Edo 2016: Stage set for voters’ verdict
It is no longer in doubt, that the 2016 Edo governorship election has a lot of contending issues surrounding it. Like the 2015 general election, a postponement had to be done in deference to security concerns raised by security agents. What would have necessitated another shift was the coronation of the Oba of Benin.
Given the prime of place accorded to the traditional institution in the state, many people had wondered why the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would fix the state wide election close to the period of the installation of the head of the traditional governance institution.
Perhaps, on account of the monumental cost the postponement of the governorship poll, earlier fixed for September 10, on the electoral body and its image, INEC made it clear that it would not contemplate another shift in date.
However, applying native wisdom for common good, the Benin Traditional Council, which moderates the events pertaining to the installation of the Oba, decided to move the ceremony away to allow the people get done with the poll and continue with their lives.
Just as the Edo governorship is overdue, the coronation of Crown Prince Ehenede Erediauwa, Edaiken N’Uselu, has turned full traditional cycle. But since one thing must give for all round peace in the state, Edo people expressed relief when the Enogie of Evbobanosa, Professor Gregory Akenzua, who is also the chairman of Coronation Planning Committee, announced October 20 as the new date for the installation of the new Oba.
While the issue of West African School Certificate Examination had also been isolated from the encumbrances of the governorship poll, the recent alteration of the coronation plans, paves the way for the eventual conduct of the election.
Consequently, the burden of organising a free, fair and credible election now lies on INEC, political parties and the security agencies. The Edo governorship poll has a lot of implications for the Nigeria, because the outcome would serve as a screen gauge of the performance of the All Progressives Congress (APC), both in the past eight years in Edo and sixteen months at the federal level.
Should APC and its governorship candidate lose the election, the verdict may indirectly imply citizens’ disappointment with the party. Should that happen, it would affect the psychological composure of the party and the federal government, as well as, leave some impact in the Ondo governorship election.
Those considerations seem to be behind the war of words by political leaders in the state. Outgoing Governor Adams Oshiomhole declared with some measure of confidence that his successor would not emerge from the political family of former Governor Lucky Igbinedion. The former governor had predicted that Edo people would reject the APC governorship candidate on account of the chains of economic and social strangulation brought about by the ruling party.
Oshiomhole disagreed with Igbinedion that the governorship candidate of the PDP, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu would win the election by a wide margin, stressing that Edo people having seen the light would not want to go back to the house of political godfathers.
Although the exchanges by the leading politicians could be dismissed as the furtherance of the normal politicking and belief on their respective parties to win, they leave a faint suggestion that the ruling party may be forced to throw the federal might into the civic contest.
The earnest wish of most Edo voters is that the election should be won and lost on the first ballot. But the choice seems not to be an easy one for most voters, especially against the background that the candidates do not show great disparities. The two front row candidates present themselves as emerging leaders standing on the shoulders of political giants.
Voters’ could either close their eyes and cast blind votes or open their eyes wide to assess the governorship applicants on the basis of their understanding or otherwise of who should deliver the Edo State of their dreams. To achieve their purpose, voters would need a secure atmosphere and functional election gadgets to deliver their verdict. Edo voters would need the following guarantees from the following agencies:
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), under Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, has been tried and tested in the tricky art of conducting elections more than any other dispensation. Going by that experience and exposure, INEC should not give Edo voters excuses on September 28. Card readers must be made functional, just as incident forms should be made to be in adequate supply to cover slips in the electronic gadgets.
Furthermore, since INEC says that accreditation and voting should take place simultaneously, the electoral body must ensure that the process ends uniformly, accommodating time lost on late arrival of materials. But by now the ghost of late arrival of electoral materials, particularly the sensitive ones, should have been laid to permanent rest.
The security agencies should have by now learned how to distance themselves from partisanship and side with the people to freely cast their votes without intimidation, inducement or ill will. The Edo governorship election offers the Nigeria Police a golden opportunity to redeem its battered image. Rivalry between the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, or even with the military should not be allowed to feature in the election.
Politicians should leave the voters to deliver their verdict, having watched, listened and appreciated the various messages the candidates put forward. The politicians should for the first time endeavour to abide by the rules and regulations as set out in the Electoral Law. Most often, the outbreak of violence and inducement of security personnel are always traceable to the desperation of politicians to tip the balance against the wishes of the people.
It would be seen whether the past 17 years of democracy have produced genuine voters that are guided by their conscience and patriotic considerations.
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