SPORADIC shooting, ballot snatching and violence characterised the Ejigbo state constituency rerun election in Osun State, on Saturday, as no fewer than eight supporters of the Action Congress were attacked in two polling units.
This was a sharp contrast to the peaceful rerun election for the vacant Etsako Contral Constituency seat in the Edo State House of Assembly also held on Saturday amidst tight security.
The public affairs officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Osun State announced the Peoples Democratic Party won the election with 7,451 votes which was closely followed by 6,402 of the AC.
The polling units where ballot box snatching, violence and shooting occurred in Ejigbo included Unit 4, Ward 7, Ile-Ilupeju and Ward 2, Unit 12 near Obelawo Garage, in Ejigbo town.
The AC agent in Unit 4, Ward 7 in Ile-Ilupeju, Alamu Moshood, alleged that PDP thugs stormed the unit, shot into the air and carted away the ballot box.
In ward 2, unit 12, where thugs invaded at 2.45pm, no fewer than six persons suffered machete injuries when thugs stormed and carted away the ballot box.
Moshood, who spoke with our correspondent, explained that voting was going on smoothly before PDP thugs invaded the polling unit, disrupted voting and carted away the ballot box.
He said, “The thugs are students of a higher institution in the state. They came in two buses and two cars. They lined up and pretended as if they came to vote. All of a sudden they ran to their vehicles and brought out guns and machetes. They caught everybody unawares.
“They returned to the House of PDP member in the House of Representatives, Mr. Bade Falade, where they came from. They are not indigenes or residents of Ejigbo.”
But Falade, who spoke with our correspondent on the phone, denied the allegation, which he described as a tissue of lies.
Falade said, “I have personally contested and won three elections in Ejigbo, I did not rig or engage in violence. Is it now that a member of my party is contesting that I will engage in violence? I‘ll rather spend my money to better the lots of the people of Ejigbo rather than spend it on importing thugs from a higher institution to disrupt election.”
A victim of the violence in unit 12, ward 2, Aremu Mohammed, alleged that some PDP thugs stormed the unit and were resisted by AC agents, adding that he was wounded when he was trying to protect the ballot box from being snatched.
Aremu said, “The thugs wounded Iya Isa, Jimoh, Richard and two others when they were trying to protect the ballot box from being carted away.”
Another victim, Salau Ahmed, said he was wounded in the fracas when thugs stormed unit 4, ward 7.
An AC chieftain and former member of the House of Representatives, Chief Mudasiru Hussain, who voted at Beula primary school, unit 1, ward 3, Ejigbo, said there was no violence at the unit.
Osun Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr John Dansu, visited the units where violence and ballot box snatching took place, and he said that elections in the two units will be cancelled.
The Director, Research and Strategy, Osun AC, Mr. Sunday Akere, who monitored the election on behalf of his party, urged INEC and the police to investigate cases of election violence in unit 4, ward 7 and unit 12, ward 2.
The Commissioner of Police, Osun Command, Mr. Solomon Olusegun, said the election was free and fair, adding that the command would announce the number of election violence suspects next week.
He said, ”We cannot make public the names of suspects when the election is still going on. I‘ve been in Ejigbo since 9am I‘m still there as at 6pm. We are fully on the ground here.”
Results released so far from the collation centre at the Headquarters of the Etsako Local Government Area, Fugar, indicated that the candidate of the AC, Mr. Johnson Oghuma had an early lead over his PDP counterpart, Mr. Chris Umogbai, in the electionwhich held in 10 wards and 73 polling units.
Anxiety over the possibility of widespread violence in the election had increased when soldiers attached to the Joint Security Outfit code named ”Operation Thunderstorm” were withdrawn early in the week there by giving room to speculation that their withdrawal was not unconnected with plots to rig the election.
But the Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, on Friday, invited the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonna Onovo, to the Presidential Villa, and directed him to ensure that the election was peaceful.
Jonathan was also said to have warned that he would hold Onovo responsible for any breakdown of law and order during the election.
However, an Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu, led 1,6000 policemen to the exercise ensuring that the elections were devoid of violence.
The police who had earlier arrested the manger of a Benin Hotel and 10 other persons with 20 AK4, 50 pump action rifle and live ammunition on Friday, also arrested eight persons who claimed to be agents of the All Nigeria Peoples Party at Imhokhena Primary School, Ogbonna, when they were found to be fake.
Ogbonna is the home town of the Chairman of the PDP in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih.
Apart from preventing moves by some party supporters to snatch electoral materials at Ogbonna and Anagbette, a riverrine community, security operatives were said to have effected the replacement of 20 unaccredited members of staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
There was an impressive turn out of voters as people trooped out in their numbers to cast their votes as early as 9a.m in centres like Emhakhena Primary School and the Fugar where the Principal Secretary to the Vice President, Dr. Mike Ogiadhome, who was also a former Deputy Governor of the state voted at 10.19am.
Prominent indigenes from the area including a former number two citizen, Vice Admiral Mike Akhigbe, Senator Albert Legogie, the State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr. Kaduna Eboigbidin, were of the view that the election was impressive with what they saw at the time they were speaking with journalists.
Security operatives did not leave anything to chance as they mounted a roadblock at the border between Etsako Central and Etsako Central Local Government Areas, where they subjected people to serious searches.
Also, the state governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, was at the constituency.