Ondo Gov Polls: Not A Do or Die Affair


As campaign ahead of the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State heats up, the various alignments, interests and  strategies by the participating political parties to win votes underline the high premium they place on the polls.

For the three leading political parties, namely the Labour Party, LP, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, it is a make or mar contest. Each of them is poised to outdo the other to secure the coveted seat. For the LP, it is a survival battle to retain its hold on the state, which is sandwiched by governments of its arch rival, the ACN. The ACN would rather have Ondo complete its hegemony in the southwest, while the PDP wishes to return to power after its ouster by the Court of Appeal in April 2009.

Above  all these, Nigerians expect a credible, free and fair governorship election in that state. The challenge is basically for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and other supporting institutions, such as the police and State Security Service, SSS, to do the right thing by providing  an atmosphere devoid of intimidation, rancour and violence for eligible voters to freely exercise their franchise. But if previous experiences were to be considered, pessimism may supplant the redemptive hope that the affected institutions would shrug off prejudice and partisan disposition to ensure that the votes reflect the wishes of the electorate.

It is also pertinent that the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar investigate the allegation of bias and witch-hunt the PDP and ACN have levelled against the Ondo State Commissioner of Police, Danladi Mshelbwala, in the interest of fairness. Such allegations had cropped up in previous elections and should not be taken lightly. How do the police defend their supposed neutrality if the allegation turns out to be real?

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However, the LP, ACN and PDP must conduct themselves and their supporters in a manner not likely to breach public peace. The politics of do or die is repugnant and antithetical to universally acknowledged electoral system we shamelessly claim we copy. It paints the politicians seeking elective offices as brutish adventurists who would brook no means, however bestial and primitive, to attain power. The killing of Adeniyi Oyen, a LP supporter in Akungba Akoko on 3 October, among other electoral violence in the state, is condemnable. The police must fish out and prosecute Oyen’s killers.

Notwithstanding the remonstrations over his death, politics is not a zero-sum game.

Even though the stakes are high, politicians contesting in the Ondo polls must show tolerance and sportsmanship, if truly service to the people is their underlying motive in joining the race. The campaigns should be issue-based and devoid of stoking the embers of acrimony and war. Never again should we re-enact the “Wild, Wild, West”, which was one of the precursors to the rather unfortunate military incursion into our national politics in the 60s.

Nigerian politicians must borrow a leaf from other countries, including its West African neighbour, Ghana, where orderly political successions and elections have become a fanfare rather than war.

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