Wednesday, September 16, 2020 4:48 pm
Preparations are in top gear for the Edo and Ondo States governorship elections
The governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states will go down in the history of elections in the country as one held under a lockdown, with strict compliance with the Covid-19 directives outlined for the election. Such as, social distancing, washing of hands and masking of noses.
It will also go down in history as one in which residents of the two states who turned 18 this year would be disenfranchised, for reason that INEC would not be conducting continuous voters registration as usual.
As the 19 September-date for the election approaches, the parties are gradually winding up their ward-to-ward campaigns, with the two top contenders, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, visiting almost the 192 wards in the state. As usual, the real gladiators in the Edo election, Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC, are at each other’s throats, using every trick allowed in the game of politics, including propaganda, in their bid to outwit each other.
The parties have also at one time or the other claimed to have harvested thousands of members from the opposition camp. If only that would translate to victory, then one wonders who will emerge winner between the two rival candidates. The campaign has also witnessed the usual heating up of the system, as they have almost turned the political stage to a theatre of war. Both sides have at various times claimed violent attacks on their members.
Disturbed about the ugly incident, the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare ll, convened a meeting of leaders of the major parties and their candidates, where he read the riot act, so to speak to the gladiators. He urged them to tell their foot soldiers to stop the shooting and violence, even as he charged them to emulate former President Goodluck Jonathan’s humility in defeat.
“I want to ask the political actors in Edo State, why are you all doing this? The office is four years, why do you want lives to be lost? Why are you arming thugs? At the end of the day the thugs keep those guns with them.
“Tell your boys to ceasefire, enough is enough. Life will be here after election. Even if you don’t win, God has something better for you,” the revered Monarch said.
A group that goes by the name, Concerned Elite Citizens of United Ogbe, warned that it emphatically reject in its entirety, the tendency to lock two Benin sons in a game of death.
The group of retired professionals in a statement signed by Engr. Iziengbe Eghomwan, Peter Obobaifo and four others, said: “We the Benin proudly fought the British in defense as proud warriors. But, having to war against ourselves at the instance of people from within and outside Edo state is an insult to our collective wisdom.” Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has warned all stakeholders in the election to comply with laid-down electoral guidelines and to ensure that the peace of the state is in no way disturbed.
Although names of 14 political parties will appear on the ballot paper, come 19 September, analysts are nonetheless of the opinion that the real contest is between incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP and his APC counterpart, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu. They noted that candidates of the other parties who do not have structures spread across the state like APC and PDP, are either testing their popularity or adding to their CV. Either way, they are there to add to the number, as some of them have either openly or tacitly endorsed candidates of either the PDP or APC.
Governor Godwin Obaseki:
Governor Obaseki was a stock broker and investment banker before joining the administration of former governor Adams Oshiomhole, as head of the economic and strategic team for eight years. The then Governor Adams Oshiomhole described him as the brain box of his government. He later succeeded Oshiomhole as governor in 2016, on the platform of the APC.
Even though a green horn in politics, Obaseki was quick to master the tricks and manoeuvrings of politics under the watch of his former godfather, before they fell apart. He also enjoy the unflinching support and loyalty of his deputy, Philip Shaibu, who is a thorough-bread politician.
Pastor Osagie Ize-lyamu:
Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, or POI, as he is popularly known, is a grassroots politician whose loyalists spread across the 18 local government areas of the state. He served as chief of staff to former governor Lucky Igbinedion, and later Secretary to State Government between 1999 and 2007.
Ize-Iyamu who served as the Director-General of Oshiomhole’s re-election campaign in 2012, fell out with the latter in 2014 and defected to the PDP, where he picked the party’s governorship ticket, but lost. He has structures across the 192 wards in the state. His greatest strength lies in his foot soldiers and his investment in people across the state, when he held-sway as the SSG and Chief of Staff.
Osifo is the candidate of the Labour Party, who is not new to the state politics. He was a former chairman of Uhumwonde local government council of the state, and chief of staff to Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor for the 18 months he was governor, before he was removed.
Even though this is his first time as candidate of any political party, he is however not new to the intricacies of the business of politics.
While no one expects him to dislodge the likes of Ize-Iyamu or Obaseki in the election, political watchers are however of the opinion that he could cause some ‘inconveniences’ for the two top contenders in Uhunmwonde, his own local government area.
Stevie Ozono of the NRM
Ozono is the candidate of the National Rescue Movement. He is not known in Edo politics like Ize-Iyamu and Governor Godwin Obaseki, and this is his first time as a candidate of any political party. He thinks he stands the same chance like any other candidate, irrespective of their popularity. Ozono has however vowed to reap dividends of the various court cases that may likely disqualify candidates of the two major parties.
Ondo governorship election:
Sixteen candidates of other political parties are plotting to dislodge Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu, who himself is flying the flag of the APC in the gubernatorial election of the Sunshine state of Ondo slated for 10 October.
Other notable candidates include Chief Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP, Chief Agboola Ajayi of the ZLP and others. But, just as in the case with Edo state, those to watch out for are candidates of the APC and the PDP.
Until a few weeks to its primary election, internal crisis threatened to cause an implosion in the ruling APC in the state. Fortunately however, the warring members managed to put their house in order and finally arrived at a consensus on the mode of primary election to be adopted for picking its candidate.
It was also reliably gathered that Akeredolu who had allegedly not being in the good books of the national leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, succeeded in making peace with the powerful party leader before it was too late. Having succeeded in clinching his party’s ticket, Akeredolu is not living any stone unturned to ensure a re-election on 10 October.
Akeredolu’s closest and hottest rival, Chief Eyitayo Jegede, to say the least, is an experienced politician with a large following, who contested the state’s top job before. His wealth of experience in politics and supporters spread across the three senatorial districts of the state will no doubt give the APC’s standard bearer a run for his money.
In analysts’ opinion, a second reason that should send jitters to the APC is the fact that the PDP would want to consolidate on its incursion into the west. Hence, no effort will be spared to capture Ondo, to make it two after Oyo.
Interestingly, Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo has been appointed campaign council chairman, to give impetus to Jegede’s efforts.
Security: We’re Ready For Polls, IGP Assures
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar Adamu, has assured residents of the two states of the full preparedness of the Nigeria Police Force, in conjunction with INEC and other security agencies, to ensure the success of both elections. He also gave assurances of the readiness of his men to provide adequate security for all stakeholders in the elections.
Adamu stated this recently after a meeting with commanders of the 97 Police Mobile Force, PMF, Squadrons across the nation, with a charge to exhibit high-level professionalism, neutrality and embrace a citizen-friendly approach in policing during the elections.
He noted that the PMF which has remained at the forefront of tactical operations in the country, is central to the operational plans of the Force towards a successful election in the two states.
The IGP who noted that the elections are coming, charged the officers to take advantage of the new insights and experiences drawn from the just concluded PMF Commanders’ course held at Ende Hills, Nasarawa state, to positively impact their leadership roles in the elections.
He however warned political gladiators and the electorate to limit all their electioneering activities within the dictates of the rule of law. “They should be guided by the reality that no political ambition of any individual is more critical than our common national security interests.
“Hence, while we assure the residents of the two states that we shall provide adequate security that will guarantee a level-playing field for political actors and electorate to exercise their franchise in the most peaceful and free manner, I affirm that anyone, regardless of his or her political leaning, that attempts to test our will, by threatening our democratic values and national security on account of his or her electoral interests, shall be promptly identified, isolated and brought to desired justice,” he warned.
Our Main Concern Is Electoral, Credibility –INEC
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has expressed commitment to conducting unbiased, free and fair governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states. The chief press secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, stated this last Monday at a webinar organized by the International Press Centre, IPC, and Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria ACSPN, with the theme: “Edo/Ondo Elections: The imperative of safety consciousness and conflict sensitivity in media coverage and reportage”.
Oyekanmi noted that the electoral umpire is neither interested in the outcome of the elections nor concerned about who emerges as governor of both states, but the credibility of the process, as it would make use of its new policy on conducting elections in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as its regulations and guidelines to deliver on its mandate.
He added that the primary duty of INEC is “to provide a level playing field. We are not interested in the outcome of the elections, but the credibility of the process, to ensure that materials get to the polling unit in good time.”
Even at that, there are fears that national commissioners whose tenures are due to end in two months may have traded the Edo and Ondo elections in return for guarantees of re-appointment
Also of concern about the likelihood of not having a free and fair election is the move to alter some aspects of the manual for election to be handed over to ad hoc staff.
The commission also rejected suggestion that politicians are making unwholesome inputs into the names of those to be appointed as Supervising Presiding Officers, SPOs. Sources within the Commission had suggested that some top officials are neck-deep in the on-going redeployment of personnel list of nominees to play critical roles in the election.
The potential for a disruptive outcome is that critical and sensitive election materials may not be effectively distributed to cater for all areas within the voting jurisdiction as some potential SPOs are expected to do the bidding of politicians who ensured that their names are included on the list as SPOs, thereby fueling tension and heightening fears that the election is being channeled towards an expected end.
But speaking on the issues, Oyekanmi, dismissed the allegations as misleading and mischievous, insisting there are no threats to the Edo and Ondo polls.