Edo heads to poll amid violence, COVID-19, vote-buying fears


By Felix Oboagwina

Edo indigenes will be battling anxieties about violence, votebuying and Coronavirus infection as they troop out tomorrow for the governorship election to choose which one of two foremost politicians to be their state’s helmsman in the next four years.

In a broadcast on Wednesday, Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, had assured citizens of adequate security.

He announced movement restriction throughout the state during the election. People would be barred from moving from one polling unit to another, except for INEC staffers and accredited journalists bearing proper identification.

Journalists in Benin City, the capital said yesterday that online accreditation was cumbersome and many were yet to get the tag to enable them travel around the state on E-Day.

Only duly-accredited pressmen and thousands of certified local and international observers would be allowed to observe how the no fewer than 20,974 INEC permanent and ad hoc staffers will conduct affairs in the 2,627 polling units and several collation centres that the commission created throughout the state.

The IGP spoke in the wake of citizens nursing anxiety over possible violence unleashed by hoodlums on politicians’ payrolls.

The police responded by posting about 30,000 cops to maintain security throughout the streets and polling units, besides hundreds of plain-clothed agents and members of the civil defence corps.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) cleared 14 candidates from 14 registered political parties for Saturday’s contest, but pundits noted the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his foremost challenger in the All Progressives Congress (APC) Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the two main gladiators.

INEC said it would be using the last compiled register with 2,210,334 voters for the poll, an indication that thousands could find themselves disenfranchised.

Social distancing and lockdown protocols, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, officially take the blame for the commission’s inability to deliver over 483,000 permanent voter cards (PVCs) to those who duly registered.

According to INEC’s Public Affairs Officer for Edo State, Ms Tina Obamogie, the commission could not distribute the PVCs because of COVID-19 lockdown exigencies, which forced it to fall back on the 2019 voter register containing 2,210,334 persons.

That electoral register was used for the 2019 Presidential, National Assembly and State House of Assembly polls conducted in Edo State.

The register forms part of the non-sensitive electoral materials that the INEC national headquarters already distributed since July to its 18 local government area offices in the state.

The APC and PDP spent much of the past weeks trading accusations about the other side marshalling resources for vote-buying and violence.

PDP alleged that APC brought in thugs from the South-West, especially Lagos, to be clothed in fake uniforms of the Nigerian Army and Police. Meanwhile, APC countered, claiming that incumbent Governor Obaseki’s PDP acquired the services of Niger-Delta militants, especially from Rivers and Bayelsa states to intimidate APC supporters and for ballot snatching.

Politicians had been on the campaign trail through local government areas and the capital city since INEC permitted rallies to begin on June 21.

Perhaps no governorship election in the country has attracted as much attention and emotion, going by reports in social and traditional media.

Obaseki is predicating his reelection for a second tenure on the mantra that it would signify Edo people’s termination of the era of godfather politics, which for him is personified by his predecessor and former APC national chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole.

READ ALSO: Edo Election: Ndigbo seek support for Ize-Iyamu ahead of the election

Until his removal as APC’s chairman, Oshiomhole almost singlehandedly frustrated the governor’s bid to secure the party’s 2020 ticket when a panel he constituted disqualified Obaseki.

The governor subsequently crossed the carpet to PDP and secured its ticket, while his old rival in the party who contested against him in 2016, Ize-Iyamu, left for APC, where he immediately secured the party’s flag. Former Lagos governor and APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, received mixed reactions this week when he added his voice to the fray, warning Edo voters against honouring Obaseki with their votes.

Irked by Tinubu’s submission, antagonists accused the Third Republic senator of undemocratically dominating the politics of Lagos, alleging he often handed out tickets to cronies without recourse to his party’s internal democracy mechanisms. Thus, they recite to him Obaseki’s anti-godfather slogan, “Edo is not Lagos.”

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