Major political parties are in the final leg of the campaign for votes ahead of Saturday’s Ondo State governorship election.
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and All Progressives Congress (APC) party leaders will host the ground rally in Akure, the state capital today.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is leading members of the Campaign Council to the mega rally.
The Peoples Democratic Party’s campaign train will roll into Ondo town, where its Campaign Council Chairman, Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, and other leaders will campaign for its standard bearer Eyitayo Jegede.
On Tuesday, the two candidates signed a peace pact at the instance of the National Peace Committee headed by former military Head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, in a bid to foster a violence-free poll.
In the last three weeks, inter-party confrontations had peaked and campaigns marred with violence in Akure, Owo, Ijebu-Owo, Ipele and Akoko axis, with the APC and PDP trading blames.
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, appealed to the candidates and other stakeholders to maintain decorum before, during and after the poll.
He said:”Unfortunately, the Ondo State governorship election holding this Saturday is generating its own tensions. The charged atmosphere demands that political parties and candidates should affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to peaceful elections which, I understand, are the five cardinal pillars on which the Peace Accord rests.”
As the two major parties intensify mobilisation, a cloud of uncertainty hovering over the alliance plans between the PDP and the Zenith Labour Party(ZLP), led by former Governor Olusegun Mimiko, has not fizzled out.
Deputy Governor Agboola Ajayi, who is running on the platform of the ZLP, is considered as a weak contender by PDP governors and leaders, who have been pushing for the alliance, but without success.
A party source disclosed that despite their efforts to make PDP and ZLP embrace collaboration, “local combatants on the two sides” have consistently frustrated the move.
Although Rivers State Governor Wike, Makinde and former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwakwanso had drummed support for the alliance, state leaders of the two opposition parties did not show enthusiasm.
“The idea of an alliance is not selling. It is the idea of forces outside Ondo State who mean well for the PDP. It is true that they suggested an alliance between the PDP and ZLP, but local combatants here are not disposed to it,” added the source.
According to the source, the aborted alliance meant that the Saturday election will be a two-horse race.
Addressing stakeholders on the importance of the exercise, Yakubu said INEC was fully prepared.
He said without peace, the agency’s deployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and the credibility of elections will be undermined. Urging politicians and voters to be sensitive to the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, Yakubu said public health will be jeopardised as observance of safety protocols will be impossibld in an atmosphere of disruption, violence and disorder.
He reiterated the commitment of the commission to a free and fair election, saying that the votes will count.
Yakubu urged the actors to abide by the letter and spirit of the peace accord by appealing to their supporters to maintain the peace.
He added:”I wish to note that some of the candidates contesting in the Governorship election holding this Saturday were also candidates in the last election held four years ago on 26th November 2016.
“You will recall that the election was free, fair and credible. You may also recall that it was perhaps the only Governorship election in the history of Ondo State since 2003 whose outcome was not challenged at the Election Petition Tribunal. This is in spite of the fact that three of the contestants were senior lawyers.
“With this record and the recent peaceful conduct of the Edo State Governorship election, I implore you all and your supporters to conduct yourselves peacefully and not lower the bar.”