Ekiti bye-election of tears, blood and sorrow

‘YOMI AYELESO recaptures the gripping and gory scenes of last Saturday’s bloody House of Assembly bye-election in Ekiti State where no fewer than three persons were killed by suspected political thugs,while others left with varying degrees of injuries.

ORDINARILY, an election to be held in five wards, 39 polling units and with about 23,670 registered voters ought not to have generated ripples and shedding of blood, but this was not the case when the House of Assembly bye-election for Ekiti East constituency 1 was held last Saturday. It left the electorate in tears and sorrow over the painful losses of their loved ones.

The need for the election became expedient following the death of the All Progressives Congress (APC) lawmaker, Honourable Juwa Adegbuyi, in February and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared five political parties, including the ruling APC and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the elections.

Perhaps, the retinue of APC chieftains and top government officials who stormed the constituency as well as members of opposition parties was a pointer to what to expect during the bye-election, Sunday Tribune observed that while some leaders relocated to the constituency a week before the election, others arrived the town a day to the poll to perfect strategies on how to secure victory in the election.

To many political analysts in Ekiti State and beyond, the election should ordinarily be an easy ride for the party who has been in the saddle for over two years coupled with the achievement of Dr Kayode Fayemi as governor, but the flooding of the constituency by top political bigwigs in the state suggested a clear lack of confidence by the politicians.

Feelers before the poll revealed that PDP was not preparing to put up a strict battle for the constituency seat with many of the leaders staying away from the electioneering process. According to a chieftain of the party who spoke on condition anonymity,” the election was not taken seriously by our party because we believe the election does not require a fight and that was why you will see many of our leaders not near the constituency for campaign or other things unlike the APC. “

The poll began at 8:30am on Saturday on a peaceful note with the early arrivals of INEC officials and election materials. While in most polling units, there was voter apathy, in others, electorate were seen trooping out to elect a new lawmaker that would represent the constituency till 2023.

Less than two hours into the poll, the unexpected happened and there was a twist of events in the hitherto peaceful exercise when hoodlums suspected to be political thugs invaded few polling units and unleashed mayhem on voters, security personnel and election officials.

As a tip of what to expect on the day of the election, the thugs had attacked the home of the PDP candidate for the election, Mr Akintunde Adeyemi on Friday night where his house and car parked in front of the building were riddled with bullets. Fortunately, the candidate was not at home during the midnight attack.

In what many described as a well calculated and thought out attack, the arms welding thugs went on rampage at only one unit, which is the unit of the lawmaker representing Ekiti South Senatorial district and PDP chieftain, Senator Biodun Olujimi of the 39 units during the poll. Like in a war front, they started shooting sporadically and in the process nine persons were hit by bullets.

The ward 7, Unit 007 when visited on Saturday, the bloods of innocent voters, security personnel and INEC ad hoc staff littered the voting point and it was an eyesore. Three persons died from the gunshots, while six others were rushed to nearby private and public hospitals for urgent Medicare. At the emergency units of hospitals visited, those injured were seeing on beds battling with lives as medical personnel were doing everything possible to revive them from the gunshot wounds.

Olujimi who had earlier exercised her franchise escaped being hit by bullet fired by the thugs who invaded her polling unit and the federal lawmaker had to be ferried out of the polling unit by party supporters as everyone scampered to safety in order not to cut in the web of the shootings.

Narrating her ordeal, Olujimi said the election started peacefully before some thugs allegedly sponsored by the ruling APC unleashed mayhem on the people in her unit.

She said, “APC leaders were the masterminds of the attack having mobilised people from all over the state for the bye-election taking place in just five wards.

“The leaders of APC came to the polling unit, in fact, we greeted warmly. After they left, some APC thugs who stayed behind pulled out guns and started shooting indiscriminately. They picked the ballot box and started shooting as they went along. This is the first time I witnessed such in this locality.

“Before we knew it, a man was dead on the floor, people were shouting ‘Bola, Bola’. I looked at Bola, they poured water on him, and it was too late. There was also a corps member that bullets had grazed his ears and drenched in his own blood.

“As I was going out to get an ambulance to even try if we could rescue him, I saw the policewoman that was guarding the ballot box, she had been shot in the back of the neck and blood was coming out from her nose and everywhere. She was just screaming, at a stage, she got quiet.

“People who had dispersed because of the gunshots started coming out of the houses, some with injuries. We took them to Omuo General Hospital, they could only take the simple cases, I had to get one bus and an ambulance to take the others to Ikole General Hospital.”

Olujimi added, “It is about lack of confidence in themselves because you don’t need this kind of heavy artillery for a bye-election in just five wards. We know those government officials that came to the town for the constituency election.”

On his part,a member of the House of Representatives, Honorable Femi Bamisile, described the shooting as appalling and unbelievable, saying no election was worth the blood of any Nigerian.

The APC lawmaker, who is from the community said, “In any election where lives are being lost, that is no longer democracy. APC was fully prepared for this election and canvassed for votes and we never planned to kill anybody. I really don’t understand how it happened. Election started peacefully in the morning and I don’t know what could have erupted shootings and killings?”

The state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi condemned the killings of the citizens in strong terms and called on the Commissioner of police, Tunde Mobayo, to ensure the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of the dastardly act. Fayemi who spoke during his visit to the palace of Olumuo of Omuo-Ekiti, Oba Noah Omonigbehin, on Sunday, said he would not play politics with the killings of innocent citizens during the election

He said, “We may not be able to bring back the dead but every perpetrators will be dealt with to serve as a deterrent to others.After I spoke with Senator Biodun Olujimi on Saturday, I called the CP and instructed him to do everything possible to arrest the perpetrators and I am happy to inform you Kabiyesi, that as I arrived in the state on Sunday, the CP said all the culprits have been arrested and they shall be charged for murder.”

The governor also visited some of the injured at the Methodist Hospital in Omuo-Ekiti and the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti, where he promised that government would settle the medical bills of those in the hospital and lend some help to the families of the deceased in order to cushion their pains.

Fayemi said prior to the election, he had been engaging Senator Olujimi and other major stakeholders in the community on the peaceful conduct of the bye-election and the progress of the constituency.

“There is no election that is worth the blood of any citizen of this State.This is unacceptable and those who are found culpable will have to face the maximum wrath of the law, but that can’t bring back those whose lives have been lost.

“I have visited all those who were injured and I have assured their family members and I have also spoken to the Chief Medical Director here and I think they are being looked after with competent care.

“Government shall be responsible for all the expenses of the people who were injured and those who have lost family members too whatever we can do to reduce the level of pain, government will try and do that,” Governor Fayemi added.

Expectedly, the two leading political parties have reacted to the violence and killings that marred the election. While the ruling APC through his Director of media and publicity, Sam Oluwalana called for arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, the opposition PDP through its spokesman, Rafael Adeyanju accused the APC of habouring thugs to attack innocent citizens.

The APC spokesman said, “It is unfortunate that a very peaceful and transparent election could have turned so bloody.The APC is law abiding, peaceful and as such has no reason to be violent.

“No election is worth the blood of any Ekiti son or daughter. We sincerely commiserate with the families of those who lost their loved ones to the incident, while also wishing the policewoman and other gunshot victims still on admission in the hospitala quick recovery. We call on the security agents to summarily bring the perpetrators of this needless bloodletting to justice.”

On his own, Adeyanju the PDP publicity secretary said, “The people of Omuo-Ekiti know those who came to the town to shoot at innocent people on Saturday.The same killer-thugs invaded GNN Hotel in Ado Ekiti on October 24, 2020 and CCTV footages, showing their faces were provided to the police, but they did nothing. Fayemi also saw the footages.

“Therefore, there is nothing for the police to investigate.  Rather, Governor Fayemi should just be humane for once and release those thugs to the police for prosecution.

While the political parties and politicians are playing the blame game, the Independent National Electoral Commission announced indefinite suspension of the election.The electoral body disclosed that the election had been disrupted by violent attacks on voters, election officials and security personnel.

Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman,Information and Voter Education Committee in a statement specifically declared that “some innocent voters were shot dead, while a policeman, some INEC regular and ad hoc staff,who sustained gunshot injuries during the melee,” were receiving medical attention.

While announcing the suspension of the election, Okoye said, “This situation is unacceptable. In its avowed commitment to electoral integrity, the Commission has suspended the election indefinitely. To continue with the process will amount to rewarding bad behaviour. The security agencies are aware of this unfortunate situation and have commenced investigation. The commission commiserates with the innocent victims of this dastardly act and affront to our democracy.”

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