THE EDO GUBERNATORIAL RACE

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Politicians should allow the people to decide their destiny for the next four years

The governorship election in Edo State coming up this Saturday is yet another opportunity for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to showcase its preparedness for the onerous responsibility it bears. Coming after similar elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, the Edo polls would no doubt present obvious challenges to both the INEC and the security agencies and we hope that they are ready.

We note particularly that INEC has been bedevilled by problems in recent months. Only one of the five re-run elections held in July 2016 in Imo and Kogi States was concluded within regulation time while others had to be concluded days later after supplementary polls. The Bayelsa governorship polls suffered similar fate. The senatorial and state constituencies re-run elections in Rivers State have been postponed several times within the past few months.

Aside the case of Rivers that is based on violence, the common lapses in other elections included the fact that voting materials usually arrived the polling booths hours late. In other instances, election officials were not deployed in sufficient numbers in some polling units while many prospective voters were disenfranchised, following the omission of their names or photographs in the voters’ register. We hope that INEC can tidy up those loose ends before Saturday.

After the initial violence that dogged the electioneering campaigns in Edo, the build-up to the election has been relatively peaceful. But the stakes are still high. Some 18 political parties have been cleared for the elections, but the Saturday contest is essentially between the two acrimonious majors: the ruling political party’s All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Mr. Godwin Obaseki, a technocrat, chairman of the economic team of the outgoing Adams Oshiomhole’s administration is the APC candidate while Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a shrewd politician and Secretary to the State Government under the Lucky Igbinedion administration is the PDP candidate.

Both men, incidentally, are of Bini stock, from Edo South Senatorial zone, which means that the votes from the most populous district in the state would be split. Obaseki has the full backing of the government in power and the party, both at the state and the centre. Besides, he has the backing of Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the APC National Chairman and a former governor of the state. Even though seen largely as Oshiomhole’s man, Obaseki records are his assets, particularly in an era that demands prudence in the management of resources. There is also no doubt that the achievements of the ruling APC government in the state in terms of infrastructural development will rub positively on him.

Ize-Iyamu of the PDP is also a formidable politician in his own right. As Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Government between 1999 and 2007, he is familiar with the nuances of the state politics. He has the support of politicians alienated by the Oshiomhole’s administration. He was also a member of APC and indeed the director-general of Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organisation, an experience he would put to good use. Moreover, he was a one-time National Vice-Chairman, South-South zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).

However, there are extraneous issues that could affect the outcome of the polls. The PDP is a divided house with the Ali Modu-Sheriff faction still retaining one Matthew Iduoriyekemwen as its candidate for the election. But whatever happens, it is important for the politicians to allow the people of Edo State to decide their destiny for the next four years. There should be no room for coercion and violence. The security agencies must perform their duties professionally. As for INEC, if it can conduct the Saturday polls in Edo without hitches, then Professor Yakubu would have proved that the commission has learnt useful lessons.