Weeks of politicking, political maneuver and horse-trading have come to a head as 1.7million registered voters are set to decide the fate of the two leading candidates for today’s 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).
This is in spite of the 483,796 permanent voters card (PVCs) yet to be collected from the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Benin.
Meanwhile, Edo South senatorial zone which controls over 55 per cent of the entire voting population has 1,281,414 registered voters, according to YIAGA Africa, quoting INEC figures.
It also revealed that 78.1 per cent of the PVCs have been collected in the senatorial district.
In Edo North senatorial zone, 564,122 registered voters representing 84 per cent of the PVCs have been collected, while the total registered voters in Edo Central senatorial zone is 364, 998 representing 74.4 of PVCs collected.
As 14 political parties scramble for the top seat today, there is no gainsaying that the election is a two horse race that pitches Obaseki against Ize- Iyamu, a repeat of what played out in the 2016 governorship poll, though they have now swapped political parties.
Today’s election is perceived in the country’s political circle as a prelude to political permutation and realignment ahead of 2023.
Governor Obaseki will be banking on his scorecard and the structure and support he enjoys from his new party, the PDP, while Ize-Iyamu is harping on his Simple Agenda programme and the support of APC.
APC had appointed the governor of Kano State, Abdulahi Ganduje, as the chairman of its election committee, while PDP chose Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, to lead it in the quest for re-election.
Meanwhile, a combined team of fierce looking security operatives drawn from the anti-riot mobile, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, (NSCDC) and the military have been conducting an operation in the state tagged “Operation Show of Force” along major roads in the state capital ahead of today’s election.
The move is aimed at alerting residents of the state of the heavy presence of security personnel and their readiness for the epic governorship election.
As at the last count no fewer than 70 patrol vehicles loaded with heavily armed security personnel from the various security agencies and commands across the country paraded strategic major roads and streets in Benin City.
Police Public Relations Officer of the state command, DSP Chidi Nwabuzor told journalists that the exercise was part of inter agencies’ commitment to ensure that the election was peaceful.
He said it was also to ensure that the election was violence-free, fair and credible.
He urged voters to come out en masse today and vote for the candidate of their choice, assuring them that their lives and property would be protected.
Some of the security agencies that participated in the exercise include the Nigerian Army, Police Mobile Force, Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Customs Service, and the Directorate of State Services (DSS).
Others are the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Nigerian Air force, Federal Road Safety Corps, the Nigerian Correctional Service, Nigerian Immigration
Despite the security arrangement and assurance from the various head of security outfits, Yiaga Africa, Watching The Vote, a non- governmental organisation, has identified 16 local government areas of the state as flashpoints for election violence.
In its report after a careful study of situation and build up to the election, Yiaga revealed that two-third of local government areas were classified as hotspots and flashpoints of violence due to the frequency of violence, arms proliferation and a
spike in ‘cult group’ activities in those areas. Yiaga Africa specifically stated that in 13 of the 18 local government areas, violence is prevalent. The local government areas include Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West and
Akoko-Edo in Edo North senatorial district.
In Edo South senatorial district, they are Oredo, Orhionwon, Egor, Ovia North East and Ikpoba-Okha local government areas in Edo
In Edo Central senatorial district, they are Esan
Central, Esan North East and Esan West.
Voters in identified councils may be discouraged from coming out because of violence
and insecurity in the areas.
No Candidate Must Have Special Advantage, INEC Warns Staff
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday warned all staff members participating in the Edo State governorship election to be neutral and ensure that no political party or candidate is accorded any advantage over the other.
Chairman of the commission, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, who gave the warning in Abuja yesterday ahead of today’s governorship poll in Edo State, urged the staff of the commission to stick strictly to its code of conduct and oath of neutrality to which we have all subscribed.
He said, “We must ensure that no political party or candidate is accorded any advantage over the other. We must be neutral at all times and stick strictly to our code of conduct and oath of neutrality to which we have all subscribed.
“I have no doubt that our staff members will rise to the occasion. We have done it several times before and we can do it again.
“The Commission deeply appreciates the never ending sacrifices made by our staff at all times, often beyond the call of duty, to ensure that we carry out our mandate.
“The management will continue to improve the welfare and conditions of service of staff within the available resources.”
He also appealed to all the staff of the commission to remain steadfast and committed to the ideals of the commission.
Prof Yakubu said, “Nigerians and the international community expect so much from us. They are watching. It is important that we all remain above board in the performance of our respective duties.”
He added that it is clear that all eyes are on the commission to deliver a free, fair and credible process.
MeanwhileINEC has said that all sensitive materials for today’s governorship election in Edo State have left the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria in Benin City for the various local government areas in the state.
The commission also announced that it
would use both members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and ad hoc staff of tertiary institutions in the Ondo State governorship election scheduled for October 10 2020.
INEC in a statement signed by the national commissioner and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, stated these after its meeting to further review preparations for the Edo and Ondo States governorship elections as well as all outstanding bye-elections.
Okoye said, “The commission has made adequate preparations for the Edo State governorship election scheduled for Saturday 19 September, 2020. All sensitive materials for the said election have left the custody of the CBN, Benin City for the various LGAs in the State.
“Agents of the political parties involved in the election as well as those of the accredited observer groups observed the distribution of the sensitive materials. The commission implores all the relevant stakeholders to continue to observe the distribution of the sensitive materials as they are moved further down the chain to the Registration Area Centres.
“As a result of the disruption of normal processes in the electoral process occasioned by the outbreak of the COVID – 19 pandemic, the commission could not get the full complement of the NYSC members required as ad hoc staff for the Ondo State governorship election scheduled for October 10 2020. Consequently, the commission had to broaden its net to recruit the required ad hoc staff from tertiary institutions.
“However, the NYSC authorities recently informed the commission that they are now in a position to mobilize more corps members for the Ondo State governorship election. Meanwhile, the portal for the recruitment of ad hoc staff for the said election had closed since 21 August, 2020.
“After due consideration and to restore the corps members to their role in the electoral process, the commission has decided to allow the recruitment of these additional NYSC members only.
“A special link to the registration form has therefore been provided to NYSC authorities to be used for this purpose. The commission notes with appreciation the commitment of the NYSC leadership in sustaining the patriotic and crucial roles being played by corps members in the conduct of elections.”
Okoye also spoke on the outstanding bye- elections scheduled to take place in some States. He said, “The commission had earlier announced October 31 2020 as the date scheduled for all outstanding bye-elections holding in fourteen (14) constituencies across eleven (11) States. Of all these bye-elections, six (6) are to fill vacancies in Senatorial Seats and Eight (8) are to fill vacancies in State Constituencies. All
the 18 existing political parties gave notices of participation.
“However, One (1) political party, the Boot Party, conducted primaries but did not collect the Access Code for submission of the list of nominated candidates. Another political party, Zenith Labour Party conducted primaries, collected the Access Code for the nomination of candidates but made no submission.
“Two political parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party submitted nominations for all the constituencies being contested. The remaining 14 political parties nominated candidates in some Senatorial Districts and some State Constituencies.
“By the Time table and Schedule of Activities issued by the Commission, political parties conducted their primaries between 24th August and 8th September 2020 while the submission of the list of nominated candidates ended at 6 pm on 13th September. Today, 17th September is the last day for the publication of Form EC9 and the final list of candidates for the bye-elections scheduled for October 31 2020.
“In accordance with Section 31(3) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the commission has published the list of nominated candidates in their respective Senatorial Districts and State Constituencies. We urge individuals, political parties and interest groups to visit the INEC offices in the Senatorial Districts and Constituencies.
“Any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by a candidate in the affidavit and any other document submitted by that candidate is false may file a suit at the Federal High Court, High Court of a State or the Federal Capital Territory against such person, seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false.
“If the Court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document is false, the Court shall issue an order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.
“It is pertinent to note that Eight (8) political parties have provided notices for primaries for the Dass State Constituency election. The primaries by the political parties are on-going until September 19 2020”.
You Must Not Fail, TMG Tells INEC
Meanwhile, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) yesterday told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it has no reason to fail in the conduct of the Edo State governorship poll.
Chairperson of the group, Akiyode Afolabi, said, “It is time to move forward and move better, INEC should walk the talk and put into practice the assurance given to the electorate and the nation that the election will be free and fair.”
Addressing a press conference in Benin on the eve of the election, TMG in collaboration with Edo Civil Society Organization (EDOCSO) urged INEC to up its game and strictly play by the provisions of the Electoral Act while responding appropriately to issues as may occur as the election progresses.
It said INEC owes it as a duty to all, irrespective of their political affiliations, to be fair, impartial and nonpartisan in its relations while creating a level playing field for all parties and contestants.
TMG added that the success or failure of the election to meet international standard will determine the fate of other elections and the attitude of electors to INEC’s credibility to conduct election.
On security, TMG corroborated the position of YIAGA that “about two third of Edo State (13 out 18 local government areas) was on security red alert due to pre-election violent activities of some political gladiators who see election as a do or die affair because for them politics is not about service to the people but a profitable business.
The election monitoring group stated: “So, security personnel, especially policemen deployed for election activities, should never be found wanting in discharging their duties responsibly, professionally without bias. On election day, all are aequal; no special preference to position or status.