Edo Governorship Election and Its Aftermath

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Adibe Emenyonu, in Benin City, writes on the political situation in Edo State since the announcement of the results of the governorship election in the state

The candidate of All Progressives Congress, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, was on Thursday, September 29 declared winner of governorship election in Edo State. The election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission on September 28 was keenly contested.

Before the declaration of the final result, there was tension and anxiety among the political gladiators and their supporters, especially after some ward and unit results were posted online by a national daily. It was later discovered to be false and immediately removed. But the widely suspected motive, which was to create panic, was achieved, though it was short lived.

Declaring the final result, after local government declarations by the local government returning officers, the chief returning officer, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, who is Vice-chancellor, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, said Obaseki scored a total of 319,483 votes, representing 51.3 per cent of the votes cast, while his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party got 253,483 votes, representing 40 per cent of the votes.

Objection
The PDP rejected the result before it was announced following information from its agents. While INEC announced the full result about 3.30pm, the PDP pronounced their rejection about 11am.

Rejecting the result at a media briefing, Edo State PDP chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, and Ize-Iyamu expressed surprise at the turnout, saying the results did not reflect the figures collated at the polling centres and wards.

They said at the joint press conference, “We are in total amazement at the details of the results released by INEC because all of them are fake and not the figures announced at the various units, collated at various wards across the state. The fake results announced by INEC are entirely a fabrication, which did not reflect the true picture of what transpired during the election.”

The rejection of result, however, did not stop the electoral umpire from releasing the entire result, which showed that the APC candidate won in 13 local government areas, leaving the PDP candidate with majority votes in five local government areas of the state.
None of the other 17 political parties in the election was able to muster majority vote in any of the local government areas.

Delight
Expectedly, APC applauded the outcome of the election. Governor Adams Oshiomhole said this would permanently retire some PDP chieftains he referred to as “godfathers”.

Speaking at a road show in the state capital shortly after INEC announced Obaseki as the governor-elect, Oshiomhole said, “The victory of the All Progressives Congress in the governorship election has humbled Chief Tom Ikimi, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, the Esama of Benin, and Chief Raymond Dokpesi.” He added that Chief Tony Anenih narrowly escaped defeat.

Oshiomhole said the APC was committed to dismantling the rigging machine of those he termed political godfathers in the state. He noted that Edo was the only state where elections were held in recent times without any person losing his life. The governor said the victory had concluded his chapter in the struggle to end godfatherism.

Flanked by leaders of the APC, Oshiomhoel stressed that the election was the final outing for political godfathers who had held the people hostage since 1999.
According to him, “Over the last eight years we have tried to orientate our people, not just the voters but politicians, that the season of election rigging where one or two godfathers write the results is over and we were committed to dismantling the rigging machine.

“We had a rerun in 2012 with all the godfathers on one side and new forces of change on my side. I won in all the 18 local government areas. Our people have spoken loud and clear that they believe in democracy, they just don’t want to be beneficiaries, they want to be the drivers of the process. This was showed by the way they conducted themselves on election day.

“It is outstanding and remarkable that tensed as the election was with all the predictions the APC, out of 18 local governments, we won in 15 decisively. Those who were loudest in making noise have been revealed where they stand in relation with Edo people.

“We have humbled Chief Tom Ikimi even in the local government he claimed to have created. We defeated Chief Raymond Dokpesi in his polling unit, his ward and his local government. That reassures that the ruthless deployment of media machinery is not enough to distort the will of Edo people to determine their choice.”

Oshiomhole explained, “In Okada, the political family that has boasted that they will continue to govern this state and even compelled the state to adopt them as the ‘queen of England’ whose birthday must be celebrated, the APC was the preferred party by the people than that family in Okada.

“There is something unique in the way things have turned out. In Esan land, the senatorial zone of the PDP godfather, we won two out of the five local governments. We gave him a fight that he managed to escape. He used the factor of his age to play on the emotion of the people. It is a victory for the people of the state. Edo people are now proud they can now determine who rules them and no one godfathers can choose a leader for them. When you look at the propaganda, you will think we have fallen for the lion.”

Intrigue
The governorship poll was characterised by much intrigues and drama, beginning from the night of the election, especially, when the declaration of results was halted about 1.30am on September 29. Immediately this happened, the PDP screamed blue murder, alleging that the suspension of the results declaration by INEC was part of a plot by the ruling APC in the state to manipulate the outcome of the election.

The PDP state publicity secretary, Chris Nehikhare, alleged that based on the results from the polling units, the party’s candidate was maintaining a comfortable lead across the state, warning that any effort to upturn the results would be met with stiff opposition.

The warning snowballed into series of protests by PDP supporters, who took to the streets of Benin City to condemn the result of the election which they said did not reflect the wishes of Edo voters

According to THISDAY investigation, the protest started at the Ize-Iyamu campaign office on Akpakpava Road and moved to several parts of the Benin metropolis, such as First East Circular Road, Second East Circular Road, Dawson Road and New Benin, before returning to the campaign office, where the protesters regrouped.

The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as “INEC is biased, not independent”, “Return our stolen mandate”, “Police conspired with INEC to rig the election”, and “Return our stolen mandate to Ize-Iyamu”.

Speaking on behalf of the protesters, Rev Olu Martins, a member of the Conference of Civil Society Organisations in the state, said it was ironical that nine to 10 years ago, he was among the protesters who occupied the streets of Benin to protest the injustice done to Oshiomhole in the 2007 Edo State governorship election. Martins said he was back in the streets this time to protest an “electoral heist perpetrated by Oshiomhole.”

Division
But a splinter group within the PDP in the state, under the aegis of PDP Restoration Group, has declared that the governorship election was free and fair. The group said INEC had one of its finest outings in the Edo election as it was not declared inconclusive like those of Kogi, Rivers and Bayelsa.

Addressing journalists in Benin City, spokesman of the PDP Restoration Group, Uyi Igbinegie, noted that the September 28 election was free of the usual violence, which gave it the general acceptance that it was free and fair. He said PDP could not have won the election because during the build up to the party primaries, and after the party lost the presidential election last year, there were many revelations about how so much money was stolen by members of the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s team.

“So the APC government had enough to scandalise members of the PDP with the magnitude of corruption stories that pervaded the media everyday,” Igbinegie stated.
He added, “The Dasuki slush was something that was more of a scar than a mere scandal. And to add salt to injury, the Pastor Ize-Iyamu that was contesting was among those who took part of the slush for the presidential election.

“His visit to EFCC on the matter left a sore pain in campaigns. So how do you explain that your incoming governor was visiting the EFCC on corruption case that was more moral that legal?”
Igbinegie said another reason why the party failed was the attitude of the party’s State Working Committee led by Chief Dan Orbih. Igbinegie accused Orbih of conniving with his cronies to skew the party primary in favour of Ize-Iyamu, “who we all know of carrying the baggage of the PDP failed government of eight years that made Edo people to hate our party.”

Igbinigie called for the immediate resignation of Orbih as PDP state chairman, saying his campaign strategy did not help matters. “Rather that talking on issues, he spends all the time criticising and raining abuses and unfounded allegations on the person of Godwin Obaseki ,” Igbinigie stated.

The PDP Restoration Group is not alone in its dissenting view. A former Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Roland Owie, also declared that the party lost the election in Edo State due to the impunity and insensitivity of Chief Tony Anenih. Owie, in a press statement issued in Benin City, said it was wrong for Anenih to impose the deputy governor slot on Esan people especially someone from his home town, Uromi, after what he did with the governorship slot given to the district during the Osunbor era.

The former Chief Whip of the Senate said the high percentage of votes scored by the PDP were votes against hunger and hardship experienced by Nigerians under the APC-led federal government just to show the people’s disdain for the party, and not really votes for the PDP.
Owie, who congratulated Obaseki, said, “Any leader who takes political decisions on selfish interests gets destroyed at the end. Such leader is like a spider; whatever a spider eats turns to poison.

“Why on earth will Chief Anenih impose a deputy governorship candidate on Esan people after what he did with the governorship slot? He has been playing god and now God has told him that all powers belong to Him. I hope Chief Anenih will enter his house now and allow people of goodwill to reorganise the PDP.”

Poll Litigation
Notwithstanding the claims and counter claims, the PDP said it had resolved to challenge the outcome of the Edo State governorship election at the election petitions tribunal, describing it as a fraud. The party accused INEC of complicity. The resolution to go to the electoral court followed earlier comments credited to Ize-Iyamu that there were three options left to him on the outcome of the election, namely, to embark on protest, leave everything to God and Edo people or go to court.

Having exhausted the first option, the party may have decided to try the second option, which is litigation. Orbih explained that the party would leave nothing to chance in proving that the governorship election result was manipulated. He said PDP would expose the corruption and incompetence of the electoral commission.

Orbih, who also called for the dissolution of the present leadership of INEC, said, “Of course, we are going to file our petition at the election petitions tribunal. We will give it our all. If nothing else, to expose to Nigerians how corrupt and incompetent the INEC is under its present leadership.

“Our lawyers are busy; they are working.‎ Until they formally file a petition, all I can say is that we are going to challenge the result of this election at the tribunal. We will pursue this matter to the logical conclusion and I believe that the judiciary has a role to play to save democracy and give Nigerians hope that, in a country where people do things with impunity, people can still approach the judiciary for justice.”

On whether the party was convinced that the outcome of the tribunal case would not end in favour of the candidate returned elected by INEC, as was the case in Bayelsa and Kogi, Orbih noted that the PDP would give the tribunal the benefit of doubt.

According to him, “What happened in Kogi is not what has happened in Edo. What happened in Bayelsa is not what has happened in Edo. We must give that benefit of doubt, rather than resort to self-help or taking laws into our hands. We want to test this obvious fraudulent manipulation of INEC in collaboration with the state government, in the election result in the judiciary.”

Chieftains of APC, too, are not relaxing their focus on the election matter. They have put measures in place to counter whatever arguments their opponents would tender before the election petitions tribunal.

Recently, renowned lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Niyi Akintola, was seen at the campaign office of the governor-elect, Godwin Obaseki. Akintola was in company with the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Henry Idahagbon. A staff of the campaign office, who refused to give his name, said the presence of Akintola was an indication that APC did not want to be caught napping in the event of a judicial battle.

QUOTE: Chieftains of APC, too, are not relaxing their focus on the election matter. They have put measures in place to counter whatever arguments their opponents would tender before the election petitions tribunal. Recently, renowned lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Niyi Akintola, was seen at the campaign office of the governor-elect, Godwin Obaseki. Akintola was in company with the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Henry Idahagbon. A staff of the campaign office, who refused to give his name, said the presence of Akintola was an indication that APC did not want to be caught napping in the event of a judicial battle