THE anxiety and pressure have not abated as the candidates and parties put finishing touches to their strategies to win the july 14 governorship election in Edo State.
Last night, the seven political parties in the election – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Labour Party (LP), Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP) Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the National Conscience Party (NCP) – were still educating their agents on how to monitor the exercise and ensure that the votes of their supporters are not lost.
Incidentally, the apprehension is higher in the camps of the acclaimed frontrunners, ACN and PDP. Although the ANPP is considered of the contenders, its desperation does not match that of the PDP, which is keen on returning to the Government House after the ACN ousted it, via an Appeal Court ruling after the 2007 polls.
As both parties lay claim to success tomorrow, the leaders of the ACN said that the party is set to prove that its victory in the courts was not a fluke. The ACN leaders, like their counterparts in the PDP believe they have done enough mobilisation to woo the voters and win the election. This stance has raised questions of sportsmanship and the display of desperation to “win at all cost.”
The Director of Political Rallies for the Oshiomhole Campaign Organisation, former member of the House of Representatives, Patrick Obahiagbon told The Guardian yesterday that: “I expect a major victory for the ACN tomorrow (Saturday). The sweet aroma of victory is audible to the deaf and visible to blind. The people of Edo can no longer tolerate political megalomaniacs in the saddle of power, not after they have tasted the magical and utilitarian strides of the Comrade Governor in so short a space of time.”
He said he doesn’t expect anything short of victory because, “the people of Edo have since spoken and resolutely committed and determined to reward meritocracy and developmentalism, which they have found in Oshiomhole whilst consigning to historical and sociological obscurantism and atavistic politics of moneocrism and depreciable prebendalism.”
The ACN state party chairman, Thomas Okosun said that, “we deserve nothing short of victory, we have done a lot to win and so we have to win. We have worked round the clock to get to were we are now, and nothing short of victory awaits us.”
Sounding equally confident and optimistic, the PDP chairman in the state, Dan Orbih, said the former ruling party had worked tirelessly through the 192 wards and 18 local governments and therefore “we are looking forward to victory. We have done a lot of hard work and God willing, we shall win the election.
“The issue of the PDP not winning the election does not arise. We are looking forward to our expectations, which is that we will win the election on Saturday.”
The PDP publicity secretary, Matthew Uroghide said, “we have moved round to let the people know that PDP is a serious party. But politics is a game; you win or lose. It is not a do or die affair. If we win, we give glory to God, if we lose, we will give glory. It is the people of Edo who will decide the outcome of the election.”
The state chairman of the CPC, Godwin Erahon, whose party has adopted the incumbent governor said that the ACN would win by at least 75 per cent. He claims that, “it is impossible for the ACN not to win the election. I think the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is prepared enough for this election, the security agents should do everything possible to ensure safety.”
He explained that although his party has directed its supporters to vote for the ACN, “the CPC did not step down as its agents would still be at the polling stations to monitor the exercise.”
Meanwhile, a Benin socio-cultural group, Benin National Congress (BNC) said it remained committed to the re-election of Governor Oshiomhole just as it urged its members in the 192 wards of the state, to increase the tempo of grassroots sensitisation for the governor.
Addressing journalists in Benin City yesterday, the President of the Congress, Aiyamenkhue Edokpolo, described as “misleading and false” the claim by the PDP governorship candidate, Charles Airhiavbere that he was given a Sport Utility Vehicle as gratification from the governor’s camp to stop him from decamping to the PDP. According to him, “the conclusion is laced with falsehood because I am the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Politics and Strategy and a bonafide member of the ACN. It is amazing to say that I received an SUV from my boss not to decamp.”
He said: “The body language of the Benin people is clear and unambiguous. The BNC, as a deeply entrenched movement for the galvanisation of Benin patriotic agitation, is resolutely committed. No level of name dropping or untoward reference can derail this resolve of the people because we are not an ungrateful ethnic nationality.”
He urged Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “learn from the mistakes of the past by entrusting responsibilities to clear minded officers who will perform meritoriously in the discharge of their duties on the day of the election.”
As the voters wait for the polling booths to open tomorrow, the state chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has appealed to the people of the state to ensure a peaceful election.
In a statement yesterday, the chairman of the association, Philip Ugbodaga stated: “The responsibility to ensure a peaceful, free, fair, transparent, and credible election on July 14 in the state is not only the responsibility of INEC and the security agencies, but that of all Edo people. We call on political actors to refrain from using or inciting violence during the period and appeal for all the candidates and party leaders to put in check the activities of their party members and supporters.
“We hope that INEC will continue to set a good electoral example in Nigeria by displaying integrity, impartiality and technical competence in the conduct of the election. We look to the political parties to respect the Electoral Code of Conduct, and to focus on the issues that will benefit the people of Edo. We encourage the media and civil society on the need to be diligent custodians of democracy. And finally, we look to the people of Edo to show the way by turning out massively in the democratic process and choosing freely and fairly those who will govern them.”
The electoral commission yesterday said it was concluding accreditation of journalists and election observers in the state. It said all sensitive materials, kept at the Benin branch of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been retrieved. Meanwhile party leaders from the local governments and wards were sighted the secretariat of the PDP, ACN, ANPP and others awaiting materials and mobilisation for the agents.
Security agents have not been left out of the preparation for the election. yesterday, the new commissioner of police Olufemi Adenaike, said the Police command was fully prepared and ready in the business of policing the state and willing to collaborate with other security agencies to provide adequate security for Edo people as well as the protection of lives and properties during and after the election.
“No highly placed politician or government official would be allowed to go about with their security details or be accorded VIP treatment during the governorship election,” he said.
“The police are ready to help make the election fair, free and transparent as we will be at every strategic position across the state to put a check on anybody who may want to ferment trouble during the election.”
He said the election should not be seen as a do-or-die affair. He called on politicians and government officials not to go to polling centers with their security details, as it will amount to an electoral offence.
He said: “This is not a do-or-die affair. It is a game of numbers. Somebody must win and somebody must lose. Whoever loses should take it gallantly and prepare for another time. Edo people are good people; they are decent people. I believe that they are not ready to foment trouble. Whoever makes trouble is not from Edo.
“We will ensure that there is peace before, during and after the election. We have been here before, and we will continue to be here during and after the election to ensure security of the people and their properties.”
The decision of the Federal Government to deploy 3,500 troops to Edo to monitor the election has drawn the ire and suspicion of the ACN national leadership. While the House of Representatives had debated the matter on Wednesday, the ACN National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed called on the Federal Government and President Goodluck Jonathan to beware of undue interference and taking steps capable of causing crisis during and after the election.
Following the announcement of the deployment of the troops, there was chaos in the House of Representatives as rival party members took partisan positions over the deployment of troops ahead of the election.
The uproar ensued after the statement that was credited to INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega and acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar that the election would be used to test run the pledge to ensure free and fair elections in the country.
The confusion in the House started as a motion challenging the deployment of about the soldiers divided the lawmakers. Incidentally, the motion was quashed through a voice vote even though there was no clear-cut division between those for and against the motion.
Specifically, the motion, introduced by Bimbo Daramola had set the PDP-dominated House of Reps against the members of the other parties in the House.
Mohammed said ACN’s position “on the deployment plan, is clear. If the move was aimed at forestalling violence and crisis during and after the election, then we have no objection to it. However, if it is otherwise as already alleged, then there would be problem.”
He said apart from the deployment of troops, “we are also demanding that a due process of law be followed before such action is taken. This is an election and there are stakeholders involved. The Federal Government is a stakeholder while we are also stakeholders, therefore there is need for caution.”
He added that if the plan was to rig the election in favour of the PDP against the ruling ACN, “it is going to lead to a serious crisis. The people of Edo are capable of defending their votes.”
Mohammed also faulted the directives from the IGP who ordered the redeployment the state Commissioner of Police and all the Area Commanders and Divisional Police Officers (DPO’s) in the state. According to the ACN publicity secretary, “how would the new officers start and what would they do within the short period to the election. The decision is worrisome and we hope that it is not part of PDP’s strategy to manipulate the election. But whatever the situation, it is our candid opinion that the PDP should not make any attempts towards rigging the election. They should rather allow for peoples’ vote to count.”
Debunking the allegation raised by Oshiomhole that the state was already flooded with fake ballot papers, the INEC boss said that the election would be conducted with customised ballot papers.
Jega said the governorship poll would serve as a test whether the commission is capable of conducting a free and fair election after the much-criticized 2011 general election.
According to Jega, “INEC wanted to use Edo as a test case in the conduct of a free and fair election. Any form of thuggery and militancy on the day of election would be met with a corresponding force.”
He said that security agencies would apprehend and prosecute electoral offenders during the election. “There would be no VIP movement or convoy of any sort on the day of the election. We are saying that in accordance with the law; VIP convoy of any sort is banned as we have done in all previous elections.
He also urged all stakeholders irrespective of persons to comply with this order. On whether voters can wait at polling units after casting their votes, he said “we will accept a situation where the voters would decide to stay back after voting, but they must not be unruly otherwise the security personnel may ask them to leave.’’
Jega advised political parties and their candidates to appoint only trusted people as agents to represent their interests during the election.
The PDP and ACN have their reasons for being desperate to control of the state. Since the PDP lost control of Edo in 2008 to the ACN, the party has never hidden its desperate desire to recapture the state. “PDP still hold the view that the ruling ACN did not actually gain the mandate through the peoples vote and is therefore not popular enough to continue controlling the state,” said a party chieftain.
It is also believed that both parties are in dire need to have control of the state ahead of the 2015 presidential election. For ACN, its control of the state will confer on it the respectable toga of being a national party, and not a South West regional party.
Said a chieftain of the party in Lagos: “As for now ACN is only strong in the South West zone where it controls five states out of the six in the zone. Its present control of Edo is one of the factors giving the party a national outlook. If peradventure it loses the election in Edo, it is certain that its plans for 2015 will be derailed.”
Observers have also said that the party needed to win Edo “in order to maintain its moral and psychological confidence ahead of the October governorship election in Ondo where it is hopes to oust the ruling Labour Party (LP).”
A win for the ACN will also prove its critics wrong that, “it is a party that has perfected the act of winning election through the tribunal rather than the direct voting. The incumbent governor at a recent workshop on the Edo polls, said that the election will be won at lost at the polling booths.”
For the PDP, “Edo is a must win.” Apart from the fact that the party is to overcome how it came to lost control of the state to rival ACN, source from the party said the President Jonathan who is from South-South geopolitical zone where the state belongs, “is not comfortable that the state is under the control of the rival ACN. The election is a battle of ego between Mr. President and the rival ACN.”
Another fear within the PDP camp about failing to regain Edo this time is that the rival ACN might use the state as inroad to winning other states within the South-South zones like it did in the South West during the 2011 election when it used Lagos to regain control of the South West from PDP.
Whatever the situation is, the election umpire has a point to prove to Nigerians and the entire world through the manner it handles tomorrow’s election that it is capable to conduct free and fair election while the poll is already a matter of ego and chances between the rival ACN and PDP.
According to Mohammed, “we are going to prove that ACN is the peoples party. It has succeeded through effective governance to convince that it is a better alternative to PDP.
But Orbih said ACN should by now realise that they have a bad product in Oshiomhole, “they can’t sell him to the people of Edo again.”
Orbih said tomorrow’s election will not be will not be determined by the lies ACN have been dishing out.
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Category: Benin City