Barring any last minute change in plans, the people of Ondo State will today elect a new governor to succeed the incumbent, Olusegun Mimiko. The build-up to the election has been eventful. Most of it arising from the controversies that have attended the selection of the gubernatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the factionalisation of the party at the national level.
The PDP had two factions, one led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi and the other, by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. While the Makarfi faction submitted the name of Eyitayo Jegede to INEC, the Sheriff faction preferred Jimoh Ibrahim. The two factions have since been locked in a supremacy battle in the law courts which have seen the electoral umpire having to substitute the name of one rival candidate for the other.
Our position has always been that the internal squabbles of a political party should not be used as the overriding reason to subvert the electoral process including the governorship election holding in Ondo today. The Court of Appeal in Abuja has restored Jegede to the ballot. The Supreme Court has also affirmed his candidacy. Other parties have had their troubles too. The All Progressives Congress (APC) had a very acrimonious primaries which threatened to factionalise the party at the national level. Olusola Oke, the candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the election defected from the APC and had to survive challenges to his sudden emergence on the AD platform by entrenched interests within who thought otherwise. Throughout the campaigns, Oke has been dogged by allegations that forces within his former party, APC are sponsoring him in the new AD.
This has made the election today a three-way race, expected to be fiercely contested by the candidates of the ruling PDP in the state, the APC and the surprise package, AD. Of course, there is Dr Olu Agunloye of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) who is a dark horse in the race. While the electoral contest is fair in the spirit of democracy, nothing should be done by the contestants to disrupt the peaceful poll in the state.
Ondo State, it must be said, has had its fair share of electoral violence arising from electoral heists with damning consequences on lives and property. Everything must be done to save the state from a return to those dark days of the Second Republic.
We, therefore, call on INEC to put its house in order to deliver a flawless election. Any successful election depends largely on the preparedness of the electoral umpire. The Commission has had enough dress rehearsals in the present political dispensation to deliver on this important mandate. The security forces too, especially those deployed for this election, are called upon not to be partisan in their roles. The Electoral Act is very clear on what their roles should be and they must adhere to them strictly.
The Ondo electorate has to play their part in ensuring that the election is peaceful and successful. We urge them to conduct themselves in the best traditions of free and fair elections and eschew the urge to engage in electoral malpractices and violence. The voters should file out peacefully and exercise their right to vote for the candidate of their choice. Transparency of the poll is key to its success.
Our appeal also goes is to the political gladiators. They must remember that elections must come and go, but the larger interest of the state remains paramount. The politicians must conduct themselves with utmost civility and with the chance to try another day. When this election is won and lost, there will certainly be another opportunity in four years. What they do today will, to a large extent, determine if they would have the chance again. We wish the people of Ondo State a good outing.