14th September, 2012
In the run-up to the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State, southwest Nigeria, the main opposition political parties have accused the ruling Labour Party, LP, government led by the incumbent and re-election seeking governor, Olusegun Mimiko, of orchestrating violence against their candidates in the state.
Political Platform gathered that it all started in 20 April, 2012, when the state chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, organised a public lecture to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of the former governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Adefarati.
The Oyemeku Road, Akure, venue of the lecture was reportedly stormed at noon by members of the ruling Labour Party who danced provocatively to abusive songs against the opposition party. As the guests, mostly ACN members, began to arrive, the situation became rowdy as their supporters also stationed themselves outside the hall singing and dancing.
The situation, however, turned violent when some invitees to the lecture, including former commissioners and special advisers who served under the late governor were prevented from entering the lecture hall by Labour Party members. The situation later spread into the town where pockets of violence were recorded but the quick intervention of the State Independent Electoral Commission which banned all forms of campaigns and rallies until July 21, 2012, saved the day.
The state Police Command also took a pre-emptive action by banning all types of political gatherings in places where clashes had been recorded.
On Saturday, 28 July, this year, the fragile peace in the state was again disturbed when members of the ruling party allegedly attacked a convoy of the ACN governorship candidate, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, near the state Secretariat on Oyemekun Road, Akure.
The ACN Candidate was on his way home after the party’s congress. There was a clash in which dangerous weapons and ammunition were reportedly used and in the process several vehicles were vandalised while some passers-by were either robbed or wounded.
Akeredolu, however, escaped unhurt but some members of the party were injured in the attack. Though the spokesman for the Labour Party, Mr. Femi Okunjemiruwa, alleged that members of the opposition party fired shots at the secretariat, the Special Adviser to the ACN candidate on Media, Mr. Idowu Ajanaku, said the incident happened at the Lafe Junction on Oyemekun Road when hoodlums blocked the convoy of Mr. Akeredolu who was returning home after he was elected the governorship candidate of the party.
The hoodlums, according to Ajanaku, hauled stones and pebbles at the convoy prompting the security details of the candidate to take measures to ward off the hoodlums.
A day before this attack, there was also a clash between members of the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and members of the ruling LP in Ode-Irele. The PDP Director of Publicity, Mr. Ayodele Fadake, said the clash was sparked off when the state government decided to inaugurate a community-based project on the same day his party had obtained police permit to hold a political rally in the town.
According to Fadaka, some LP members planned to defect to the PDP but due to the calibre of the personalities involved, the ruling party quickly fixed its own event in the same town, apparently to cause confusion.
These incidents are by no means the only ones since the campaigns started. Aside the series of unprovoked attacks and harassment of the opposition, the ruling party has also been accused of using other coercive means to prevent the opposition parties from making their impact and freely sell themselves among the people as the political campaigns gather momentum.