Anxiety and tension have enveloped Benin City, capital of Edo State, Southsouth Nigeria, and other major towns as armed soldiers and anti-riot policemen take over roads and major streets in Benin City and Ekpoma, Uromi and Auchi.
Motorists and passers-by now have a hectic time moving through the major roads as security men, comprising of soldiers, anti-riot policemen, operatives of SSS and others conduct stop and search of all motor vehicles.
Traffic at the Benin City centre which is notorious for heavy human and vehicular movement got complicated as over 200 armed soldiers take over the Central Bank located along Akpakpava axis of the Ring Road where voting materials are kept.
Movement of sensitive materials for the governorship election from the Central Bank to the Ikpoba Hill-office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) resumed as early as 6.00 am today.
It was also gathered that the intensive patrol and the stop and search exercise might not be unconnected with allegations and counter allegations by some political parties about the circulation of fake INEC official identity cards and mobile police uniform.
Hundreds of local and foreign journalists covering the governorship election have continued to lay siege to the media and publicity office of INEC in Benin following their inability to get accredited for the exercise.
It was reliably gathered that the cards meant for journalists were being allocated to stalwarts of political parties who turned them over to their agents, which gave rise to suspicions that the agents might masquerade as journalists with a view to manipulating the election.
Most affected were visiting journalists (including TheNEWS/P.M.NEWS reporters) from other parts of the country who are in the state to over the election.
Apart from a few local journalists from government-owned media who received their accreditation cards yesterday, the Public Relations Officer of INEC, Mrs. Sule Imodu directed journalists yet to be accredited to come back today.
Meanwhile, political analysts are of the opinion that loyalists of the two major parties in the contest for the governorship, PDP and the ACN see as a do or die affair.
Between yesterday and this morning, the two parties were finalising their campaigns and strategising on the best ways to reach out to the people amid accusations and counter-accusations.
While the incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole is taking advantage of his administration’s success in the development of the state, the PDP candidate, Maj. Gen. Charles Airhiavbere is placing his confidence in the fact that he is from Edo-South, a zone where more than half of the electorate in the state reside.
“Airhiavbere is trying to buy the sympathies of the Bini people and this has torn the voters in this area apart.
“While some Bini people see him as their son, others see him in the light of his political party which many residents of the state do not want to relate with judging from their antecedents,” a resident of the state, John Edos told P.M.NEWS.
This may account for the reason Governor Oshiomhole, whose campaign posters have flooded the entire state, is not leaving anything to chance as his campaign train had taken over the state.
Another source explained that the major battle ground for the PDP and the ACN in the election is Benin, the state capital.
According to him, the Governor had touched many of the rural areas especially those forgotten by the past administrations of the PDP.
“So you can imagine that the confidence of the Governor in such areas. But there is serious uncertainty because we know of the desperation of some people to ensure they take over government by all means.
“I can however assure you that even if I am the last or only person, I will vote for Oshiomhole,” the resident said.
Some residents are expressing anxiety over the war-like nature Nigerian election is assuming. They are of the opinion that election should be free, devoid of the heavy presence of security personnel.
Reacting to the tension in Edo, the Publicity Secretary of ACN in Lagos State, Joe Igbokwe, said: “A keen observer of the political events in Edo State today will notice the unnecessary unacceptable and unwarranted tension being foisted on the good people of Edo State because of a governorship election in one state out of 36 States in Nigeria . It has been accusations and counter accusations in full scale, accusing fingers are being pointed, blames are being traded by rival political parties while INEC keeps mute as if nothing can be done.
“I feel concerned as a citizen of this country that things need not to be so in Edo State or any other State for that matter if we get things right in the first place. Some people were found conducting fake registration of voters some time ago and up till now INEC has not bothered to make public the people or Party committing the offence. We hear that forged INEC ID cards and fake voter cards are flying all over the place in Edo State and yet up till now INEC has not traced the source and those responsible. I urge INEC to get to the root of the matter and publish the names of people responsible whether they are ACN or PDP. Elections should not be a do or die affair in this country.”
—Eromosele Ebhomele, Folarin Ademosun Jethro Ibileke/Benin
Category: Benin City