With JOKE ADENIYI
Ahead of Saturday’s bye-election to fill the Irepodun/Ekiti/Oke- Ero/Isin federal constituency seat, there is palpable tension in the air. The seat became vacant at the House of Representatives following the death of former occupier, Princess Olufunke Adedoyin.
With the election two days away, Kwarans are apprehensive. The two major parties; Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, have been engaged in war of attrition. The APC and PDP have trading words over alleged violent tendencies of the two parties in the state in the build up to the bye-election. There is no doubt that the election is a precursor to the 2019 elections in the state; a litmus test for the general polls. The PDP and APC appeared perpetually at daggers drawn with the former trying to maintain its winning streaks and the latter making moves to wrestle power out of hands of the ruling party in the state.
It would be recalled that the ruling PDP in state had accused the opposition party of importing ammunition and thugs from Lagos and Osun states into the state, with the aim of disrupting and manipulating for the forthcoming poll, alleging that the APC is desperate about winning the bye-election. The party also alleged that the massive deployment of security agents for the Saturday election is a ploy by the Federal Government to intimidate voters. But, in a swift reaction, the APC dismissed the allegations as frivolous.
Nonetheless, there is the need to remind our politicians that election of any sort is a mere political contest, which should not be turned into a bloody battle. Kwara with the sobriquet, ‘State of Harmony,’ must not be known for political violence. The violence that preceded the 2003 election is still fresh in the memories of many Kwarans particularly the victims. Political thugs, hoodlums and other criminal elements unleashed terror during that period as there was orgy of violence. Such should not be relived in the Saturday election and the 2019 general polls in the state in general. As it is known that credible election cannot be conducted in rancourous atmosphere, it behooves politicians to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner.
Since the security agencies have been indicted, it is left for the operatives to prove the allegations wrong by not compromising or being complicit as this could derail the election. There is no doubt that some desperate politicians may want to use morally bankrupt security agents to thwart the electoral process. It is for this reason that all must act according to their conscience and the fear of God before, during and after the election.
Then, the security agencies in the state should look into all the concerns that have been raised as regards the forthcoming bye-election in order to take proactive steps to protect our democracy and forestall a breakdown of law and order.
On their part, the electorate must not sell their votes, so as to get the right person into office in the bye- election. It is a known fact that vote-buying is fast becoming a fad on the Nigerian political scene. So, also the electoral officers, who the umpires of the contest should shun inducement by politicians in order to create level playing ground for contestants to ensure a credible electoral process come Saturday.
The political class, the government and all other stakeholders must work together to ensure that a positive outcome is achieved. All must realise that the bye-election or the political ambition of someone is not worth the blood of anyone. Politicians also need to realise that there are laws guiding political interaction and as such they are supposed to play by the rules. Consequently , violation of electoral laws must have consequences on the culprit . The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must work with security agencies to prosecute electoral offenders , to serve as deterrent to other would – be offenders .
However, in the build up to the 2019 general elections, political parties in the state must not engage in unhealthy campaigns , especially on social media , as posing a threat to the elections. They should also desist from hate speech, rhetorics or actions that could derail the electoral process and for peace to be sustained in the State of Harmony.
As assured, the state police command must play its part in ensuring safety of voters during elections. The state commissioner of police, Fafowora Bolaji recently declared that all bad elements and political thugs in the state are cleared from the streets before next year’s general elections so as to ensure a peaceful exercise. Politics must not be a divisive but a uniting force for all Kwarans.