The governorship election in Edo State has come and gone. Governor Godwin Obaseki of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) defeated Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) against all odds at the September 19, 2020 poll.
But the outcome of the election has thrown up some surprises in the country’s political scene.
- I’ll not give up despite outcome of Edo poll – Oshiomhole
- Obaseki ’ll need miracle to win under a fragmented APC – Oshiomhole
Free of major violent incidents
Contrary to predictions, the election did not record any major widespread acts of violence. Before September 19, tensions were high as politicians from the ruling APC and the PDP had deployed propaganda that heated up the polity.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Muhammed Adamu, had to deploy 31,000 personnel to ensure peaceful poll after undertaking election security threat assessment.
Three police officers and personnel of other security agencies were deployed to each of the 2,627 polling units across the 192 wards in the 18 local government areas (LGAs) in the state to ensure effective manning and guarantee free, fair and peaceful election.
To avoid violence, bloodshed, and possible cross-attacks by political opponents, the police rolled out the plan to use three helicopters in each of the three senatorial districts for aerial surveillance and quick response to trouble spots as well as sufficient patrol vehicles.
Ahead of the governorship election, the Nigeria Police Force also deployed undercover operatives for surveillance and intelligence-gathering.
The special forces, including the anti-bomb squad, the Police Mobile Force, Intelligence Response Team and the Special Tactical Squad, were also provided to ensure watertight security.
The marine police were also deployed in the riverine areas.
Nigerians are however surprised that the election was generally peaceful.
Two days to the poll, President Muhammadu Buhari had to also warn political parties, candidates and security agents, to behave responsibly in a message to voters, election officials and other stakeholders.
Federal might demystified
A common talk in the country is that the government at the centre will use federal might to secure victory for the candidate of the ruling APC. Many pundits were equally surprised that the Buhari-Federal Government didn’t use influence the outcome of the election in spite of its resources and superior advantage.
President Buhari, who congratulated Governor Obaseki on his victory, received accolades from politicians in both the ruling and opposition parties.
Governor of Sokoto State and Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, had said in a statement that “special thanks must go to the President, Commander in Chief, Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, for keeping his word not to unduly interfere in the elections by using state machinery”.
Former APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, has said that the with credible governorship election in Edo State, said the conduct of INEC and security agents during the election showed that no order was given to them.
Governor Obaseki, in his acceptance speech after he was declared winner, lauded President Buhari for defending democracy.
He said the President allowed INEC and the security services to perform their constitutional functions without interference.
Former senate president, Dr Abubakar Bukola Saraki, in a statement, hailed President Buhari for keeping the military out of the election, saying that the outcome “represents the fact that our security and electoral officials can conduct free and fair elections if they have the right atmosphere.”
The President, who lauded the election process in Edo State which led to the victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki, said: “Democracy will mean nothing if the votes of the people don’t count or if their mandate is fraudulently tampered with.”
He lauded the people of Edo State, the parties, candidates and security agencies for conducting themselves responsibly.
Drop in election votes
Governor Obaseki of the PDP was declared winner of the September 19, 2020 governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after polling 307,955 votes to defeat his closet rival, Ize-Iyamu of the APC), who scored 223,619 votes. Obaseki defeated Ize-Iyamu in 13 out of the 18 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the state.
The PDP candidate defeated his key challenger who joined the APC eight months before the poll with a margin of 84,336 votes to emerge winner.
Out of 2,210,334 registered voters in the state, only 1,726,466 picked up their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) to enable them to cast votes. A total of 483,868 are yet to collect their PVCs.
With the outcome of the election, there is a surprising drop in the number of voters compared to the 2016 governorship election when the two top candidates earlier slugged it out in order to take charge at Osadebe Government House in Benin City.
It would be recalled that Obaseki was elected for his first term of four years in 2016 on the APC platform before he was recently forced to leave the party and join the PDP three months plus three days to the poll, following his disqualification by the governorship screening committee.
The disqualification came after a long political battle with his estranged benefactor, predecessor, and former National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
In 2016, Obaseki defeated Ize-lyamu with a margin of 66,310 votes in the keenly contested election. He polled 319,483 votes representing 52 percent of the votes while Ize-lyamu scored 253,173 representing 41 percent.
The APC won in six LGAs in Edo South Senatorial District while the PDP won one. In Edo North, APC won the six LGAs. In Edo Central Senatoral District, PDP won four out of the five LGAs.
Election held despite COVID-19 threat
Despite the anxiety over the novel coronavirus pandemic, the election held across the 18 LGAs in Edo State.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had said that the commission had to come out with a policy on how to conduct election under COVID-19 situation since it is the first time it would be conducting a major election in the prevailing environment.
Prof. Yakubu said before the election that there was additional pressure to ensure that INEC did not only conduct free, fair, credible and peaceful poll but also a safe one for all stakeholders.
Specifically, INEC released a new guideline on the conduct of the Edo and Ondo states governorship elections, as well as nine by-elections across seven states of the federation.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, said the commission approved its “Policy on Conducting Elections in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic”, stressing that the general purpose of the policy was to enable officials and staff understand and respond adequately to the challenges of conducting elections in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide a guide for engagement with stakeholders as they prepare for elections.