On Sunday, September 20, 2020, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared Godwin Obaseki, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, winner of the governorship election in Edo State.
INEC’s Returning Officer, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, announced the result of the election in which Obaseki of the PDP polled 307,955 votes to defeat his closest rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, of the All Pro-gressives Congress, who got 223,619 votes. Rim-Rukeh, while declaring Obaseki winner, said the in-cumbent governor was returned elected after satisfying all requirements in line with the law.
What INEC returning officer Rim-Rukeh did on Sunday was the formal declaration of the Saturday, Sep-tember 19 governorship election result in line with the verdict of the people of Edo State.
The Edo governorship election may have come and gone but there are immense lessons to be learnt by Nigerians going forward. We all remembered the outcry by the opposition parties, particularly the PDP that there were plans by the ruling party in the country to use its federal might to rig the election in favour of its candidate in Edo State, Pastor Ize-Iyamu.
Everything and every institution of the state were presented as working for the APC. The Presidency, INEC, Police, Army and all other security agencies were made suspects that were primed to rig the election against the PDP governorship candidate. The situation was not helped by the posturing of the former national chairman of the APC and former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole whose frequent visits to President Muhammadu Buhari at the run up to the election was quite disturbing to the opposition parties.
Remember, also that Nigeria has a long history of political interference in elections by the ruling parties at the centre. The PDP during its 16 years dominance of the country applied that strategy severally. However, thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Edo State governorship election has come and gone and has been adjudged the freest and fairest election in the history of the state. There was no federal might from the Presidency in Abuja. Instead of the PDP crying out over intimidation on Election Day, it was ironic that it was the APC that was supposed to enjoy federal might advantage that cried out.
In rejecting the result of Saturday’s election, the campaign team of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate of manipulating the governorship election. John Mayaki, the chairperson of the APC Media Campaign Council, said the par-ty has rejected the result, citing alleged strong-arm tactics. He claimed that “Our people were arbitrari-ly arrested, many of the figures were fabricated,” Mr Mayaki said in a statement. He alleged that re-sults were manipulated to shore up PDP’s votes and reduce APC’s. “Areas where we won, they can-celled them. They decreased the votes in areas we had advantage,” the party said. “They rejected our results and jerked up theirs.” The APC also said that there was arbitrary arrest of its members who could have resisted the alleged rigging and that Mr Obaseki raised a false alarm.
Many will find it strange that the candidate of the party at the centre suffered such undemocratic handicap in the election, but what is indisputable was that the election was successful to the level that the party at the centre despite the temptation to use federal might did not do so thanks to President Muhammadu Buhari, who himself had been victim of several elections riggings in the past, and is de-termined to rewrite the history of electoral process and outcome in the country.
Buhari’s role in ensuring free and fair election in Edo was equally acknowledged by the victorious can-didate of the PDP, Godwin Obaseki in his victory speech. He said, “Thank you, President Muhammadu Buhari, for defending our democracy and allowing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to perform their constitutional functions without interference. “INEC and the security services have shown to Nigerians and the world that they are capable of conducting free and credible elections.”
While the APC in Edo is crying foul over the election, President Buhari, who should know better, has already congratulated the candidate of the PDP, Obaseki over his victory. President Muhammadu Buhari did not only congratulate Edo State governor, Godwin Obaseki, on his re-election, he also hailed the Independent National Electoral Commission for the smooth process that led to the emergence of Obaseki. The President’s spokesperson, Garba Shehu, in a Tweet on Sunday said Buhari commended the people of Edo State, the political parties, candidates and security agencies for conducting them-selves responsibly. He said, “My commitment to free and fair elections is firm, because without free and fair elections, the foundation of our political and moral authority will be weak. “I have consistently advocated for free and fair elections in the country because it is the bedrock of true democratic order. “Democracy will mean nothing if the votes of the people don’t count or if their mandate is fraudulently tampered with.”
What happened in Edo State was a demonstration of the President’s commitment to free and fair elections in the country. Aside the President, worthy of commendation is the INEC for conducting free and fair election in Edo and for not succumbing to the pressure to go against the wish and desire of Edo people. And of course the security agents who refused to be used by politicians to do the wrong things, instead did the needful by ensuring maintenance of law and order during and after the elec-tion, deserve recognition. Many Nigerians had feared before the election that Edo would be theatre of war on Election Day. It was not. Thanks to our security agents who maintained relative peace for the smooth conduct of the election.
The Edo people have also shown that if this democracy must be sustained, internal vigilance is the watchword! The people of Edo did not only vote, they also ensured that their votes counted. It is a lesson for the whole country going forward.