Balance of terror in Osun as Adeleke, Oyetola return to the trenches for Atiku, Tinubu

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BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO

Uba Group

Stakeholders and keen political watchers in Osun State have said the 2023 general elections in the state may not be peaceful judging by the astronomical rise in election-related violent cases that have been recorded in the state before, during and after the July 16, 2022 governorship election.

With the appointment of Governor Ademola Adeleke as the Chairman of the South West Coordinating Committee of the Presidential Campaign Council of the People’s Democratic Party and his predecessor, Gboyega Oyetola, as the Osun Campaign Coordinator for the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, pundits said more violence may be recorded in the state as the nation approaches the general polls.

They noted that tension is heightening in the state as Oyetola and Adeleke await the judgment of the Osun State Election Petitions Tribunal.

UPDATE ON TRIBUNAL CASE

On Friday, the tribunal adjourned for judgment on the petition filed by Oyetola, challenging the victory of Adeleke in the 2022 poll.

The Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Tertsea Kume, reserved the judgment for a later day to be communicated to parties in the matter after the petitioner and respondents had adopted their final written addresses in Osogbo.

Oyetola and the APC had on August 5, 2022, submitted a petition before the panel. The former governor and APC are challenging the election results from 749 polling units across 10 local government areas of the state for various alleged electoral malpractice, especially over-voting.

The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared Adeleke as the winner of the governorship election, having polled 403, 271 votes against 375,027 polled by Oyetola.

For over five months, counsel to both parties had argued on the issues surrounding the petitioners’ case and at Friday’s sitting, both parties adopted their final written addresses.

The counsel to INEC, Paul Ananaba, told the tribunal that the petitioners were not accurate with reports of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System machines. Ananaba said that the BVAS reports tendered by the petitioners were incomplete because the INEC server had not completed the synchronization process when it was issued to them.

The counsel urged the tribunal to dismiss the petitioners’ claims of over-voting using BVAS machines as a basis.

But, counsel to the APC, Lateef Fagbemi, said the issue of synchronization was unknown to the electoral law, adding that analysis of the election results and reports of the BVAS machines showed that there were over-voting in some polling units.

“A lot of people are dying, a lot of people have been attacked. I was just lucky to have survived an assassination attack about two weeks ago, if anybody had been here, there would have been a lot of casualties. So far, over 10 persons have been killed that are traceable to the activities of these people”

Fagbemi further prayed the tribunal to reject the respondents’ claim.

On the certificate forgery, counsel to Governor Adeleke, Onyechi Ikpeazu, argued that the forgery claims of the petitioners had not been proven with documentary evidence.

Ikpeazu told the tribunal that the petitioners in their cross-examination ought to have invited someone who attended or worked at the institution that Adeleke claimed to have graduated from in the United States for them to ascertain that he truly graduated.

However, counsel to Oyetola, Akin Olujimi, said the testimonial tendered by Adeleke did not show that he attended Muslim Grammar School in Ede.

According to him, the testimonial was issued in 1988, three years before Osun State came into existence.

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Meanwhile, Adeleke and Oyetola have both expressed hope of victory as the tribunal determines their fate in due course.

RECORDS OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN OSUN
There is tension in the state as a fresh report by a research organisation, SBM Intelligence, rated Osun highest among other states of the federation with records of election-related violence last year.

According to the report, a total of five people were killed in 11 political violent attacks.

SBM, in the report published last week said the election-related violence included the attack on INEC facilities.

“Between January and December 2022, there have been at least 57 incidents of politically-motivated violence in the country that have left about 27 people dead,” the report said.

Imo State followed Osun with five deaths, four politically violent incidents and one kidnapping case.

Akwa Ibom also recorded four deaths in four election-related violent incidents.

The organisation was worried that the present security landscape in Nigeria presents worrying challenges to the political stakeholders and the entire country.

“Under the present circumstances, it is nearly impossible to conduct a hitch-free election in every part of the country,” it noted.

Even as fresh as 2023 is, Osun has recorded pockets of politically motivated attacks and violence as APC and PDP trade blames.

On Sunday, January 8, some alleged PDP thugs were accused of attacking the campaign office of the immediate past Commissioner of Works and Transport in the state, Remi Omowaye, in Ilesa.

It was gathered that there were signs of gunshots at different places within the premises of the office, as the main door, glass windows, billboards and flags of APC among other items were seriously damaged.

Similarly, in another attack by a suspected set of alleged PDP thugs, led by one Sunday Amure, (a.k.a Irawo), also attacked Sunkanmi Obisesan, the Chief of Staff to Osun Speaker, Timothy Owoeye.

Obisesan was said to have been attacked at Ifofin, in Ilesa the same day. He was said to have been rushed to the Wesley Hospital, Ilesa, following the injuries he sustained from the attack.

Before these attacks, APC in the state had alleged that the PDP-led government was fine-tuning plans to unleash violence on Oyetola’s men.

Addressing journalists shortly after his on-the-spot inspection of the scene, Omowaye described the attack as diabolic and inhuman, saying it was unfortunate that such an ugly incident had been launched twice on his person and property within two weeks.

Omowaye decried the incessant attacks on members of the APC since the inception of the PDP-led government in the State.

He said, “Just two weeks ago, there was an assassination attempt on me. His Excellency, Adegboyega Oyetola branched over in Ilesa on his way from the Presidential Campaign rally of our party in Akure to attend the sensitisation programme that I convened to educate our members on certain things as regards the forthcoming general elections.

“And to our amazement, we got here this morning to see that this place has been riddled with bullets. This is happening twice in two weeks. It is so shocking that this is happening. We have reported severally to the security agencies, but nothing has been done. We thank God that no life was lost. We have reported again to the police this morning and this is just to show clearly that PDP is known for violence.

“A lot of people are dying, a lot of people have been attacked. I was just lucky to have survived an assassination attack about two weeks ago, if anybody had been here, there would have been a lot of casualties. So far, over 10 persons have been killed that are traceable to the activities of these people. And we are not surprised it is happening. As a government, the PDP-led administration has a notorious killer, who had been declared wanted by the Police as a member of its Security Committee.”

Omowaye called on President Muhammadu Buhari through the Inspector General of Police and heads of other security agencies to come to the aid of the people of the state before things get out of control.
“We are appealing to President Muhammadu Buhari through the Inspector General of Police to avert these incessant attacks on our people.

“There is no doubt in the fact that the PDP is taking us to the dark age where thuggery was the order of the day and we are also calling on the people of Ijesaland to remain calm and should know that the PDP and Governor Adeleke are known for thuggery. The PDP should allow us to do our opposition in peace.

“I have written a petition to the Inspector General of Police, Director General, Department of State Services and other sister agencies. Even when there was an attack on my person, they were all here.

“Adeleke should face governance and stop attacking us. When they were in the opposition for 12 years, nobody attacked them, they too should stop attacking our people,” Omowaye added.

But the PDP denied these allegations saying the opposition political party was being attacked by members of APC who were aggrieved with the way they were treated during the last governorship election.

The Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the ruling party, Adekunle Akindele, said the reported attacks were consequences of the crisis that engulfed Osun APC after it lost the poll.

While PDP called on APC to fulfill its promises to the hired thugs deployed for the July 16 election, it denied having “agents of deaths” like the APC and that the party was not involved in any attacks on APC offices.

Adekunle urged the APC to settle its internal problems involving its failure to settle Asiri Eniba and other imported thugs who were mobilized to hijack PDP strongholds and ensure maximum mayhem.

“We are shocked by all these rumours of attacks. What we heard is that after the arrest of Asiri Eniba and Rasheed Oko Ilu during the July 16 polls, Oyetola and his team abandoned their recruited gangs.

After the election, we were told nobody cared about the bad boys who were nurtured by them for four years.

“We don’t know but we learnt those boys were angry and they are going after Omowaye and others who anchored the recruitment drive for the former governor. How is that our business? We are in government and we are busy with how to deliver on our five-point agenda to the good people of Osun.

“Please tell them to talk to their political thugs. We are too busy with our 100 days programmes to be going after a failed Commissioner and a deceitful former Governor.”

Also, lamenting the vandalization of campaign billboards and posters across the state, Governor Adeleke urged politicians to embrace peaceful electioneering strategies as the nation prepares for the February general elections.

Adeleke made this known while receiving leaders of thought from Osun, while he condemned the increasingly disruptive nature of campaigns in some areas of the state, particularly, the vandalization of billboards and posters. He also openly condemned revolt against state authorities.

According to a statement signed by Olawale Rasheed, the spokesperson of the governor, “Violent activities including vandalization of campaign posters and billboards increased in the last five days after former Governor Gboyega Oyetola’s return to the state.

According to him, “I call on politicians and their supporters to remain peaceful. We must imbibe the culture of harmonious campaigns devoid of thuggery and untoward activities. Election is not and should not be taken as war.

“Election is about the people exercising their voting rights. Our job as political leaders is to market our programmes and candidates, to convince voters to accept us. It is out of order to propagate and employ violence as an electioneering tool.

“I particularly condemn the increasing vandalization of campaign posters and billboards ahead of the elections. I was a victim during the last governorship election. Politicians should know that the people are the ultimate decision makers.”

While directing security agencies in the state to arrest and prosecute anybody caught destroying candidates’ billboards and posters irrespective of party affiliations, Adeleke assured that sanity, law and order must be restored to the nation’s electoral process.

“I want to use this occasion to call the attention of the Inspector General of Police to the nefarious activities of notorious cultist groups who have been launching attacks on innocent citizens across Ijesa land. If left unchecked and allowed to go on like this, especially by the Nigeria Police and other security agencies, conducting elections in this area may be difficult”

STAKEHOLDERS EXPRESS CONCERN, DOUBT PEACEFUL ELECTION

Stakeholders in the state have expressed fears over the increasing attacks and political violence in the state, saying that the general elections in the state might be marred by violence in Osun as both Governor Adeleke and Oyetola have vowed to deliver the state for their respective presidential candidates.

Reacting to the report by SBM Intelligence, the spokesperson of Transparency Accountability Group, Ayo Ologun, said political gladiators were responsible for the spate of violence in the state.

Ologun said, “There are very strong indications that the forthcoming election in Osun State may not be peaceful going by the present trajectory of events in the state.

“By the released data, one can conveniently say that the spate of violence in recent times in the state is such that was brought about by the political gladiators irrespective of party affiliation.

“While some seek to settle long-time scores of animosity, some want to show the power of incumbency and hence an attempt to balance terror which often leads to casualties not involved in the scores being settled.

“If Osun, a once ranked most peaceful state in the country can all of a sudden bear the image of the state with the highest record of violence in 2022, it simply means that we cannot go to sleep until normalcy return to the state and that is only possible by collaboration and doggedness of the security agencies and the synergy of the government to apportion consequences to action and not use the power of the state to protect any non state actors.”

Also, saying that conducting a peaceful election may be a tall dream in Osun, the lawmaker representing Ijesa South Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives, Babatunde Ayeni, raised the alarm over the spate of political violence in Ijesaland.

He noted that conducting an election in that part of the state might be difficult if the trend is not checked.

Ayeni, who called on the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, to wade into the recent attack on members of the APC in Ijesaland, said the political violence in the area was becoming worrisome and needed urgent security attention.

The lawmaker said the incessant political violence was snowballing into another security threat, adding that people of the area no longer sleep with their two eyes closed even as the elections draw nearer.
He said, “Political violence in Ijesaland is becoming worrisome. We cannot even sleep with our two eyes closed again.

“I am representing four local governments but my people in two of the local governments have witnessed a series of attacks. There have been a series of harassment and intimidation and the election is coming in less than two months.

“I want to use this occasion to call the attention of the Inspector General of Police to the nefarious activities of notorious cultist groups who have been launching attacks on innocent citizens across Ijesa land. If left unchecked and allowed to go on like this especially by the Nigeria Police and other security agencies, conducting elections in this area may be difficult.

“It will not only affect the 2023 general elections but snowball into another security threat to the businesses and well-being of the peace-loving Ijesa people.

“I want to appeal to you to ensure that adequate security measures are put in place to ensure the security of lives and development of manpower for the purpose of restoring peace to our community,” the lawmaker stated.

POLICE WARN AGAINST CRIMINALITY, POLITICAL VIOLENCE

Osun Police Command has, however, warned politicians to conduct themselves in an orderly manner before, during and after the coming elections in the state to escape the wrath of the law.

The state police commissioner, Kehinde Patrick Longe, who handed down the warning during a security meeting with political party leaders in the state at the state police headquarters in Osogbo, cautioned them to monitor their supporters not to take the law into their hands as the law will take its course against anyone that is found wanting.

He affirmed that police would not trade the security of the state for thuggery, chaos, and other unholy acts and advised them to always be upright in their various engagements.

According to him, “I am admonishing all the political party leaders to play the game of politics by its rules and allow peace to reign in their domains.

“They should always inform the Police whenever they are planning any political rallies or campaigns.”

While assuring all the party leaders that, Police Command would be there for them to provide adequate security architecture before, during and beyond general elections, Longe urged them to be mindful of languages to be used during their political rallies and caution their supporters not to take the law into their hands as the law will take its course against anyone that is found wanting.

As Adeleke and Oyetola await tribunal judgment and also root for their candidates, stakeholders have urged the gladiators to give peace a chance.