Ahead of the August 9 governorship election in Osun State, deployment of heavy security personnel is already creating apprehension, sending jitters down the spines of residents, as it is doubtful if majority of them, who live in predominantly villages across the state have seen such spectacle in their lives, thereby suggesting that they may be scared from coming out to exercise their electoral rights on the day of the election.
Checks by Peoples Daily revealed that 900 operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) have actually been deployed to monitor the August 9, governorship election in the State.
The DSS operatives were said to have shot sporadically into the air last Thursday in Osogbo, the state capital, a development that led to people scampering for safety.
Also, a source from Osogbo said ear-splitting siren blarred in Osogbo, the capital of the State as security operatives from various agencies, including the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Nigeria Police Force arrived ahead of the August 9 governorship election.
They can be seen in all strategic places. Though their presence is meant to guarantee safety, but the people of the state seem apprehensive due to the stern appearance of the security men.
Another resident of Osogbo, Dr Azeez Umar, who is a medical doctor, said he sighted armed DSS operatives in a convoy of over 50 Hilux vehicles parading the city of Osogbo and that their presence created fear in the minds of the people of the state.
Umar said, “The DSS ought to know that the state is peaceful and with the current behaviour, electorates may be scared and discouraged. The sporadic shooting by the DSS men is barbaric, uncivilized and should be condemned by all. The security men should be electorate friendly.”
He, therefore, urged the electorates to come out on the day of election and vote without fear.
Smarting from its experience in the recent governorship election in Ekiti State, the APC had alerted Nigerians on the plans by the Federal Government to deploy heavy security contingent that would be big enough to scare the mostly agrarian people from stepping out of their houses to exercise their franchise.
According to a statement by the APC shortly after the governorship election in Ekiti, the party claimed that security agents scared APC supporters from coming out to exercise their electoral rights. Also, there are claims that the security agents manhandled some leaders of the APC in some of the wards, thereby allowing members of the PDP to have a field day.
The claim that the Federal Government did not provide a level playing ground for the contestants manifested going by the fact that security agents acting on “order from above”, denied some APC governors, entrance to Ekiti State the Friday preceding the election.
The affected governors including Rotimi Ameachi, Adams Oshiomhole and Rabiu Kwakwaso of Rivers, Edo and Kano States respectively, were blocked by security agents from gaining entrance to Ekiti, while PDP chieftains, including Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro and his counterpart in the Police Affairs Ministry, Jelili Adesiyan, were allowed to move freely in the state during the election.
There were also reports that one of the police helicopters deployed to the state on the day of the election intermittently hovered around the country home of Governor Kayode Fayemi while the election was going on. This, according to sources prevented the governor from having on the spot assessment of the election, thereby paving the way for the opposition to gain upper hand.
The party therefore, warned Federal Government of the grave consequence of deploying partisan security agents during the election as the party described such move as a window to the 2015 general election.
The heavy security presence in Osun State prior to the August 9 governorship election has continued to elicit reactions from different groups and political parties.
Reacting to the development, Centre for Sustained Dialogue (CSD) said it was important for security agencies monitoring the election to operate within the confines of the law, and not unnecessarily scare the people.
CSD, in a statement by its Executive Director, Omotosho Hakeem, added that it was now imperative to remind security agencies that Osun election is the last litmus test prior to 2015 general elections.
Also, De Raufs Volunteer Group reacted angrily to the show of power by DSS operatives, lamenting that there was no justification for such action abnitio (in the first instance).
Director General of group, Amitolu Shittu, in a telephone interview with journalists, urged the people of the state not to panic, but go out on the Election Day to cast their vote.
Also speaking with journalists, the Special Adviser to Osun State Governor on Environment and Sanitation, Bola Ilori urged the people not to panic over the massive deployment of soldiers and the operatives of the Department of Security Service.
Ilori decried the sporadic shooting by operatives of the DSS and cautioned against misuse of security agents by political class in the country.
He also claimed that the federal government was intimidating the people of the state even when there was no security threat, and charged the central government to curtail the excesses of the operatives of DSS who, he said had turned Osun to a war zone.
The Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Osun state, Barr Kunle Oyatomi, in his own reaction said the military was not saddled with internal security duties. Oyatomi said the deployment of soldiers for the election was against the constitution.
He said the Nigeria Police constitutionally was best suited for election duties, emphasizing that a siege by the military during an election was a subversion of democracy which must not be encouraged.
He added that Osun citizens in Osogbo and elsewhere were unimpressed by the show of force by DSS operatives. Oyatomi said: “the DSS security operatives got a shocker around 5p.m in the evening along Okefia when in company of some masked men the security operatives rented the air with a burst of sporadic gunfire to simply intimidate people.
“Rather than scatter in fright, the people, with brooms in their hands, flooded into the street in utter defiance singing songs of praise of Aregbesola and the APC, and telling the security operatives who wanted to frighten them that no amount of threats and violence will stop them from supporting the governor. The security people least expected what they saw”.
But the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state said the deployment of security men was proper and appropriate. The Secretary of the party, Prince Bola Ajao said the security men should be allowed to do their job unhindered. He advised the people of the state not to panic over massive deployment of operatives of DSS and assured that the security men would not do anything to jeopardise the peace of the state.
Also, the Labour Party (LP) candidate, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade said the deployment of soldiers and DSS operatives was a welcome development.
Akinbade said anyone who was not a criminal should not be afraid of security men. Akinbade, who spoke through his media aide, Kayode Oladeji said the presence of security agents would help boost the confidence of the electorate and ensure peaceful conduct of the exercise.
Nigerians are however, hoping that what happened in Ekiti will not repeat itself in Osun where over 36,000 Security personnel were deployed which almost doubled the number of those deployed to the troubled and volatile North Eastern State of Borno.
It was also held that the PDP oriented Security agents intimidated and antagonized the voters and also unconstitutionally, illegally and unjustly detained selective and influential APC leaders in the State that were presumed to be threat to the success of the PDP. The mere presence of such massive Security personnel is a threat to conducting a peaceful and serene election, experts have said.