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With less than three weeks to the governorship election in Ekiti State, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that about 70 per cent of eligible voters have collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) in the state.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Alhaji Halilu Pai, who made the disclosure monday in a telephone interview with journalists in Ado Ekiti, expressed optimism that the election will witness large turnout of voters contrary to widespread belief that apathy may set in.
The REC, however, insisted that those without the PVCs won’t be allowed to vote during the June 21 governorship poll.
Pai, who spoke through the commission’s Public Relations Officer, Alhaji Taiwo Gbadegesin, said the electorate had been responding well to the collection of their PVCs, which he said, had further strengthened the INEC’s belief that the poll would be successful.
According to him, there has been a tremendous improvement in the collection of the voters’ cards by the electorate in the state.
It was recalled that the REC had revealed recently that a total of 285,574 PVCs are yet to be collected by registered voters, expressing fear that such could create apathy and low turnout of voters during the election.
He however, urged the political parties to embark on massive voters’ education, which he said had been yielding positive results.
Pai said: “The collection of voters’ cards has been encouraging. People are now trooping out on daily basis to collect their cards. The collection has reached about 66.5 per cent, and by the end of this week, it would have reached 70 per cent which is a pass mark.
“We are still not relenting on our sensitisation and collaboration with political parties for intensive voters’ education for this election to be a success.
“What we have gathered from our findings was that some of those who have not collected their PVCs were those who registered in the state in 2011 and had relocated from the state.”
Pai reassured all the political parties of the commission’s neutrality, saying INEC will make the state election a reliable foundation for the 2015 general polls.
In another development, over 1,000 members of the Labour Party (LP) in the state at the weekend defected to All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state
The defectors, who were led by a former Deputy Chairman of the LP, Mr. Ojo Ademola; Hon. Ajiboye, Ojumoola Olayemi, Comrade Sola Ajayi, Mr. Peter Ademilua and Faleyimu Ademilua, said they were leaving the party because its national leadership had sold the party to the highest bidder, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele, without recourse to any democratic principle and the party constitution.
Ademola who spoke on behalf of the defectors, alleged that the so-called present members of the LP in the state were a few disgruntled Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members whom Bamidele brought with him when he joined the LP, adding that original members of the party had all left due to the commando-like manner in which Bamidele hijacked the party structure.
Ademola said he was shocked when Bamidele, who was complaining of being muscled in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) joined the LP out of desperation to contest the governorship election in the state threw all caution to the wind by subverting democratic principles to install his cronies who were hitherto PDP members as executive members of the party.
He added that they chose to join the APC because of the unrivaled performance of the incumbent Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who, according to him, is the only governorship candidate in the state who has demonstrated seriousness through the public presentation of his second term manifesto.
The other candidates, he said, had been busy trying to mudsling the governor and have not been able to tell the electorate in specific terms what they would do better if elected.
"As far as I am concerned, they have been providing us with comic relief. The other thing that I notice is that they are going about with imported thugs to unleash terror on Ekiti people," Ademola said.
But, while reacting to the development, the Media and Publicity Secretary of the party, Mrs. Bolanle Bruce, said those who defected were not bona fide members of the LP, adding that they were only masquerading as LP members.
She urged the people of the state not to reckon with the defectors, adding that any transaction with them in the name of LP is null and void.
Meanwhile, the LP governorship candidate, Hon. Bamidele, has promised to return the University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti (USTI), which was merged with the University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD) back to Ifaki within the first quarter of his first year in office as governor.
He also added that this would come with proper autonomy and adequate funding.
Bamidele blamed the state governor, Fayemi, over what he called the governor's hurried educational policies.
The LP governorship candidate was speaking in Ifaki-Ekiti yesterday during his political campaign in the town.
Residents had earlier complained to the politician of how relocation of the university in 2012 to Ado Ekiti and renamed Ekiti State University (EKSI) is affecting commercial activities in the town.
According to him, "The university that was taken away from Ifaki Ekiti shall be returned in our first quarter in office and commercial activities shall be returned to your domain.
"Ask the current administration what it has achieved with their hurried educational policies that took away USTI from you. The only thing is that they have left the state-owned institutions worse than they met them.
"As a former student leader who has understanding of university administration over the years, my government will return your university to you with proper funding and full autonomy."
He said his government would further expose the state to global educational opportunities instead of narrowing it as being done by Fayemi's government, despite the state thirst for knowledge.