With the stage set for the Edo State governorship poll this Saturday, September 10, 2016, Nigerians are waiting with bated breath for a free, fair and transparent election process.
Interestingly, the two governorship candidates, who hail from the ancient Benin Kingdom, have served the state in various capacities and on the platform of the same political party before this contest separated them. This, of course, could make the contest very divisive. On an optimistic note, it could also make it less so! Nigerians hope the latter prevails.
What is more, incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole who is rounding off his constitutional second term has presided over a relatively peaceful state. While he is entitled to some partisanship as expected of an outgoing governor who would want his legacies consolidated by a successor, Oshiomhole, a well-known unionist, is expected to guard his reputation very well, and help ensure that the will of the people of Edo prevails.
The governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Obaseki defeated other aspirants at the APC primaries of Saturday, June 18, 2016 while Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who will fly the flag of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won his party’s ticket on Monday, June 20, 2016. Ize-Iyamu and Obaseki have both been in the same political camp before they went their separate ways.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu a pastor, is a former Chief of Staff and Secretary to Edo State government. He was a top member of the APC before he decamped to the PDP. Ize-Iyamu was also the National Vice-Chairman, South-South Zone of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He was the director general of Adams Oshiomhole’s second term campaign organisation in 2012. He had also once coordinated the office of the Goodluck/Sambo campaign organisation on the PDP platform.
Also, Godwin Obaseki served as the managing director of Afrinvest (West Africa) Limited as well as its Chairman of the Board until June 2016.
Obaseki served on the Presidential Committee on the Reform of the Nigerian Pensions System. He also served on the Committee on the Re-activation of the Nigerian Bond Market set up by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He is an active member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and currently serves in its Governing Council. He has also served on many of the committees of NSE. In 2001, he was nominated Global Leader of Tomorrow (GLT) by the World Economic Forum. He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Chartered Institute of Stockbrokers and an alumnus of the Lagos Business School. He is the founding and current Chairman of Edo State Economic and Strategy Team which was inaugurated by Governor Adams Oshiomhole in March 2009. So, both men come to the race with good enough credentials as managers and politicians.
As this is the second state-wide election to be organised by the current Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmud Yakubu, expectations are high that INEC would discharge itself creditably. The first state-wide election on Yakubu’s watch was in Kogi State where a strange development not envisaged by either the constitution or Electoral Act occurred: the governorship candidate who presumably won that election died before announcement of the result and that was the origin of the new phrase, “inconclusive election,” in Nigeria’s political lexicon. Unfortunately, in a country where cynicism nurtured by opportunism and inordinate ambition of political contestants rules the day, the prospect of any ‘inconclusiveness’ over the Edo or any election should be banished by INEC with thoroughness and fairness in its conduct of the poll.
INEC should ensure that politicians are not given any room for shouting to the news media when technology disrupts election flows or certain hiccups occur. It should work hard to plug all loopholes and save itself any embarrassment. The politicians in Edo State must behave in a decorous manner if they are truly out for service to the people, and the security agencies must show a high degree of neutrality.
Election is a process that has many components and stages. The election day is, however, the most critical, when its integrity can be easily compromised and outcome discredited. Once trust, the building block of credibility of the process is doubtful, people and observers automatically suspect injustice and that can be the trigger of widespread violence.
Politicians, their supporters, power mongers, security agencies and all sorts of irredentists who take advantage of the absence of an Election Offences Tribunal should spare a thought for peace and security in the state and indeed the country.
All told, the people of Edo State should also be conscious of the fact that extant electoral laws empower the election umpire, INEC, to suspend or cancel elections where actions are suspected to have compromised the integrity of the process. That is why all Nigerians need to reflect on the implications of their negative attitude before, during and after elections.
The people should realise that they are the source and the pillars of democracy and good governance. They owe themselves the duty to make it work. The people of Edo should help deepen democracy by collecting their voters’ cards, by voting peacefully on Saturday, September 10, 2016 and ensuring that all votes count.