The recent performance of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of the September 28, 2016 Edo State gubernatorial election highlights the competence of the nation’s electoral umpire in guaranteeing peaceful and conclusive polls when political actors and other stakeholders play according to the rules.
For many election observers and journalists who monitored the keenly-contested poll, which was mainly a two-horse race between the eventual winner, Mr Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu , the Edo guber poll can serve as blueprint for subsequent elections in the country.
These observers have scored INEC high especially in the early deployment of men and materials for the election as accreditation and voting started as early as 8: 15am in most polling units across the state. The nation’s security agencies that participated in the exercise also received commendation for the peaceful conduct of the polls despite the earlier knock received for postponing the election from the initial date of September 10.
Besides the fact that there was no incidence of loss of life before or after the election as a result of political skirmishes, the election was largely devoid of the usual win-at-all cost tendencies of politicians except in pockets of polling units, and the protest by PDP after the election. All the card readers deployed for the exercise lived up to expectations of the electorate thereby checkmating the issue of over-voting, outright rigging and other forms of electoral malpractice.
The success of the Edo guber poll is the latest proof that the conduct of election is invariably a collective venture that involves not just INEC, but also a diverse range of stakeholders, notably security agencies, political parties and their candidates, voters, as well as other interest groups. We believe the election, apart from showing the unbiased and transparent posture of INEC, has, perhaps, calmed the nerves of sceptics who had understandably raised concerns over the rising cases of inconclusive elections since Prof Mahmood Yakubu took charge of INEC.
While in every election there must be winner and loser, it is our firm belief that the September 28 election result, which saw APC’s Obaseki polling 319,483 to defeat his closest rival, PDP’s Ize-Iyamu, who garnered 253,173 votes, was not far from the various opinion polls churned out before the election.
From the results announced by INEC’s Returning Officer, Prof Kayode Soremekun, the APC popularity in Edo North appears to have played a significant role in its victory as PDP could not marshall enough votes from its comfort zone, Edo Central, where his running mate, John Yakubu, hails from, as the party winning margin in the area was too little to cause any fatal damage to APC easy ride in Edo North and the Benin metropolis.
Though PDP and four other parties out of the 19 that took part in the election have not ceased to cry foul over the result of the election, with Pastor Ize-Iyamu leading supporters to protest against the result across the state, we call on the aggrieved parties to quietly but meticulously start compiling their facts on their claim that the election was manipulated for the soon to be constituted tribunal, instead of dissipating energy and wasting resources on protest that is incapable of upturning the results. While we believe that the performance of INEC in Edo election is commendable, such transparency and competence exhibited in the poll should be extended to the upcoming Ondo gubernatorial election. We call on politicians to eschew violence and always accept that everybody cannot win at the same time.