The much publicised governorship election in Edo has taken place as scheduled on Sept. 29 and the winner has emerged.
Looking back at the peaceful conduct of the election, it has, incontrovertibly, proved wrong cynics’ expectations of violence during the election, a development that many political observers see as a sign of hope for the country’s democratic process.
The election began with the enthusiasm of the electorates who complied with all security measures and filed out in various quarters of the state, expecting a credible election.
With peaceful presentation and impressive turnout of voters in most wards across the state, critics agree that Edo citizens really know what they want with respect to who governs them.
While security agencies, going by security reports, did not envisage violence, they, nonetheless, provided a security network described as a better deal by many observers and civil society organizations.
With total compliance with restriction of movement across the state, the process of making the election peaceful and credible was very smooth.
Even in fairly remote places such as Uzzebba, Igueben, Auchi, Ososo, Ekpoma, Jattu and Ughoton, among other towns and villages in Edo, voters expressed the willingness to contribute to the making of a leader for another four years.
But, who wins the Edo governorship election is a riddle solved by the choice of Edo citizens via the announcement of the results by the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that announced votes cast for each of the candidates.
With the benefit of hindsight, Edo has 192 wards and 18 local government areas with most of electorates holding Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in Edo South district.
Now, for the election that produced the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki for a second term in office on Saturday, INEC announced that only 1.72 million voters had PVCs.
Out of this, Edo South District alone has 1,281,414 card carriers, meaning the attention of all the candidates would be in the district.
INEC however claims that the level of ineligible voters in Edo is on account of failure of many citizens to collect their PVCs.
So, observers believe that if there would be any electoral malpractice, it is likely to be more pronounced in Edo South.
Although some voters alleged that certain political parties attempted to induce them to vote for their candidates, the claim could not be substantiated by security operatives.
Even, Gov. Godwin Obaseki of the state who won the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that vote buying was visible in many polling units.
Obaseki stated further that he expected better preparations from INEC for the governorship poll, rather than voters waiting in the queue for more than an hour.
According to him, to wait for one and half hours in the queue before exercising his franchise was a bit disappointing.
“Given that this is a sole day election, I expected a bit more planning and preparation and resources should have been put into this election.
Obaseki, who won by scoring the highest votes cast of 307, 955, in a brief acceptance speech, however, dedicated the victory to “the collective resolve of the Edo electorates to destroy Godfatherism in the state”.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing a free and fair election; irrespective of the platform he contested the election.
Also, the Chairman of PDP in Edo, Dr Tony Aziegbemi, said that the people of the state voted for the governor again because they believed he meant well for the state.
Aziegbemi said: “This is somebody we can give the umbrella to, so that the people of Edo will smile again”.
During the accreditation and voting, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), had commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the peaceful and smooth electoral process.
“The process is good and going on smoothly; there is no thuggery and violence,” Ize-Iyamu said.
But in a twist, after the verdict, Ize-Iyamu, who scored 223,619 votes, expressed concern about the results of the election.
“I thank and appreciate my supporters who had to endure many evils, including being prevented from voting, for their support and determination during the election.
“I assure you all that I am studying the results along with other party members and will announce my next move,” he said in a message.
In the same vein, the Chairman, Edo APC Media Campaign Council, Mr John Mayaki, said that the party rejected the result, citing alleged strong arm tactics in the process.
“Our people were arbitrarily arrested; many of the figures were fabricated. Areas where we won, they cancelled them; they decreased the votes in areas we had advantage.
“They rejected our results and jerked up theirs,” Mayaki alleged.
However, among the citizens, opinions are divided on which political parties and candidates could deliver specific development projects in the state.
Many voters in the state note that while peaceful and credible elections are essential tools for the development of the state, a good candidate would be needed for such development projects
They argue that all stakeholders must ensure that efforts are made to make democracy work irrespective of personal interests.
Miss Gina Osewenkae, a teacher, said that the election was free and fair.
“We expect more from him for the next four years,” Osewenkae said while referring to the winner, Obaseki.
Mr Ehisunwen Osayande, a resident, said “majority of people voted their conscience. We commend the media and INEC for monitoring votes strictly”.
Also, Mr Lucky Osagie, a resident of Benin, said that the Edo election had taught Nigerians to defend and wait for their votes to be counted after elections.
“Nigeria can have a free and fair election if godfatherism is put aside. INEC did a very good job by monitoring votes strictly,” Osagie said.
Many residents of the city also commended the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, for maintaining neutrality in the election.
The Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) commended President Muhammadu Buhari, the INEC, and security agencies for the success of the election.
IPAC described the poll and its outcome as exemplary and recommended the same method applied in Edo for the Ondo State governorship election on Oct.10.
IPAC Chairman, Tade Ademola said that the level playing ground allowed by the President and INEC had further deepened Nigeria’s democracy.
Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu and other 12 candidates participated in the contest with 557,443 accredited voters and 537,407 valid votes.
The rejected votes were 12,835 and the total number of voters cast was 550,242.
Many political analysts, therefore, conclude that holding such election amid forecast of violence which never occurred is a testimony that if political actors allow the will of the electorates in any election to prevail, there will be less apprehension during elections.
Source: NAN/Kayode Olaitan