Although a meeting of the Independent National Electoral Commission, security officials and the politicians agreed on a timetable for campaigns to prevent violence in the governorship poll, violence is threatening the peace in the state.
Thuggery and violence during campaigns ahead of the October 20 in Ondo State governorship poll reached its peak last week with the reported shooting of three members of the Labour Party in Owo town.
The Director of Publicity and Media Relations of the Mimiko Campaign Organisation, Mr. Kolawole Olabisi, in a statement alleged that the LP chiefs were shot by thugs sponsored by the Peoples Democratic Party and the Action Congress of Nigeria.
He alleged that “the three members of our party escaped death by a whisker when the combined thugs of the PDP and the ACN attacked them at the Uka area of Owo with guns, axes, cutlasses and clubs.”
The Director of Media, Akeredolu Campaign Organisation, Mr. Idowu Ajanaku why denying the involvement of the ACN in the incident, said there was no way the party members who “conducted themselves in the most peaceful manner during the campaign at Ikare would engage in such act in Owo.”
He added, “If our members are here in Ondo and they did not shoot anybody being the home town of Governor Olusegun Mimiko why should they shoot anybody in Owo, the home town of our governorship candidate?”
The Special Adviser on Media to Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Mr. Kunle Adebayo, said the LP should not “involve the Peoples Democratic Party in its woes”.
He said, “The LP government is trying to force the people on them, hence they were attacking everybody that resisted them. If some people are resisting their use of force and coercion, they should not blame us. We have no hand in the attack.”
Meanwhile, the Environmental Task Force chairman, Gbenga Atiba, who was among the three LP officials shot, while painting the graphic picture of the attack on them while speaking on his hospital bed at a private hospital in Akure described the incident as sad.
He said the development was “a pointer to the fact that the oppositions in the state were hell bent on killing and provoking violence in order to win the October Election at all cost.”
He described the “two-pronged attacks from both the ACN and the PDP as unprovoked and well coordinated to stampede the ruling LP into irrational reprisal so as to give room for them to be able to use their arsenal given the number of sophisticated guns the thugs used during the attack.”
Reacting to the development, the Coordinator, Egalitarian Mission Africa, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, asked the security agencies to stop political parties from importing supporters from outside Ondo state.
The Abuja based lawyer in a telephone interview with our correspondent said, “The implication of allowing politicians to import thugs in to Ondo State is that the hoodlums will wreck havoc and excape while the deed would have been done.”
The MCO however recalled that similar incidents were recorded in Ikare, Ondo and Ore towns where the ACN held its Redemption rallies last week when several LP supporters were shot, injured with cutlasses and properties worth millions of naira were destroyed in Ondo town.
Olabisi said the latest development had vindicated its numerous cries in the recent past that the ACN and the PDP were out to foment trouble with a view to stampede the electorate.
He said, “Indeed, four of those arrested by the security apparatus in Owo over similar attacks on the LP members are still being remanded at the Olokuta Prison.”
Also, the MCO last week alleged that an LP supporter, Mr Adeniyi Oyen, was shot dead when thugs suspected to have been sponsored by the ACN, invaded the venue of a campaign rally of the LP.
The Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Danladi Mshelbwala, confirmed the death of the deceased.
The Centre for Human Rights and Ethics in Development last week, condemned the violence that had characterised the campaigns of the political parties in the state ahead of the governorship election.
CHRED, in a statement by its Executive Director, Mr. Moshood Erubami, also said the reports of its observers monitoring the campaigns so far indicated that the parties were using thugs to cause violence.
Erubami said, “Political campaigns are gathering momentum in Ondo state with the Labour Party, Action Congress of Nigeria and the Peoples Democratic Party moving round the cities to sell their party programs and convince the electorate about the betterment of their candidates.”