Peter Dada, Akure
Three days to the governorship election in Ondo State, the candidates of political parties participating in the election have signed a peace accord as part of the efforts to ensure the exercise is violence-free.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Eyitayo Jegede, and the Zenith Labour Party’s candidate and deputy governor of the state, Mr Agboola Ajayi, together with the candidates of other parties signed the accord.
However, there was a mild drama at the conclusion of the event as Akeredolu refused to shake hands with the deputy governor.
The Master of Ceremony had asked the three major candidates to embrace, shake hands or bump elbows with one another as a sign that they had embraced peace.
Akeredolu greeted PDP’s candidate, Jegede, by bumping elbow with him as requested by MC but when it was the turn of his deputy, the governor refused to shake hands with or embrace him.
Instead, Akeredolu just waved at Ajayi.
The event was organised by the National Peace Committee in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission and held at the International Events Centre, Akure, the state capital, on Tuesday.
Ajayi has been at loggerheads with the governor before and after he left the APC and joined the PDP, then ZLP later.
Ajayi’s defection had generated reactions from both parties with some saying that he should resign. But Ajayi and his supporters regarded those making the calls as “mischief-makers and political ignoramus”.
Ajayi maintained that he remained the deputy governor of the state, inasmuch as his people who elected him into office had not asked him to resign. He added that he had not violated the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by defecting to another party.
Also, it was alleged that the governor planned to bribe the members of the state House of Assembly to begin the process of removing the embattled deputy governor from office, although this was swiftly debunked by the governor.
While speaking at the event, the three major candidates said they would abide by the rules of the game during the election by promising that they would not encourage violence irrespective of the outcome of the election.
Addressing the contestants, the chairman of the NPC and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd.) urged all stakeholders to commit to the spirit of the accord.
He said, “The tension and anxiety associated with election necessitated the setup of the National Peace Committee which is to support peaceful election process and enthrone culture of peace.
“The governorship election in Ondo State is only a few days away and we want peace during and after the election. We want to see Nigeria as a place where people come out peacefully and vote during the election without deprivation and Ondo State deserves this.”
“As you are aware, the election without a peaceful atmosphere, and most importantly disharmony among political parties will hinder developmental efforts. As we go into the election, we have been given assurance by the Independent National Electoral Commission that they will conduct a free, fair and credible election. The rest is left for the voters to do what is right.”
In his remarks, the INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, explained that the commission had met 12 of the necessary steps for the smooth conduct of the election.
He asked the political parties and their supporters to maintain peace for the exercise to be peacefully conducted.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Abubakar Adamu, who was represented by a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Mr Leye Oyebade, stated that the police had been able to map out all the three senatorial districts and the 18 local government areas in the state, to ensure crisis-free poll on Saturday.