It is gubernatorial election time once again in Edo State.
The spectre, speeches, songs and drums of violence are perceived and heard again everywhere in the state and beyond.
Citizens of the state are particularly uncomfortable about the conspicuous weight of violence heralding the forthcoming election.
It is dangerous. It is unhealthy. Above all, it runs counter to the spirit and practice of democracy.
Democracy is about a contest of ideas and winning the hearts of the people. It is not about who has more access to violence and vote buying.
Four years ago, the signs were similarly conspicuous when the same gubernatorial candidates who were respective leaders of their parties slugged it out.
This time the signs have been highly ominous especially as the contesting leaders and candidates have switched parties.
The incumbent governor, who has since irredeemably quarreled with his erstwhile godfather Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, has crossed over to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the then main opposition party, from the All Progressives Congress (APC), under whose banner and support he won the gubernatorial election in 2016.
Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the PDP flag-bearer in 2016 is now the candidate of the of the APC in the forthcoming elections.
Ize-Iyamu has been anointed by Mr. Oshiomhole, immediate past national chairman of the APC. Godfather Oshiomhole has exchanged his former godson, now bitterly estranged from him, with his once sworn political enemy.
A major factor responsible for the spectre and loud notes of violence in Edo gubernatorial politics and impending election is the conflict between former godson Obaseki and former godfather Oshiomhole.
Their respective cohorts have taken sides with their respective leaders.
They are prepared to go the whole hog to win the election of Saturday, September 19, 2020. They have sworn to make the violence that characterized previous elections in the state a child’s play.
Allegations and counter-allegations from the parties’ leaders and stalwarts clearly indicate that both sides are ready to unleash acts of lawlessness, needless violence on the electorate.
There have been reports of shootings at campaign venues and of kidnappings of political opponents.
In other words, we are not dealing with mere threats of violence or psychological war-fare employed by the candidates, leaders and their supporters.
The IGP must compel the state’s police commissioner to impound all imported arms, weapons and guns that have entered and are still entering the state.
A video in which the APC candidate was seen and heard telling some political thugs whom he called his lions and tigers to get ready for battle has gone viral. There is no evidence of denial of the video.
In a television interview which Obaseki’s deputy, Philip Shaibu, granted, the PDP were (and are) prepared to meet violence with violence any time any day.
The Daily Times disagrees with the bloody-minded gladiators.
What they should sell to the electorate in the 122 voting wards of the state is their respective programmes.
These should be the subjects/themes of their campaigns. Violence will not help the people before and after the election.
The good people of Edo State want peace and prosperity. The egos of the candidates and of their godfathers are secondary.
Security operatives must perform their duties diligently, and scrupulously without fear or favour.
The destructive federal or local might, as witnessed in Ekiti State and Rivers State in the last gubernatorial elections must not be witnessed in Edo State.
It is heartening that the viral video concerning the discussion between Professor Agboola Ibrahim Gambari, Chief of Staff to the president, and Oshiomhole on the “plot” to employ “federal might” in the election has been discountenanced by the presidency.
Security operatives and personnel must not allow themselves to be compromised in any way and in whatever form.
They must cage all electoral thugs and send electoral tigers and lions to the zoo.
Furthermore, we call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to create a level playing ground for all contestants.
The will of the people must prevail. INEC must tell the candidates and their supporters that Edo people must live as one family peacefully and prosperously regardless of the candidate who wins or loses.
INEC must proclaim and guarantee non-partisanship and free and fair election.
Fittingly, the highly revered Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, has called on the candidates, the parties and Edo people to eschew violence.
As the state’s pre-eminent cultural and traditional custodian of peace and progress, all stakeholders must listen to his words of caution.
We commend the Edo State Chapter of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for preaching peace to the electorate.
We also applaud other concerned organizations and persons who have called on the people to vote for the candidates of their choice peacefully and without fear of the promoters of electoral violence.
The elections are about the people whose votes must count at the end of the day. There is life beyond elections.
This is what the gladiators must realize as they prepare for the elections.