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With polls shift in Edo, contenders vary tactics


Those who think the recent postponement of governorship election in Edo State to September 28 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has doused tensions associated with the exercise are mistaken. Otei Oham reports that the shift is rather varying the candidates’ tactics and moving the battle away from public glare

The intensity with which political parties and stakeholders campaigned for the rescheduled governorship election in Edo State in the past few months is an indication of how anxious their preferred candidates are in occupying the plum seat at the Edo State Government House. When it was thought that the polls was two days ahead, the candidates became fiercer in the battlefield.

Unknown to them and political watchers in and outside the state, the security agencies observed their aggressiveness, coupled with fears of possible aggression by insurgents and other mischief makers that they had to cut short their so-called desperation. The Nigeria Police Force and the Department of State Security (DSS) had in a joint statement ahead of the earlier date of the election advised strongly that the Edo State election should not hold because of threat from “extremists” and “insurgents” hoping to disrupt the exercises.

Since it was without consultation with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the electoral body could not confirm the position of the security agencies when it was contacted. It was a moment of uncertainty for everyone. It paved the way for fiercer moments where candidates and their supporters discredited their opponents, spitting venoms and boasting on how they would humiliate their challengers at the poll on the D-day.

Hours before the announcement of the postponement, pandemonium erupted at Okpella, Etsako East Local Government area of the state as supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) clashed with those of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was alleged that the incident started brewing in the early hours of Thursday when some PDP supporters were alleged to have threatened to carry out attack on any Okpella person supporting the ruling APC in Okpella. The occurrence, it was claimed, confirmed the fears of security agencies in going ahead with the election as earlier planned.

The state governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was restless all through in reeling out reasons why voters in the state should vote for continuity. He swore to bury PDP, the main political party standing in his way, at the end of the day. He also intensified his consultations among stakeholders in state, including those in his party – APC. At every door, he relied on what he claimed to have achieved in the state in the last eight years and sought for the endorsement of his party candidate- Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

Obaseki is the pioneer chairman of the Edo State Economic and Strategy Team inaugurated by Governor Oshiomhole in March 2009.

Undoubtedly, Obaseki’s lofty credentials meet a huge challenge in the political experience of his PDP contender, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

On the other side is Pastor Ize-Iyamu, the governorship candidate of the PDP. A lawyer and politician, Ize-Iyamu is a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Edo State Government. A founding member of the APC in Edo; a member of the group that brought Oshiomhole to power and served as Oshiomhole’s campaign director for the second tenure.

He had earlier served as national vice-chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). After dumping the APC, Ize-Iyamu joined the PDP and became the Edo coordinator of the Goodluck/Sambo Campaign for the 2015 presidential election. He is well known for his oratory prowess.

The shift of date for the poll, analysts say, has not extinguished the flames of the contest. As soon as Solomon Soyebi, the INEC national Commissioner in-charge of Voter Education and Publicity, announced the shift in date for the election at a press conference at the commission’s office in Benin on Thursday, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose and PDP reacted in condemnation of the postponement. They described the decision of INEC as “a coup against the people of Edo State.”

In a statement, the PDP said changing the date “was a less than ingenious attempt to ‘buy time’ for the governing All Progressives Congress. It is shameful and indeed a major constitutional breach for the security agencies to act in concert with the APC to truncate an Election that had been planned for months,” the party said in a statement signed by Dayo Adeyeye, its interim spokesperson.

“Nigerians were not deceived by the obvious concoctions of the security agencies whose performances during elections have been less than average since the advent of the Buhari Administration. The postponement of the Election by INEC is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the peoples’ trust in the Commission and the security agencies.

“It is a coup against the people of Edo State in particular and Nigerians in general. Since APC assumed power, virtually all elections conducted by INEC have either been inconclusive or truncated,” the party stated

In his reaction, Governor Fayose described the postponement as “beginning of the end for democracy in Nigeria. It is obvious that the All Progressives Congress (APC) fears that it can’t win the election and is ready to employ whatever crude means to subvert the wish of the people. How can you postpone an election less than 48 hours to the scheduled date? What manner of security concern could prevent an election in just one state when elections were held in Northeast States that are confronted by Boko Haram insurgents?”

However, for Oshiomhole, the postponement merely delayed the burial of PDP in Edo State as APC was “over prepared” for the election. “However security issues are security issues. And as regards elections, they are very critical. If on their own they are calling on INEC for postponement I am sure they must have their reasons because they are experts,” he added.

Other political factors also come to play to make the contest interesting. Edo state has about 1,925,105 registered voters from the 18 local government areas. Of this, Edo South, where the two candidates come from has seven of the 18 local government areas and is home to about 57.4 percent of the population of the state.

To be declared governor, a candidate must win majority votes in most of the 18 local governments, and score 25 percent in at least 12 of the 18 local governments. This is in addition to winning the highest number of votes in the election.

Observers say the APC will easily take Edo North, where Oshiomhole comes from, but would be defeated in the Central district, a traditional PDP stronghold where the likes of Chief Tony Anenih; former Works minister, Mike Onolememen, and other bigwigs of the PDP hail from.

The battleground is the South. To this end, the target of each of the candidates is winning maximum votes from Egor, Oredo and Ikpoba/Okha local governments, which have a combined voter capacity of about 800,000. Whoever takes these local governments may be returned governor.

That permutation explains the concentration of campaigns within these lines; the APC government is determined to limit the opposition’s strength and campaign space in the South, while the PDP on its part is not resting on its oars and it is resolute in altering its campaign strategies in the remaining days to take the advantage.

The strategies that would be deployed by the main contending parties, their candidates and supporters in this extra time would ultimately determine their success at the September 28 poll.

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