In just a few days, citizens of Edo State will go to the polls to elect a governor from among the 14 candidates that are contesting on different political platforms. But Edo voters are worried whether their votes would count on account of the tension and drums of violence being beaten in the lead up to election day.
Concerned citizens and political stakeholders across the country believe that the exercise would test the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and various security agencies with respect to how free, fair and credible the polls would be, which the administration promised when it came to power in 2015.
Observers may have limited the contest to one between the incumbent governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of All Progressives Congress (APC). But flag bearers of other political parties have expressed discomfort about not being accorded enough space in the process, especially the media, which they allege have under-reported their activities during the campaign process.
There is also the possibility that the election might end up as one of the most keenly contested and interesting gubernatorial polls in the Fourth Republic going by the activities of the two parties and contenders. It will further enable both parties to test their popularity ratings ahead of the 2023 general election.
Another interesting aspect that will play out on Saturday and which could be considered unique is that Obaseki, who some months back, had hoped to run on APC platform, is now bearing PDP’s flag in the race. The incumbent defected to his current platform due to crisis between him and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, a former national chairman of APC. The governor would now square up with Ize-Iyamu, who left the PDP, on which platform he contested against Obaseki in 2016, hoping to realise his governorship ambition on the platform of APC.
Taking a look at the situation in Edo ahead of Saturday poll, one time Director-General of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Campaign Organisation in Lagos State, Mr. Fouad Oki, who is also a chieftain of APC, said one of the issues that could affect the election is ability of security personnel to provide enabling environment.
According to him, “There are indicators the election is going to be volatile if the needful is not done. The fact that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) told the entire world he would deploy security officers to maintain peace and order is not and no guarantee for now. What we are seeing currently in the state is not a guarantee there will be peace and order.”
Oki therefore challenged the IGP to, as a matter of urgency and necessity, meet all stakeholders with an understanding that his men would not hesitate to clampdown on any camp that violates the rules of the election.
According to him, “It is important that enough security agents should be deployed to the base of the incumbent and his major opponent. The same should be done in the deputy governor’s base as well as that of Oshiomhole, because there is evidence in the last few days that those areas would be volatile and those are the places one would be expecting that thugs and hooligans loyal to various political godfathers would perpetrate ballot stuffing among other election malpractices.”
Oki, who also served as the director of former governors Babatunde Fashola and Akinwunmi Ambode’s campaign organizations, said experience has shown that with the situation in Edo, the electorate would be eager to troop out to elect the governor of their choice, but that politicians’ may want to play smart and cause distractions where they feel that their opponents are stronger.
“We need an unbiased security agent and federal government’s presence in Edo on Saturday to get a free, fair and credible election,” Oki said.
On the possibility that the power of incumbency may likely be deployed Obaseki, Oki said, “If there is any power of incumbency, it is the federal government, and if there is also federal might, the central government controls necessary apparatus that are deployable and not the incumbent governor.”
On the chances of the two major candidates at the poll, Oki said while it appears that the APC candidate is coming behind, he said Ize-Iyamu also stands a good chance depending on the strategies applied by his platform and how Edo people may have perceived him since he defected to APC.
According to Oki, “For Obaseki to win, his handlers must start crying out load if they foresee fowl play from now and Edo electorate must be ready to defend their votes, otherwise the incumbent should just kiss the State House goodbye.”
Oki also noted that both candidates needed to go back to their drawing boards now and study the flow of political movements in the last 10 months, adding, “What I mean is, who has defected from one platform to another and what influence, either positive or negative, it had on the parties? It is also necessary to draw the line from which party controls majority representatives in the National Assembly, Edo State House of Assembly, local governments and wards, because at the end of the day, it is the vote of the electorate that would be manipulated and now allowed to count to determine the outcome.”
National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Nwosu, said its flag bearer, Princes Mabel Oboh, and the leadership of the party made up its mind to participate in the election, promising that under no circumstances would they be bought over by any of the major political parties.
He decried the tension surrounding the process of the election, saying, “It is unbecoming of our electoral process how people commit in the name of politics. This is not helpful to our democracy and we are seeing it playing out in Edo.”
He noted that security in the state must up its ante, saying, “The two major parties are battle ready for crisis. Four years ago, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu contested on the opposite side to where they are now. This act of desperation is not helpful to our democracy. By now, if we are in a sane country, some major politicians in Edo are not supposed to participate in this election. But they ought to have been sent to jail.”
Nwosu said no violence; terrorism, banditry or voodoo would stop ADC from participating in the election. But rather than express fears about INEC’s likelihood of complicity in the process, Nwosu said, “If the federal government and the security agencies are not straight, what would be expected of INEC? It was in this country that INEC staff were held at gun points by our politicians not to announce the result of an election.”
National Publicity Secretary of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Mr. Adelaja Adeoye, also expressed dissatisfaction with the way the media has persistently under-reported other parties in the process, noting that: “this has become a norm in the country when it comes to elections.”
He said it was important for INEC to be neutral in the election, just as he said there was no reason why security agents would not be able to ensure maximum security in the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial polls, because they are isolated exercises. He said the party’s candidate, Emmanuel Iboi, stands a good chance because of the affiliation he has with the grassroots.