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Lessons from Edo gubernatorial election

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The Edo State governorship election has left a lot to be reflected upon by stakeholders particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The commission will have to come up with innovative ways to improve and strengthen the electoral processes in the conduct of future elections, as well as addressing observed challenges, especially the worrying issues of vote-buying, multiple voting, election violence, among others.

The exercise was fraught with some irregularities. Both APC and PDP were guilty of voter inducement before and after casting of ballot.

However, these irregularities did not come to many stakeholders as a surprise, as the practice is fast becoming a norm in Nigeria’s electoral lexicon, where both the young and old alike negotiate with parties on what to get as a reward for casting votes for a particular party. May adduce the development to poverty, which they say the ruling class deploys as a weapon to perpetually keep the rest of society at their beck and call. Others point at illiteracy and greed as part of several irregularities that undermine Nigeria’s electoral fidelity.

While INEC may be excused on some of the issues above, it is yet to put its house in order in other areas. There were widespread reports of smartcard readers malfunctioning across the state, just as there was lack of compliance with voting guidelines and COVID-19 protocols. Governor Obaseki was first to raise the alarm over smart card readers malfunctioning.

According to Obaseki, “I expected better preparation on the part of those saddled with the responsibility to conduct this election. To wait for one and a half hours on the queue before exercising my franshise is a bit disappointing. Given that this is a sole day’s election, I expected better planning and preparation, and resources should have been put into this election.

“At the last presidential election, in my polling unit, there were two polling points, which eased the burden on voters. You all are witnesses to how long it has taken.”

He was also concerned about the issue of vote-buying, describing it as a bane in the electoral system. He blamed the ugly trend on INEC and security agencies’ nonchalant attitude to checking the menace.

At Ward 4, polling units 7 to 9, Obe Primary School, Sabongida-Ora Local Council, political parties’ agents allegedly got a number of voters to write down their names in order to benefit from the N5,000 largesse.

Obaseki identified many of the issues that characterised the governorship election to include non-functional smart card readers, INEC’s unpreparedness, particularly regarding the issue of vote-buying and malfunctioning card readers.

“You can see cars parked with a lot of cash being disbursed to people to buy votes,” Obaseki said, “and it seems to be normal practice, but we are not perturbed as people know what to do.”

He frowned on security personnel, which condoned the act of voting-buying in almost every voting centre, even after he said that the security agencies had earlier promised to arrest and sanction persons trying to truncate the election in whatever guise in the state.

“The security agencies assured us that they won’t allow anybody who doesn’t have a business of voting into a particular place, but they worked contrary to what they promised us,” Obaseki said.

Obaseki spent a long time in the queue due to smart card reader failure at his polling unit.

According to the governor, “The card reader here is working slowly, and this is the situation in all the major voting centres in Oredo Local Government Area of the state as I speak. At Garrick Memorial School, I understand that over 500 voters are already stranded because they can’t vote due to the slow processing of the card reader.

“One would have expected that INEC will have deployed more card readers and more voting points in high-density polling centres.”

The party’s spokesman, Chris Nehikare, also alleged plans by INEC staff to subvert the will of the people of Unit 3, Ward 3, in Orhionmwon LGA. According to him, at the point of declaring the result, it was discovered that the accredited number of voters was less than the total number of votes cast.

While exonerating the commission of neglect or complicity, INEC’s Commissioner for Communication and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, told The Guardian that the commission had no enforcement powers. While stressing that safety and proper conduct during election remain collective responsibility, Okoye said that INEC issued enough warnings, noting that the electoral body does not have its own police force to enforce physical distancing, wearing of face masks and other protocols.

The electoral umpire, however, expressed displeasure over the open buying of votes by political parties.

National Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who also expressed hinted that the electoral body would engage with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to get first hand records on what really transpired on election day.

“Our partnership with the EFCC and ICPC is robust,” Yakubu said. “We even included both agencies in the Inter-agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). We will meet and find out what happened, and see if there are lessons to learn from the Edo election.”

At least one death was reported due to election violence in Ovia Southwest, Ward 9, and 10, where a woman and APC agent was reportedly shot dead. The Convener of Stop

Other stakeholders, including non-governmental organisations, YIAGA Africa’s Watch The Vote (WTV) pre-election analysis of Saturday’s Edo governorship election had similarly raised concern over allegation of voter inducement among the two major contenders at the expense of issue-based politics.

Chairman, Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote Edo 2020 Observation Mission, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi Umar, expressed disappointment over the two major political parties’ sinister activities regarding the distribution of money and gift items as a strategy to swing voters.

“Since Yiaga Africa commenced the Pre-Election Observation (PREO) in July 2020, voters inducement has been a recurring decimal. Political parties, especially the APC and PDP, are investing in the distribution of money and gift items as a strategy to swing voters.

“Within this period, Long Term Observers (LTOs) reported incidences of voters inducement in Igueben, Oredo, Ikpoba-Okha, Etsako Central, Owan West, Ovia South West, Egor, Ovia North East, Esan West, and Esan South East LGAs. These incidences occurred during campaign rallies.”

Similarly, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), in conjunction with the Edo State Civil Society Organisation (EDOCSO), had earlier called on the federal government to set up electoral malpractices Mobile Court to deal with electoral offenders following the rampant vote-buying and violence recorded during the September 19 Edo governorship election.

TMG chairman, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, at a media parley in Benin City 24 hours to the Edo guber election, said the mobile court became necessary in view of persistent electoral offenders and to strengthen the country’s democracy.

Basing its observation on the electioneering campaigns, the TMG chairman Mobile Court when established will try electoral malpractices offenders during electioneering campaign and on election day, adding that the idea is to deter people from engaging in electoral malpractices, violence and ensure that election is free, fair, peaceful and credible.


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