Edo Governorship Election 2020: Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu In Photo Finish
Public Opinion Is Essential In A Democracy!
The two main candidates in the governorship election in Edo State, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were yesterday locked in a close contest.
Early result from yesterday’s election showed that both candidates and their parties were running toward the finishing line neck and neck, just as they consolidated in their areas of strength.
This comes as voters turned out en masse across the 192 political wards in the state to exercise their franchise, in spite of pockets of violence1 recorded in five local government areas of the state.
The conduct of the election was peaceful in most voting centres visited by LEADERSHIP Sunday, as officials of the IndependentNational Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the accreditation and voting process.
As early as 6am, security operatives drawn from the various security units mounted roadblocks at strategic major road in Benin City, the state capital, to ensure the peaceful conduct of the election.
The state governor, Godwin Obaseki arrived at his Oredo unit 4 at exactly 10:24 am to cast his vote, while his major contender, Pastor Ize-Iyamu cast his vote at his Iguododdo unit 26 in Orhionmwon local government council of the state at about 9:25am.
Ize-Iyamu joined the queue at his polling unit located at Iguododo
Primary school at about 9:20am before casting his vote at about 9:25am.
He, however, expressed disappointment over the failure of card readers in several wards across the state.
Also, Obaseki who spoke to journalists shortly after casting his vote yesterday in Oredo local government area of the state lamented the hours spent on the queue due to card reader issues.
He further lambasted INEC for the failure of the card readers, saying it shows the commission’s unpreparedness.
The governor said, “I expected better preparation on the part of those saddled with the responsibility to conduct this election. To wait for one and a half hours on the queue before exercising my franchise is a bit disappointing.
“Given that this is a sole day’s election, I expected better planning and preparation and resources should have been put into this election. At the last presidential election, in my polling unit, there were two polling points which eased the burden on voters. You all are witnesses to how long it has taken.
“The card reader here is working slowly, and this is the situation in all the major voting centres in Oredo local government area of the state as I speak. At Garrick Memorial School, I understand that over 500 voters are already stranded because they can’t vote due to the slow processing of the card reader.
“One would have expected that INEC will have deployed more card readers and more voting points in high-density polling centres”.
Responding to the issue of vote-buying at polling units, Obaseki alleged that the security agencies were not doing what they assured the Edo people and Nigerians that they would do before the election.
He continued: “The security agencies assured us that they won’t allow anybody who doesn’t have business of voting into a particular place, but they are working contrary to what they promised us.
“You can see cars parked with a lot of cash being disbursed to people buying votes, and it seems to be normal practice, but we are not perturbed as people know what to do. Cash can’t buy their future”.
In contrast to the governor’s position, APC candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the exercise.
Speaking to journalists after exercising his franchise, Ize-Iyamu commended INEC for a peaceful conduct of the electoral process as well as ensuring the adherence to the COVID-19 protocol.
The APC candidate said, “The process is good and going on smoothly; there is no thuggery and violence, the place is peaceful and calm. I am happy that INEC has a thermometer to check the temperature and they also gave out face masks to our people.
“We encourage our people to come out in batches so they can strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocols of social distancing”.
Ize-Iyamu however said he was unable to get information about the conduct of the election across the state due to the poor network at his voting community.
He expressed optimism that he would emerge victorious in the election, saying, “I am confident of victory across the 18 local government areas of the state”.
LEADERSHIP Sunday learnt that at Esan Central, Ward 7, Unit 6, miscreants suspected to be working for political parties, tried to disrupt voting and intimidate voters who refused to accept financial inducements by threatening to visit their homes.
In Ovia Southwest, Ward 4, Unit 7, party agents also tried to stop those of opposing parties from inducing voters with cash, a situation which caused a fracas.
However, despite assurance and sensitisation of the electorate ahead of the election, voters hardly adhered to the COVID-19 protocols of wearing a face masks and social distance.
Reacting to the conduct of the poll, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, expressed satisfaction saying against popular predictions, the election was quite peaceful except for few and isolated skirmishes. ”Nigeria has disappointed those who predicted massive disruption. The elections went well but for few hiccups,” Mustapha noted in a statement by his media office as he monitored early returns from the field. He said INEC did fairly well and could improve on its performance.
But a pro-democracy organisation, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) condemned the high incidence of vote-trading recorded yesterday in the Edo State governorship election.
Addressing journalists yesterday in Abuja, director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, while unveiling their preliminary report on the election said it is quite worrisome that young girls were used for “indirect” vote-buying during the election.
Hassan said reports from CDD observers on the field showed that politicians, in an attempt to circumvent the electoral process, used young girls as their contact with the voters for the trading.
She said, “We saw largely vote-buying in the Edo election, the most worrisome trend in this election is the level of sophistication at which politicians engaged in the anomaly of vote-buying.
“In some cases, votes were traded for Ankara materials and cash gifts from N1,000 to N15,000, Spaghetti and other food items”.
The CDD director lamented that despite expending time and resources to deploy thousands of law enforcement officials for the election, nothing was done to stop infractions such as vote-buying.
According to Hassan, CDD observers’ report indicates that the late arrival of poll officials was caused by poor logistics, especially transportation of personnel and election materials to polling units.
“An example is the Registration Area Council located at the Physical Education Complex in Afuze, which did not have vehicles to move election officials and materials. Across the state, there were faulty card readers recorded; this slowed down polling in several polling units,” she said.
She said the logistics issues, especially with respect to the transportation of personnel and materials to polling units, and claims of non-payment of election workers, have been a recurring theme in the conduct of elections by INEC and should be tackled.
Addressing cases of electoral violence and offences and disinformation, CDD’s senior fellow, Prof Jibrin Ibrahim, said baseless and outlandish claims of attacks by politicians were reported in Ikpoba Okha, Oredo, Esan West and Oriohomwan due to the activities of thugs who disrupted voting in different polling units.
Ibrahim said that in Ologbo, Ikhoba Okha local government area, one person was reported to have been shot while in Ihomwonde local government area, Ward 5 PU 1, 2, and 3, the voting process was reportedly not totally peaceful as conflicts erupted amongst party agents which resulted to disruption of the process.
Also, election materials were hijacked in Ward 9, Unit 15 of Egor local government area by political thugs who are hell-bent to subvert the electoral process, he stated.
“CDD observers also reported an incident of shooting in Orhionmwon local government area. Party agents were also major drivers of violence in areas with incidents as the engaged in altercations, which later snowballed into fisticuffs,” Ibrahim said.
He said CDD observers reported several cases of electoral offences in the course of the election. In polling Unit 03, Egureka Ward, Esan South East local government area an elderly man who attempted to vote with his son’s voter’s card was apprehended by the police.
In another instance, observers also reported that a man came to the polling unit with multiple ballot papers even as some party agents were observed assisting voters to thumbprint their ballot papers thereby violating the secrecy of the vote.
On the use of disinformation as a tool to manipulate the outcome of the electoral process, Ibrahim said it has become difficult to ascertain the actual realities on the ground because many false narratives have been shared on various platforms.
“CDD observers also documented many instances of fake news being deliberately spread to undermine the truth of what is on the ground in the electoral process,” he said.
Ibrahim however warned: “An election is not a market. It is a criminal offence that should be punished by the authorities.”
In his remarks, the executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Awual Ibrahim Rafsanjani, said Nigeria must find a lasting solution to her electoral challenges.
Rafsanjani stressed that until such challenges are addressed, desired electoral reforms will remain elusive.
On its part, Yiaga Africa disclosed that it received a total of 18 verified incident reports in the Edo State governorship elections.
In a report made available to LEADERSHIP Sunday yesterday in Abuja and signed by chairman of Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote – 2020 Edo Election Observation Mission, Dr Aisha Abdullahi, the none governmental organisation said acts of intimidation and harassment of election observers, violent disruption of the accreditation and voting process, ballot box snatching, compromising the secrecy of the ballot and vote buying trailed the election.
Abdullahi alleged that Yiaga Africa WTV observers were harassed and their observation materials confiscated by party agents in Edogun Primary School Hall I, Polling Unit in Orhionmwon local government area and Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha local government area.
She said there was also violent disruption of the accreditation and voting process amid sporadic shooting leading to the suspension of voting in Idumwongo polling unit 5, ward 7 in Orhionmwon LGA.
Aisha stated: “The voting process was also disrupted in Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 in Ward 8 of Igueben LGA when a political party supporter mobilised thugs to the PU to disrupt the process.
“Observers reported incidents of ballot box snatching by party supporters in Ozolua Grammar School, Polling Unit 009 of Ward 10 in Ikpoba/Okha LGA and Obodeko Amahor Pri/Sch Unit 003 of Ward 8 in Igueben LGA.
“Yiaga Africa received series of reports of voters displaying how they marked their ballots thereby compromising the secrecy of the ballot.”
She added that these cases were recorded in Orhionmion II, Edogun Pri/Sch Hall; Obodeko Primary School, PU 003 Amaharo, Ward 08 in Igueben local government area; Uelen-Ujugb Uromi Open Space VI PU 013 and Ward 4 in Esan North-East local government area.
She also decried the interference in the accreditation and voting process by party agents in PU 001 at Ugbo Wardin Orhionmwon local government area; Ukpato Ward, Evbuosa Pri/Sch Iguemokhua PU, Orhionmwon II.
She continued: “In Ihogbe Secondary School, Unit 006. Ward 5 of Oredo LGA, a political party agent gave a voter PVC that does not belong to him to vote, the culprit was apprehended by the security.
“Yiaga Africa observers stationed at Asoro Grammar School, PU 002 in
Ward 1 of Egor LGA, reported that party agents distributed cash to influence voters.
“Similar incidents were also reported in Omo Nursery/Primary School,
PU 005, Ward 1 in Egor LGA, where party agents were seen giving cash to voters. A similar incident was reported in Adams Int. Sch.
“Evbareke 1 Polling Unit in Egor, voters openly showed how they marked their ballots. Vote buying was reported in Uromi-Open Space VI, 013, Uelen/Okugbe/ Uromi, party agents were seen distributing cash to voters”.
She added that INEC should caution security officers deployed in the field to refrain from intimidating observers and journalists and should ensure security personnel remain professional and non-partisan throughout the election.
Police Over Stretched – PSC
The Police Service Commission (PSC) declared yesterday that police officers were over stretched during the governorship election, even though there was enough presence of police and other security agencies.
In an interim report by the Commission signed by its spokesperson, Ikechukwu Ani, the PSC noted that even though there was an average of three policemen in several polling units while in many of the units in Edo North, there were an average of seven to 10; they were overwhelmed by voters who turned out in large numbers in some places.
The commission also noted that the policemen in the polling units visited were professional, courteous and arrived at their places of assignment in good time.
PSC said it covered the three Senatorial Zones and visited 132 polling units in nine local government areas, even as it received 53 calls and 32 text messages to its three dedicated telephone numbers for the election.
The commission commended DIG Olayele Oyabede, who coordinated the security architecture of the election in Edo State for responding and intervening in several complaints referred to him by the Commission’s team.
PSC said DIG Oyebade led a strong team made up of two AIGs, Hosea Karma, and Shola Davis, Edo State Command CP, Johnson Kokumo with other visiting CPs Manning the Senatorial Zones.