How Edo election was decided
• Manifest financial inducement
• Civility underplays heavy presence of security
At the end of the fierce electoral contest, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the All Progressives Congress (APC), governorship candidate, Godwin Obaseki, winner of the polls.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has kicked against the results, calling it “a rape on democracy.”
Ize-Iyamu who claimed that the election did not meet the minimum requirement of a free and fair election, accused INEC of colluding with APC to announcement results that were fake irrespective of the protest by his party.Interestingly, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, was defeated at his polling unit 2, ward 2 , in Oredo Local government council area where the wife of PDP governorship candidate, Dr. Idia ize-Iyamu, also voted.
The election was allegedly characterized by voters’ inducement by the major parties; although the exercise was peaceful and devoid of electoral violence, with adequate security agents on ground to ensure a hitch free election.In spite of the defeat in his polling unit and allegation of financial inducement against his party, Odigie-Oyegun, expressed satisfaction with the conduct and turnout of voters for the election.
“They always say it. It always happens. But voters are not fools. What we tell them is take the money, vote your conscience. I am positive, it isn’t hope, I am certain we are going to win. We are going to win. It is an APC state, the government has performed fantastically, people see, know and acknowledge it,” he said.
The atmosphere generally at the state capital, was calm and peaceful as security agents were on the ground to ensure safety of lives and property. The deployment of security operatives across the state and major streets in Benin City ensured a peaceful conduct of the election, which had generated so much security concerns.
Obaseki, who described the exercise as very peaceful, said the turnout of persons for the polls was also very impressive.”The officers from INEC are doing their best and there is sufficient security and nobody is punching or crowding them. If the situation continues this way, certainly it is something we are going to be pleased about. Let’s wait and see at the end for the day whether we exceed the expectations. And I am quite pleased with what the security agents have done. We had to come here unarmed because they got all policemen attached
to VIPs withdrawn,” he said moments after voting.
Obaseki explained that there were reports of few hitches in Edo North but there was a general understanding to resolve those problems. According to him, there were isolated cases of agents not coming on time or the INEC officials not being at the polling stations on time.
However, at Ezoti Primary School, Oredo Ward 1, there were pockets of violence as a notable chieftain of the APC in the locality reportedly chased away some PDP party agents from the centre with guns.
Early arrival, distribution and deployment of personnel and materials for the election, made the process hitch free and devoid of electoral violence that characterized previous election.
There was also little or no complaints of card readers malfunctioning as eligible voters turned out early to perform their civic responsibility by casting their votes for candidates of their choice without fear or intimidation.INEC was commended for their timely distribution of materials and personnel for the exercise, which commenced at exactly 8am.
Financial inducement of voters
As Edo voters thronged out massively to vote, some voters lamented the high level of voters inducement by some party agents, who were openly persuading eligible voters to cast their vote for certain parties.
However, a chieftain of the APC, names withheld, was allegedly arrested with over 3,000 Permanent Voters Card (PVCs) and a cash sum of Fifteen Million Naira found on him by the Military in Ward 2, Oredo Local Council Area, where the PDP ward leader in Ward 2, Austin Ebo, ensured landslide victory for the PDP in the locality.
At the APC governorship candidate’s polling centre, Emokpae Primary School, which allegedly recorded high level voters’ inducement by agents of the party, the APC won all the units in the centre.The polling centre of the PDP candidate in the 2012 governorship election, Maj. Gen. Charles Airhiavbere who defected to the APC, was also not spared in the money sharing spree as voters were seen collecting money before voting for the APC.
It was gathered that the same issue of voter’s inducement characterized the exercise in other local government councils in Edo South.Voters were seen receiving between N2, 000 to N3, 000 per person to vote for a party. The incidences of inducement were recorded in almost all the centres monitored, however the wife of the PDP governorship candidate, raised alarm attracting security agencies to check the activities of some party agents believed to be APC members.
Mrs. Ize-Iyamu, alleged that APC agents induced voters with N3,000 each and intimidating voters; that voters urged to vote and show the party they voted for before receiving the token as appreciation from the party.”We started on time but the only hitch we had were some APC agents inducing voters with N3000 and standing right beside the ballot box compelling them to show them their thumbprint ballot paper as a confirmation that they voted for them. We have raised alarm and we cried out and the security agents are up to the task”An eligible voter, who identified himself as Joseph Oshiogwe condemned the sharing of money by both parties, saying the idea has defeated the beauty of the exercise and democracy.
Others, who frowned at the sharing of money to induce voters, argued that the money sharing at the voting centres across the state distracted voters who genuinely wanted to vote their choice. In Edo Central, turn out for the exercise was impressive. Throughout the Central Senatorial district, the weather was clement, which aided the large turn out. Nonetheless, there were minor hitches and problems where some people complained they could not find their names on the Voter Register and were disqualified from voting.
In other instances, some voters found their names but the card reader could not read their card; they were also disqualified. However, those whose PVCs were accepted by the machine but their fingerprints rejected were offered Emergence Forms to fill and subsequently allowed to vote.
Across the three Senatorial districts, Edo South, Central and North, the election was generally peaceful though marked with heavy presence of security agents that included armed military and mobile police personnel. They prevented unauthorized movement.In Edo Central, a former Chairman Board of Trustees(BoT) Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih and the party’s running mate, John Yakubu, who cast their votes at Uzenema Primary School, Arue Uromi in Esan North East, commended the process. Aneneih and Yakubu, who voted at unit eight confirmed the election materials arrived on time and that the turn out was impressive.
However, Yakubu told reporters that some APC agents in Uromi induced voters with money to vote.In Esan West, a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of PDP, Mr. Joe Edionwere, who represents Esan West, Central and Igbueben Federal Constituency commended the process.As at 2pm, accreditation and voting were still on across the five local governments in Edo Central due to the large turn and minor faults from the card reader machines in some instances. The State PDP Secretary, Felix Emosele told journalists that aside the issues with the card reader, which was sorted out two hours after the election, started, “The exercise was a success.”
In some motor parks, markets and public places, the election was the subject of the day. While in anticipation of the result, the supporters of the two popular parties in the exercise were discussing the chances of the two leading parties.
While the adherents of the ruling APC insisted the incumbent and outgoing governor, Adams Oshiomhole has performed, those in the camp of the PDP claimed the ruling party has failed and deserved to be changed.On the allegation of inducing voters with money, a taxi driver alleged that both parties were guilty of the offense, saying: “I witnessed where the agents of both parties were giving money. I also took part in it.”
Anxiety during collation
Resident of Benin City were thrown into sudden panic yesterday when some PDP youths stormed INEC headquarters while collation of results was ongoing. They claimed that INEC, in collaboration with the ruling party shortchanged them in the exercise at Oredo and Aduwawa area of Oredo local government.The youths claimed that the results announced for the voting that took place in the areas did not reflect what actually took place. According to them, they voted for PDP and not the APC that was proclaimed winner.
However, the massive presence of the security was able to prevent the situation from degenerating into chaos.Also some of the voters who bared their minds on the election described the election as one of the most credible and peaceful election in the area.However there were earlier issues of the card readers not reading some cards, but was subsequently addressed by the electoral officers.
One of the security agent who spoke to our reporter said he was delighted that when the card reader was posing some challenges they all (security, INEC and party agents) agreed that voters name should be checked with their permanent cards on the register to be sure before being allowed to vote.
A voter, Paul Ologboyo Gomina said he is particularly glad and happy to be on ground for the exercise. “I have just voted for the candidate of my choice which I am expecting others to do as expected.Former Leader of the House of Representatives, Tunde Akogun told The Guardian that the exercise was peaceful from available information but said he was uncomfortable of rumours of “ghost votes” which he alleged would be used to boost final results.
There was an air of civility and conviviality at the several places visited by The Guardian was noticed.There was heavy presence of security operatives including army, police, men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps. However the over eight roadblocks mounted by the army between Agbede, border town between Edo central and Edo north senatorial district to Igarra and Lamepese the border between Edo and Kogi state, there was no qualms. The security personnel were polite and friendly as they searched carefully vehicles on election duty before they were allowed to move while those not on election duty were detained until after 4 pm.
Nature as at play yesterday in the state capital as the Returning Officer for the Edo state governorship election, Prof. Kayode Soremekun declared Obaseki, the APC candidate, winner of the election and governor-elect. The sky opened up resulting in heavy downpour.
Supporters of Obaseki and his party, sprung to the streets across the state to celebrate the victory, defying the rain. Some of them observed: “It was God’s doing that throughout the election exercise on Wednesday, there was no rain, which they claimed aided the large turnout and facilitated smooth running of the election.
One of them, while jubilating told The Guardian that anyone that was in Edo State during the eight year rule of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion of the PDP compared to the last eight years, would not hesitate to vote for success.
Although, many of the people still reserved their respect for the PDP being the fact that the party is in control of the South South region, they said, “Such a sentiment could not be staked for the development and growth of our state.”A taxi driver, in his comment said, “There is still room for the PDP to bounce back if it puts his house in order and place the interest of the masses above their pockets.”
Most public bars in Benin bubbled up for joy after the result was declared as they urged those who have anything against the conduct of the election to go to the tribunal instead of taking to the streets in violence.An elderly woman in Uromi yesterday also congratulated Obaseki but was quick to admonish him on the need to place the people and the development of the state and its infrastructure before other priorities, even above the interest of his party.
For the youths, who took to the streets in thousand, their demand was that Obaseki should do all within his capacity to generate jobs and create enabling environment for those in the private sector to blossom.
Voters were visibly seen receiving between N2, 000 to N3, 000 per person for voting for their party. The incidences of inducement were recorded in almost all the centres monitored, however the wife of the PDP governorship candidate, raised alarm attracting security agencies to check the activities of some party agents believed to be APC members.