If there are two things which can be confidently predicted about the upcoming Governorship election in Edo State, is firstly, it is bound to showcase all that is wrong with the current state of affairs in Nigerian politics, and secondly, little of substance will be done to effect any meaningful change in the processes and practices.
As has become the norm in Nigeria, the approach of elections has heightened tensions and Edo State citizens should expect various security agents to harass the electorate, thugs to snatch ballot boxes, ballot papers to be mass thumb-printed, results sheets to be falsified, property to be destroyed, and lives to be lost tragically.
Neither the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki who is seeking re-election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) despite being elected the first time on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), nor his main rival Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the APC candidate who contested the last time on the ticket of the PDP has had it easy securing their nomination.
Having switched parties, the two men find that their political futures are at stake and their supporters are expected to fight tooth and nail.
Those who are new to Nigerian politics will find it difficult to comprehend how Obaseki strolled into the PDP and obtained their ticket two days to the party primaries.
Key PDP stalwarts like Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike have protested that it was wrong to easily submit the PDP’s ticket, privileges and structures to an “outsider” as if there were no worthy people in the party prior to his decamping to join them.
Even as Wike accused top PDP officials of being rent collectors, Obaseki’s spokespersons vehemently denied either paying PDP bigwigs to secure the ticket or “settling” the PDP candidates who all stepped down for him despite their previous posturing.
Those who know how Nigerian politics works are taking their denial with a pinch of salt. A few months back, PDP officials were mocking Obaseki and scoring him F9 in performance.
Back in the 2016 election, when he was an APC candidate they publicly dismissed his academic credentials.
Surely, something other than “divine intervention” has made them see the light and now seek to deify him after branding him a failure.
While all this was going on, the then APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole was maligning, disparaging and defaming his current candidate, Pastor Ize-Iyamu.
How times have changed! In addition to unprincipled decamping, there is also the problem of incessant litigations in Nigerian politics.
Indeed, it’s difficult to keep a record of exactly how many court cases have been filed nationwide over pre-election matters regarding the eligibility of contestants and the status of state and national party officials in Edo.
It would have been much easier to keep track if Federal High Courts restricted themselves to handling matters relating to federal laws within the state in which they are located.
Unless this is done, the ludicrous situation in which a plethora of Federal High Courts issue orders relating to political matters within one state will become the norm.
As far as Edo is concerned, in addition to the State High Court, Federal Courts in Delta, Rivers, and Abuja (the list may not be exhaustive) have issued orders relating to the elections.
That said, not all their orders are detrimental to the processes.
The Federal High Court in Abuja has quite correctly refused to restrain TV stations from playing material from the 2016 Edo elections in which former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole totally denigrated the character of his now preferred candidate, Ize-Iyamu while praising his current nemesis Godwin Obaseki to high heavens.
Politicians have no right to demand that the electorate not be reminded of public statements they previously made simply because such statements no longer benefit them personally.
Serial litigation is only one of the outside forces, which candidates will have to deal with.
While little has been heard of the state campaign teams of either Obaseki or Ize-Iyamu, much has been heard of the “high powered” APC and PDP national campaign teams.
It’s as if in this time of COVID-19 in which social distancing and restricted movement as much as possible is advisable, Edo people cannot be left alone to decide who best to pilot their affairs.
As has been so aptly pointed out, the “federal might”, which a ruling party can unleash in an election is a euphemism for the immoral, unconstitutional and truly criminal use of state institutions such as the police, DSS, INEC, the army, and all available federal apparatus to influence the result of elections.
However, “federal might” isn’t all it’s trumped up to be as it wasn’t enough to overwhelm determined opposition in Benue, Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Bayelsa States.
Perhaps, the only certainty about the election is that the winner will be whoever the Supreme Court says it is!
At the end of the day, the election is guaranteed not to end simply with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declaring a result, as no matter who they declare as the winner, the loser is guaranteed to seek redress in court.
The Judiciary has severally ordered that an INEC issued certificate of return be retrieved and the upshot of this is that obtaining a court judgement is far more important than anything INEC says or does.
It’s nothing short of a national tragedy that the electoral body no longer has the final say in who has won an election and little or nothing tangible is being done to address the problem.
Perhaps, in order to save time and money the nation should dispense with INEC collation paraphernalia and send ballot papers straight to the Supreme Court to declare (without appeal) who the winner is!
There are some who already claim that there is a Supreme Court judgement, which states that “the spirit of the law forbids anyone to contest for nomination under two or more parties in the same election or even start the process of being nominated by procuring the nomination form.
However, the current Supreme Court seems not to worry too much about precedents when arriving at their judgements.
Besides which Obaseki supporters claim that because he was disqualified and not on the ballot, the law doesn’t apply to him.
So, as with all elections in Nigeria rather than being the end of a process, voting will just be the start while we all wait for the courts to decide.