, INEC said it has the assurance of the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) led by the police that the polls would be hitch-free.

“We have made arrangements for the movement of personnel and materials to electoral locations in all 3,009 polling units and 203 electoral wards across the state. This afternoon, the Central Bank will deliver all sensitive materials for the election to its Akure branch. In response to the unfortunate fire incident last month in which we lost all our Smart Card Readers in Ondo state, we have moved enough replacements from Oyo state and configured them for the election.

” Our commitment is to ensure that the choice of who becomes the next governor of Ondo state is entirely in the hands of the voters. I wish to assure all eligible voters that every vote will count and only the choice made by the people of Ondo state will determine the outcome of the election” he vowed .

He said the commission will continue to improve on its performances based on experience garnered from the Edo, identifying 16 such areas it has to make adjustments, including logistics, prompt response to Smart Card Reader glitches on Election Day, the menace of vote buying during elections and compliance with COVID-19 protocols.

Vowing that nobody will benefit from impunity or rewardded for bad behaviour, the INEC chairman said the commission will not hesitate to declare results void in poilling units where the smart card readers was deliberately avoided.

I must quickly add that the Smart Card Readers will also be deployed for voter verification and authentication. This is a mandatory requirement and where they are deliberately avoided to undermine the integrity of the electoral process, the result for the affected polling unit will be declared void in line with the Commission’s regulations and guidelines.

Also speaking, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said that a total of 33,783 police personnel would be on election security duty during today’s governorship election in Ondo state. He said, “ln order to mitigate the identified threats, we shall be deploying, aside from our intelligence assets, a total of 33,783 police personnel on election security duty in Ondo state. This will comprise 30,933 conventional police personnel and 2,850 Special Police Units. The police deployment will be complemented by an additional 3,500 manpower that will be drawn from other security agencies”.

He said the military will be engaged for the purpose of securing the inter-state borders while the Nigeria Police Airwing will provide aerial surveillance. These personnel shall be deployed to adequately secure the 3,009 Polling Units (PUs) in 203 wards spread over the 18 local government areas of the state. They are to protect the personnel and assets of INEC, the electorate, and residents of Ondo state in general before, during and after the elections.

“The rationale for these deployments is purposeful and strategic. We are drawing from the experiences garnered in the recently concluded election and proactively responding to the outcome of the intelligence analysis arising from our election threat assessment of Ondo state governorship election. The deployment is equally to deny misguided political actors that might be bent on threatening the elections through acts that are inimical to the dictates of the Electoral Act, the pleasure of manifesting their ignoble traits.”

We are hopeful that the signing of the peace accord by particularly the three major contestants, Rotimi Akeredolu of the  governing All Progressives Congress (APC), Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Agboola Ajayi, who is contesting on the of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), today’s election will be devoid of violence, vote-buying, ballot box snatching and other forms of hooliganism and gangsterism. INEC’s commitment to surpass its feats in the Edo election is quite reassuring and commendable.

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