LOW voter-turnout, violence and intimidation by political office holders and hoodlums characterized the conduct of yesterday’s bye-election to fill the vacant position of Akure North Constituency in the Ondo State House of Assembly.
The position became vacant following the demise of Akindele Alasoadura, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the April 14, 2007 State Assembly elections before he was inaugurated.
Yesterday’s election was organized after a two-year interregnum of litigation instituted by the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Akindele Adeniyi, who alleged non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the conduct of the April 14 exercise and prayed the Election Petition Tribunal to declare him the winner.
But despite the heavy presence of policemen and other security agencies, the exercise which was ordered by the Court of Appeal as the final adjudicator in the matter, could not be said to be free and fair if what was observed during its conduct were anything to go by.
Although, men and materials were dispatched early enough by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from the Iju Police Station, the heavy presence of political office holders, drawn from across the state, underscored the averseness of the political class to a positive change in the country’s electoral system.
At Iju/Ita-Ogbolu, the twin community which has the largest concentration of voter population in the constituency, hoodlums who rode in about eight 18-seater buses and led by their leader, a popular political enforcer in the state, riding a black Lincoln Navigator SUV with Registration number BD 110 AKR, had a field day driving dangerously and wielding dangerous weapons.
Reports had it that the Iju home of an opposition politician and former state commissioner was attacked early in the morning where a man, another opposition politician, who gave his names as Otunba Oyediran Afolabi was given machete wound on the head.
Also at Iju, reports have it that one politician, Funso Ajayi was also attacked by the suspected political thugs who vandalized his Nissan Sunny car with Registration number AW 534 AKR while unconfirmed reports from Abo Asakun, one of the outlying hamlets of the constituency, had it that unknown persons have snatched the ballot box meant for the area.
The violence however reached its peak at Igoba Village where two groups of hoodlums engaged each other in sporadic exchange of gunfire over unconfirmed allegations of attempts to manipulate the process.
A group of opposition hoodlums were said to have holed up somewhere in the village thump-printing and stuffing ballot boxes and when questions were asked by another set of thugs, the former group opened fire and wounded three persons in the process.
The beaten group beat a retreat and went for reinforcement of more hoodlums who invaded the place under heavy gunshots while hapless policemen watched the scenario from a safe distance.
An attempt by the policemen to persuade the hoodlums to disarm and leave the situation for them to control was rebuffed by the wild-looking goons who smoked Indian hemp openly while shooting into the air.
A car, a Nissan Primera with Registration AY 592 YAB, said to belong to the opposition thugs, which was alleged to be carrying ammunitions, was severely damaged by the hoodlums at the Igoba junction on Ado-Ekiti Road.
Early results showed that the LP’s Akindele Adeniyi was in a clear lead against PDP’s Akin Idowu and Action Congress (AC)’s Olorunninbe Ameto.