Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
As the nation waits with bated breath for the official results of the Edo State governorship election held wednesday, results trickling down from the wards and local government areas in the state showed last night that the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Godwin Obaseki, was inching towards victory with clear leads in Edo North and South Senatorial Districts.
A breakdown of early results showed that in Edo North, comprising six local governments areas, APC was reported to have won five of the six local government areas, except one in which they already had a lead at press time.
Early results from Edo South also showed that Obaseki was leading in seven of the local government areas, including Oredo, that make up the district, but two were hotly contested.
However, in Edo Central, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Ize-Iyamu, was said to be leading in three out of the five local governments except Igueben, where the APC had a marginal lead, but was too close to call.
But before a clearer picture began to emerge last night, a surprise upset was recorded yesterday, when the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, lost at his Polling Unit 1, Ward 2 in Oredo Local Government Area by 69 votes to the 78 polled by the PDP. Incidentally, his polling unit was the same one where Ize-Iyamu’s wife, Idia, voted.
Obaseki, on the other hand, won his Unit 19, Ward 4 comfortably, garnering 160 votes against the PDP’s 77 votes. Ize-Iyamu, however, completely obliterated his opponent at his own Unit 26, Ward 5 in Orhionmwon Local Government Area by 369 votes to the 1 vote recorded by Obaseki.
In other early results, the state PDP chairman, Chief Dan Orbih and Oghiadomhe also delivered their units to the PDP.
Overall, statewide reports revealed a substantially orderly and peaceful poll, evidencing the changes made by INEC and the security provided by security forces deployed in the state for the exercise that had 1,915,105 registered voters.
INEC had used the election to test-run its new polling processes introduced under the Electoral Act. One of them was the simultaneous accreditation and voting, which allows a registered voter to proceed to cast his/her ballot immediately after accreditation.
In the past, there was a time lag between accreditation and the casting of votes, a process that was time consuming and stressful for the electorate. With the new voting procedure, the polling time was shorter.
Speaking on the conduct of the election, the state Governor Adams Oshiomhole hailed the new voting process, saying it made the exercise less stressful for the electorate particularly the middle class.
“I have always wondered why INEC wants people to be accredited and wait for voting later. For the middle class, that was not something many of them could cope with.
“For the poor people, they have had to carry the burden of our democracy by waiting the whole day. So I believe that INEC has made a sensible improvement,” he said after casting his vote at his Polling Unit 1, Iyamho Primary School, Etsako West Local Government Area, where he also expressed satisfaction with the large turnout of voters.
He also commended the orderly conduct at his polling unit, stating: “I believe this is a perfect example of the way it should be, but I cannot tell you that this is the way it is in other places because I have not been to those places.”
He however said there were some incidents in some parts of the state, which the security agencies and INEC would have to investigate.
“I have received a report just now from the Onojie of Opoji that PDP thugs went and removed the card reader in order to prevent the people of Opoji from voting.
“So we are dealing with that because the people have a right to vote. That right cannot be compromised, and INEC has a duty, a non-negotiable duty to ensure that the people of Opoji vote,” he said.
Oshiomhole also revealed that he received reports of gunshots at Okpella and Emu in Esan South East Local Government Area, where he alleged that a former member of the state House of Assembly, upon noticing that the people were not voting for PDP, opened fire and shot sporadically into the air.
“I have drawn the attention of the police to ensure that the gunmen, whether local or imported, are not allowed to disrupt an exercise that will otherwise be a celebration of democracy,” the governor said.
Despite the concern expressed by the governor, areas monitored by THISDAY showed the election was generally peaceful.
For instance, at Oredo Ward 2, 3 and 4; Ikpoba-Okha Ward 6, 7 and 8 voting was peaceful as security agents were on hand to ensure a hitch-free election.
In these areas, accreditation and voting started at between 8 and 9 a.m. At about 9.30 a.m., Obaseki arrived as his Oredo Ward 4, Unit 19 and voted by 10.30 a.m.
After casting his vote, Obaseki expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the election. He also praised INEC for reviewing the voting process and said he was certain of victory.
He also praised the security agencies for providing security during the election.
In its reaction as the collation of results were being awaited, the PDP raised the alarm over the alleged plot by the APC to tamper with the results of the governorship election already released at the various polling units, in a bid to change it in it’s favour.
A statement from the acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, alleged that Oshiohmole was moving around collation centres in an effort to manipulate the results as much as possible.
“Having received results from our agents at approximately 1,800 of the 2,627 polling units spread across the 192 Wards in the 18 Local Government Areas of Edo State, we can confirm that our party has attained a near unassailable lead in the Edo State gubernatorial election.
“The results so far confirm to us that our candidate has garnered approximately 55 per cent of the total votes cast by voters. We have every reason to be confident that we will maintain this trend and coast home to victory.
“However, we are aware that members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Governor Adams Oshiomole in collusion with officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Mrs. Amina Zakari, are relentless in their efforts to manipulate the results of this election.
“We are aware that Governor Oshiomole is currently moving from collation centre to collation centre with the objective of manipulating the results as much as possible.
“We will like to reiterate our earlier note of warning: The Edo people and our party will resist any attempt to subvert the collective will of the people as expressed by their votes today.
“We urge our members and supporters in the state to continue keeping the faith by guarding their votes at the ward collation centres and local government collation centres. Eternal vigilance is the price we all have to pay for victory,” he said.