Chuks Okocha and James Sowole in Akure
Tension remains very high across Ondo State as 1,478,460 voters file out in 3,009 polling units across the state this morning to decide who takes charge of the administration of their state in the next four years.
The election is a straight fight between incumbent governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
However, the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Agboola Ajayi, contesting under the banner of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), is expected to play the role of a decider, whose extent of inroad into the strongholds of the two leading candidates – Akeredolu and Jegede – may decide their fortunes.
Akeredolu is from Owo in the Northern Senatorial District, Jegede is from Akure in the Central Senatorial District, while Ajayi is from the Southern Senatorial District.
An analyst noted last night: “Ajayi will determine who wins today. If he is able to take votes from Akeredolu’s strongholds and he is unable to do same in Jegede’s, then Jegede will win. On the other hand, if Ajayi is able to take substantial votes in Jegede’s stronghold and fails to do same in Akeredolu’s, then Akeredolu will win. It all depends on whom Ajayi takes votes from. He could tilt the victory either way.
Akeredolu’s running mate is from the Southern Senatorial District. He also has the strong structure of the Senator from the area, Ajayi Boroffice, three House of Representatives members and seven House of Assembly members. Substantial votes from the Ondo South seemed guaranteed for the incumbent governor, in addition to his Ondo North votes.
Jegede’s running mate is from Okitipupa Local Government, in the Ondo South District. So, he is also guaranteed votes there, in addition to his Ondo Central.
Police Deploy 33,783 Personnel
Meanwhile, incidents of violence and intemperate use of language had characterised the campaigns leading to today’s election.
As at press time, tough-looking security men were seen on the streets of Akure, the Ondo State capital, while residents, security agents and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have continued to plead with the political parties for a peaceful poll.
Several trucks and bus-loads of security personnel were deployed to various local government areas of the state yesterday afternoon. The Ondo State Police Command has also withdrawn policemen attached to high profile politicians.
Security agencies have assured the people of maximum security, urging them to troop out with confidence.
The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, has already authorised the deployment of 33, 783 personnel to secure today’s election.
The personnel comprise Police Mobile Force (PMF) units, Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), the Special Protection Unit (SPU), the Anti-Bomb Squad (EOD), Conventional Policemen, the Armament Unit, personnel of FCID and the Sniffer Dogs Section.
He said the police deployment would be complemented by an additional 3,500 manpower that will be drawn from other security agencies.
The IG said the personnel would be deployed to secure the 3,009 polling units in 203 Wards spread over the 18 Local Government Areas of the state.
He said: “Political actors and law-abiding electorate that are desirous of a peaceful election in Ondo State can rest assured of optimal security as they exercise their electoral rights.
“We are, by the deployment, sending a strong warning that the Nigeria Police and other security agencies are resolute to bring recalcitrant characters threatening the process to justice no matter their status in the society or political affiliation.”
Adamu had earlier deployed the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Research and Planning, Adeleye Oyebade to administer the general security arrangement for the election.
Also deployed to assist the DIG are the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Federal Operations (FEDOPS), Department of Operations, Force Headquarter, Karma Hosea Hassan and eleven 11 Commissioners of Police.
According to the police, restriction of vehicular movement in and out of the Ondo State will commence from midnight, till 6pm today. However, those on essential duties on genuine course will be granted passage.
A statement from the force HQ Abuja on the restriction reads: “The IGP reiterates that the vehicular restriction order, among other things, is aimed at preventing political actors and trouble-makers from freely engaging in unpatriotic acts – circulation and use of illicit arms and hard drugs, movement of political thugs from contiguous States to Ondo State and disruption of the electoral processes, etc – which are inimical to the dictates of the electoral laws.