Amid growing speculations that the last Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State would be marred by large scale violence, the election held peacefully in most parts of the state with PDP winning with over eighty thousand votes.
The results were declared by INEC on Sunday afternoon after the votes were counted from all LGA’s on Saturday. Obaseki had 307,955 votes, which was enough to be declared a clear winner over Ize-Iyamu’s 223,619 votes. News Echo Correspondent gathered that although there were some few places where disruptions took place. He however gathered that voting was conducted in a peaceful manner as security agents kept guard at the different polling units.
Earlier, the fear of violence during and after the election had prompted the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, to summon the candidates of the All Progressives Congress, Pastor Osagie Ize -Iyamu and the Peoples Democratic Party, Godwin Obaseki to his palace, over their hot verbal exchange if words, clashes among their supporters and pockets of violence that had characterized their campaigns.
Meanwhile, following the fear of violence, the National Peace Committee, headed by a former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar , intervened in a state election as against its usual practice of intervening in presidential elections. Also, the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu , had expressed concerns over the possible fear of violence during the election, which prompted the commission to invite the candidates and the political parties to sign a peace deal on Tuesday last week.
Yakubu had said two weeks ago that the National Peace Committee, INEC and every conscientious Nigerian were concerned about the fear of violence in Edo elections.
Similarly, the two major political parties had on several occasions accused each other of importing thugs and purchasing arms to be used to disrupt the election which led INEC to threaten that it would not hesitate to stop the election mid -way if there was violence.
Notwithstanding, INEC decided to insure all its ad hoc staff and full staff against death and other election hazards. The security agents such as the police were used to checkmate violence, deploying 31, 000 policemen, NSCDC had already offered 5000 personnel to the state for the exercise. But in contrast to the fears, the election was largely peaceful. News Echo correspondents also gathered that several polling units in Etsako West Local Government Area noticed the heavy security agents at the polling units as they were seen maintaining law and order during the voting exercise.
At Unit 001: Ward 10, Iyamho, where former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, voted, 19 security agents was sighted. At Units 009, 010, and 011, Ward 9, Elele, there were more than 20 security agents in total. A significant number of security agents were also observed at Unit 002: Ward 10, Ogbido and Unit 003, Ward 10, Uluoke/ Ayaoghena. Saviour Igalo who was one of the party agents at ward 15 told our correspondents on the telephone that after the voting had ended there were some politicians who wanted to cause trouble seeing that PDP was winning but reaffirmed that the poll was generally peaceful.
The DIG of Police equally said, “we have helicopters that flew across the state to monitor activities. You said there was shooting but we had people who came out to say this is the best election they have witnessed. If there were one or two things that happened, we are collating and we will address everything together later.” Reports also revealed that the election at Iguododo community in Orhionwon Local Government Area and some of the adjoining communities as well as Ikpoba- Okah Local Government Area observed that there was no violence in those areas .
At Unit 26: Ward 5 in Iguododo community where Ize -Iyamu voted, three unarmed policemen and two officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were present. Ize -Iyamu was accompanied to the polling unit by some persons. Even though there were roadblocks on the Benin -Abraka Road in line with the restriction on movement, some passenger vehicles coming into Benin from Abraka were seen loaded with passengers at around 2 pm before the election was concluded.
In Edo North, an election observer with Centre for Democracy and Development, Mr John Atsegameh, stated that the election was peaceful and devoid of violence. According to him, “from the reports I ‘m getting from other places, the election is free and devoid of violence. The electorate conducted themselves properly and there was a strict adherence to COVID – 19 safety protocols. So far, no form of violence, party agents conducted themselves and cooperated with INEC personnel.”
Meanwhile, reports equally proved that there were pockets of violence in some polling units in Oredo , Orhionmwon , Igueben , Egor , including ballot box snatching, shooting , interference and disruption of the exercise. A Premium Times journalist, Samson Adenekan, was slapped, manhandled and then briefly detained by the thugs for allegedly taking pictures and videos.
INEC, the election umpire also said it was aware of a shooting incident in Orhionmwon local government of Edo State, vowing to bring all electoral offenders to justice. Also, in Ogbe Primarily School in Benin , suspected thugs entered a voting centre and ordered all voters out at gunpoint . The wife of an APC local government chairman was also beaten up by suspected political thugs. These two were among the few skirmishes that could be said to have dented the Edo poll.
Some stakeholders said they believed the exercise was the most peaceful in the political history of the South- South states and called other state to borrow a leaf from Edo state 2020 election. Meanwhile, a voter, Omoemu expressed satisfaction to the Oba of Benin for cautioning the governorship candidates of the two major parties, adding that the intervention from the monarch contributed to the peaceful conduct of the election.
Omoemu said, “It (election) is peaceful and the weather has been clement. There was massive turnout, which is encouraging. I think the awareness among the citizens about this election was quite high, hence, the massive turnout. I thank the Oba of Benin for his intervention. That bold effort to come out and call both parties to order was useful. To a large extent, that helped to calm down the violence that was escalating. Since then, there has been observable calm everywhere.”
Adams Oshiomhole a former National Chairman of the APC and Chief John Odigie – Oyegun, alleged foul play in the election as some card readers allegedly malfunctioned and delayed voting. Governor Obaseki, candidate of the PDP, said in a statement by his Special Adviser, Crusoe Osagie, that there was election manipulation in areas where he was popular. The statement reads in part “suddenly, card readers are not working in areas where Governor Godwin Obaseki is very popular. Voters are being disenfranchised and we are constrained to say that this is sabotage.
“Specifically, in Oredo Ward 1, Unit 20 and other places where the governor is clearly popular, the card readers are not working, he further alleged.” Obaseki, shortly after casting his vote around 11.48 am, said he expected better preparations from the INEC, noting that he waited for one and half hours in the queue before he could vote.
In Garrick Memorial Secondary School, reports had it also that over 500 voters were stranded as they cannot vote because of the slow processing of the card readers. On the issue of vote- buying at polling units, the governor said security agencies were not doing what they promised Edo people and Nigerians before the election. Oshiomhole, who described the voter turnout for election as the “highest since 1999,” said his “only disappointment so far” was that the smart card readers were not working.
The former Edo governor , who cast his vote at Unit 001 , Ward 10 at Iyamho Primary School, Iyamho, Etsako West Local Government Area at 10 .15 am , cautioned INEC against disenfranchising voters. Oshiomhole said, “now, they have reported; INEC officials have not brought a new machine . This exercise is supposed to have a closing time. So, if they are doing this in my ward, it is clear that somebody wants to reduce the number of voters here. But I have told them to stay here; if it is 2pm or 8pm, once they are here, they have the right to vote.
He said that,“it appears in this exercise, they want to disenfranchise many of my community people from voting . I also got such a report from Alegbete that the machines were not working and that a lot of people wanted to vote but the machines were rejecting them, even though in previous elections, these people have been voting.”
Also, Odigie -Oyegun decried the delays caused by faulty card readers during voting and accreditation. He described Nigeria as a “puzzling country,” saying the country ought to have improved on the use of technology in elections, considering the challenges facing its electoral system.”
He told our correspondent on Saturday night, “yes, there were issues with the card reader which just have to be fixed. I think it took three attempts before I was passed to vote. The fellow before me had almost as many (attempts) , if not more. If this thing continues like that, it shows that the quality of the card reader is not up to scratch . That is technology. This is a very puzzling country. Given our problems, I think, by now, we should have improved on the technology of the elections.”
He further suggested that whatever possible way to ensure the card reader to work properly and effectively or we seek alternative technology be carried out. The former governor also stressed that despite being a member of the APC, he had not hidden his support for Obaseki. He stated, “It’ s clear I have sympathy for him, giving what he was put through unnecessarily and unjustifiably . I have never hidden that fact. It’s public knowledge. That is where the message comes Edo people will send a clear message that things like this must not be allowed to occur again. ”
While commending security agencies for their support, Odigie -Oyegun appealed to the electorate to continue to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner but insist on making their voice heard through their ballot adding that winning or losing the election in his polling unit was immaterial. Obaseki also won his polling unit in Oredo Ward 4, Unit 19 in the election after polling 184 votes while Osagie Ize -Iyamu got 62 votes. Voting ended in most of the areas at 2.30 pm.
Also, Ize -Iyamu won at his polling unit in Ighododo ward 5. APC had 292 while PDP had 21. The Edo State Chairman of the APC, Col David Imuse, lost his polling unit to the opposition PDP.
Imuse, who hails from the Esan West Local Government Area of the state, could not secure victory for the APC as the party was defeated in his Ward 9, Unit 3. The PDP scored 126 votes while APC scored 93 votes from the result at the polling unit.
The PDP and the APC have been trading blame as violence erupted in some parts of the state during the election. The PDP Publicity Secretary in the state , Chris Nehikhare alleged that the “APC lions and tigers ” invaded Urhonigbe North and South wards. He said, “they came in commando style, seating on vehicle bonnets and armed with cut – to-size guns, shooting in the air . They scared away voters and INEC staff and seriously injured many. They collected the ballot boxes and are at this minute putting their thumbprints on the ballot at the Uhronigbe Police Station”.
He had called on the IG to caution his men while urging INEC to “seriously consider the result that would be declared from these two wards in Orhionmwon LGA.” However, the APC claimed that desperate PDP thugs shot two and killed one with several injured in Ovia Southwest, Wards 9 and 10. The Chairman of the State APC Media Campaign Council, John Mayaki, said, “Eventually, thugs belonging to the PDP shot two people, one of whom has been confirmed dead in the Ovia Southwest , Wards 9 and 10″.
The casualty, a woman, an APC agent was said to be in her late 30s. Eye witnesses said the PDP thugs besieged the two wards while voting was in full swing, shooting directly at the people, two of whom were consequently hit in the process. Many were injured in the ensuing melee.
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. 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.
Chief Mike Nweke Okechukwu, the political adviser to Senator Ifeanyi Uba in Anambra state stated that the electorate is now gaining awareness from every election. It is now clear that while these campaigns, fighting and maiming are going on among the politicians, none of their relatives have been involved in the struggle. They will prefer to use street urchins and others to perpetrate their mayhem.
He alluded the fact that social media has come to breach the gap between the active politicians and the weak ones. “People now value their life and see violence from another different angle. If you check around, even when money is shared, voters still collect it and vote for their choice of candidate. Time will come when the politicians will no longer share the money during elections but start using them for developmental activities,” he volunteered further.
Conclusively, Osai Ojigho, Country Director, Amnesty International Nigeria had suggested that the potential turmoil being stirred up by various factions ahead of the gubernatorial election in Edo State should send a clear signal to the Nigerian authorities of the imminent violence ahead of the polls and government must take active steps to prevent a bloody poll.
The Nigerian authorities must fulfill their obligation to promote, protect, respect, and fulfill human rights amidst disturbing signs of violence in other parts of the State. Though there were disturbing reports of violence in few areas and the unfortunate use of young people to perpetuate these reprehensible acts in the past.
Government must protect people from violence and ensure the full respect for freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association before, during and after the state’s election and subsequent elections in other states of the federation. Hence, political parties and candidates must publicly condemn any advocacy of hatred or incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
The authorities must put measures in place to ensure politicians and their supporters do not infringe on human rights. They must announce clearly that there is zero-tolerance for human rights violations and that anyone suspected of wrongdoing will have no other mercy but to face the full wrath of the law.
The Edo election has been widely acknowledged nationwide as largely peaceful despite the small skirmishes recorded. It came as a pleasant surprise to many political watchers who had predicted massive violence. Many are wishing that subsequent elections in the country should wear the look of Edo 2020. And the voters proved them wrong?