All Eyes on Edo Gubernatorial Poll

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With the Edo State governorship election a few days away, there is no doubt that all attentions will shift to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and political parties, Davidson Iriekpen writes

This weekend, all attentions will shift to Edo State, where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will conduct the much awaited governorship election. Last week, the commission said it would deploy 18,511 personnel to conduct the election in the state, made up of 18 local government areas with a total of 1,925,105 registered voters; 192 registration areas; 2,627 polling units; and 4,011 voting points.

In a statement, it also said it would deploy one Returning Officer; 18 Local Government Area Collation Officers; 192 Registration Area Collation Officers; 263 Supervisory Presiding Officers; 2,627 Presiding Officers 12, 036 Assistant Presiding Officers (APOs) I, II and III; 2,530 Assistant Presiding Officers; 728 Reserve APOs; 19 Local Government Area Supervisors, including 1 HQ Reserve; and 97 RA Cluster Supervisors and Headquarter1 Reserve (2RAs/Supervisor).
The electoral umpire also said it had accredited 44 observer groups for the poll. It added that while 37 of the observer groups are domestic, seven are foreign. It, however, urged all the accredited groups to deliver credible and reliable information to members of the public during and after the election coverage.

For those, who understand election very well in the country, it is not the announcement of the deployment of the personnel and their number that matter; it is their effectiveness and efficiency as well as their ability to ensure that no part of the state is disenfranchised. For a commission that has in recent times given a majority of Nigerians cause to doubt its capacity to successfully conduct elections once under its current Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the attention of Nigerians will certainly focus on how it goes about its duties in Edo State.

As the people anxiously look forward to Saturday, though in all, 19 political parties are participating in the election, the contest is really between Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The two major candidates will fight to control the Dennis Osadebey Avenue, the state’s seat of power when the incumbent governor, Adams Oshiomhole leaves office in November. Already, the candidates, their supporters and political parties are perfecting last minute strategies to achieve victory come Saturday.

For Ize-Iyamu, the only baggage he is taking into the last days of the election is the frequent accusation of political prostitution against him, having moved from the PDP to the APC and back to the PDP, and the fact that he once served under a government believed to have left the state worse than it met it between 1999 and 2007, which the PDP candidate has always defended by saying he was simply an aide not the chief executive officer.

On the other hand, Obaseki is largely seen as a lackey considering the way he defeated other heavy weights in the party in a primary that was allegedly teleguided by Oshiomhole himself, who many observers suspect is determined to cover up his dirty tracks and reintroduce godfatherism, which he dismantled in the state when he assumed power in 2008.

Another serious disadvantage against the ruling party is the fact with its victory at the federal level, there hasn’t been any serious impact on both the people of the state and Nigerians in general, who now live in misery and regrets.

With the election just four days away, there is no doubt that the pre-occupation of the two major parties now is how to ensure that it is free and fair.

In the last few weeks, the PDP has really had it rough with the state government alleged of victimizing its members, particularly the youths to be hurled into detention under flimsy excuses. Before then, the PDP had tasked President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure a level playing ground in the election.

The party, in a statement, said it was important that Buhari and the APC allow a level-playing ground the same way President Goodluck Jonathan did when Oshiomhole was seeking a second term in office and other governors from other political parties.

It was against this background, the state PDP Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, last week, said the party has done all it required for its candidate, to emerge victorious in the governorship election. According to Orbih, INEC and security agencies should for once be prepared to live up to their responsibilities to provide a level playing field for everybody.

“We have toured the nooks and crannies of the 192 wards across the 18 local government areas of the state and have interacted with the people. The people, who have been assured of their safety, have also vowed to effect the needed change in governance through their votes, come the decision-making day. Now, the fear is no longer about our level of preparedness but about the technical aspect of the election process.

“Right now, INEC is the election, security agencies are the election. If Edo State must have a credible, free, fair and conclusive election, it will be dependent on the level of seriousness and preparedness of these institutions.
“On our part, the party and its candidate are prepared and we have done our homework and can confidently say the governorship contest is almost a done deal. This is because the people have seen the true colour of the ruling APC, both at the national and state levels and are ready to effect real change on the election day. So, come September 10, the people will willingly and truly, in their numbers, march out to effect that genuine change in Edo State.

“They have resolved to damn the consequences of Oshiomhole’s threat and boastful posture to exercise their franchise without fear of being intimidated at all. The only aspect remaining for the state to witness a conclusive election is the technical aspect of the electoral process which involves INEC and the security agencies.

“The onus now lies with these institutions to proof their level of readiness by providing a level playing field for all and sundry for a realisation of the much needed conclusive election in Edo State. INEC will have to proof that it has sufficient logistics and control of it to deliver all electoral materials to polling centres timely. The security agencies have to show capability to squarely provide adequate security for all.”

The PDP candidate, Ize-Iyamu, appealed to foreign missions and agencies in the country to send observers and monitors to ensure that plans by the opposition APC to rig the elections are nipped in the bud. He pointed out how the state government shut him and his party out from the state-owned media and how his billboards and posters were vandalised by members of the APC.

He stressed that though his party is interested in a free and fair election where the votes of the people would count, it was however, ready to ensure that the APC does not manipulate the polls and results. He said his party in the state placed a high value on election observation across the state and would therefore welcome the presence of observers and monitoring teams to observe the forthcoming elections to forestall any attempt by any party to truncate the democratic process.

“All we request is a level playing field which the incumbent has so far failed to provide. You must be aware of the obstacles they have put in our way to prevent us from campaigning effectively as well as their denial of our use of public facilities like venues, radio and television to reach the people.

“We believe your appeal to the federal government, INEC, the judiciary, army, police and other security agencies will go a long way in ensuring that there is free, fair and credible election and that there will be peace in Edo State before, during and after the governorship election on September 10,” he concluded.

For the APC, unlike in 2012, when the last governorship election was held in the state under the PDP-led federal government, there is no cause for alarm this time. Instead, the party has remained calm because it is in control of the state and federal government and its security agencies.

This, perhaps, was while speaking in Benin City at the weekend, the National Chairman of the APC, who is an indigene of the state, Chief John Odigie Oyegun appealed to the people of the state to vote massively for Obaseki in order to consolidate the gains of Oshiomhole’s unparalleled achievements in the last seven and half years.
He said the party had performed creditably in its almost eight years in government as against the over 10 years the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in charge in the state.

“Our campaign has been very good. There was a period of drama but all that is behind us and the arguments are very clear irrespective of whatever individual issues there must be and there have been. The issue is simple: we have had the APC in government for seven years plus; before that we had PDP in government in the state for 10 years. You can hardly see anybody who can point to any single substantial development in the 10 years of PDP compared with the almost eight years of APC under Oshiomhole and that in fact, decides the issue.

“When you ask people, ‘what is your preference, do you want the good times to continue or do you want to revert to the bad old days’, the issue becomes very clear and then you get a resounding ‘let the good days continue’. That is where the debate rests and the result has been very good. Yes, there was a time when there were all sorts of discordant tunes as a result of group interests, personal interest but all that had been sorted out now. I think we are rowing down to a very substantial victory, no doubt at all,” he said.

On the fears that the prevailing economic downturn under the APC federal administration could sway votes in favour of the PDP, Odigie-Oyegun said, “Again, if you stretch it down, it is the same argument. One thing that pleases me today is that Nigerians and the ordinary voters are more perceptive than we think they are. Yes, the APC at the national level has been in office for one year plus but everybody knows that the problems we have today could not have been created in one day.

“We have come to fix the nation, to fix the problems, otherwise as a people, as a nation, we would have been going through a struggle for existence and a great challenge would have been confronting this nation. These were the issues and challenges that were inflicted on this country by years of or a decade and a half of poor governance at the national level.

“Unfortunately, as if that was not enough, we also took over at a time when the crude market collapsed from $100 dto $140 a barrel to a time when sometimes, we were managing to make $40. At some stage, it was less than $30 per barrel. That is the reality and the people recognise this. It does not stop the fact that they are aching, it does not stop the fact that they are in pains, that they are hungry. But they know these are not the creation of the APC and that what the APC under Buhari is set to do is to ensure that the fundamental problem with the country, a mono-culture economy is solved once and for all.

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For those, who understand election very well in the country, it is not the announcement of the deployment of the personnel and their number that matter; it is their effectiveness and efficiency as well as their ability to ensure that no part of the state is disenfranchised. For a commission that has in recent times given a majority of Nigerians cause to doubt its capacity to successfully conduct elections once under its current Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the attention of Nigerians will certainly focus on how it goes about its duties in Edo State