On October 10, 2020, the people of Ondo state will go to the polls to elect a governor in what promises to be a keenly contested election and the second governorship election conducted by INEC amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventeen (17) political parties are on the ballot having fulfilled all conditions for candidates’ nomination. One million four hundred seventy-eight thousand four hundred sixty, representing 81% of registered voters have collected their PermanentVoters Cards (PVCs), are expected to participate in the election. As indicated in Yiaga Africa’s first pre-election observation report, three political parties dominated the political campaigns in the build-up. They are the All Progressives Congress (APC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Yiaga Africa’s pre-election observation findings revealed a consistent trend of violence and arms stockpiling across some local government areas in the state. More worrisome is the attack on some female party supporters in Oba-Akoko who were allegedly beaten and stripped naked for wearing politically branded t-shirts and fez caps of one of the candidates. Notable LGAs where violence and arms gathering incidents were observed include Akoko South West, Akure South, Akure North, Akoko South-East, Akoko North-West, Irele, Idanre, Ese-Odo, Okitipupa, Ilaje, and Owo. Yiaga Africa considers these LGAs as potential hotspots for violence in this election. The organization is further concerned that election-day violence may occur in these locations if the security threats are not neutralized. The organization is further concerned with the security agencies’ seeming failure to curb acts of lawlessness and impunity perpetrated by armed political thugs and political actors during campaigns. Given the background of pre-election violence and gangster politics, the state may witness a further decline in voter turnout. The low turnout may further enhance chances for electoral manipulation in the strongholds of the major political parties, particularly in rural areas where election rigging usually takes place.
Yiaga Africa notes that INEC has demonstrated commitment and readiness for the election. The level of preparations increased in all 18 LGAs based on reports from Yiaga Africa’s Long-Term Observers deployed in the LGAs. Yiaga Africa commends INEC for its resilience and determination to proceed with the election despite the 5000 smart card readers destroyed under a questionable fire incident at the INEC office in Akure, which appears like an attempt to scuttle the Commission’s preparations and undermine its ability to conduct the polls. Yiaga Africa is however, concerned with INEC’s reliance on members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) for deploying sensitive election materials on election day. Given the partisan background of some members of the Union, they could be used by politicians to undermine the election by deliberately causing late commencement of polls due to delay/refusal to convey election officials and materials to the polling units. Yiaga Africa observed this in the recent Edo election, where members of the NURTV refused to deploy early to the registration area camps citing reasons such as inability to fuel their cars and renegotiate on the contract sum on the day of the election.