Over 1.7 million voters will today (Saturday 19, 2020) cast votes to elect the governor of Edo State for the next four years.
Incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and 12 other candidates are participating in the election.
Of the 14 candidates eyeing the Edo Government House, the battle seems to be between Obaseki of the PDP and Ize-Iyamu of the APC.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered that 483,769 of the state’s 2,210,534 registered voters failed to claim their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), hence are not eligible to participate in today’s election.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the winner of today’s election will be determined by 1,726,765 voters that collected their PVCs.
The chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said voting will take place in 2,627 polling units across the 192 wards in the 18 local government areas of the state.
The other candidates participating in the poll are; Obhafuoso Paul of Action Alliance (AA), Akhigbe B. Ehiabhi of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ibio Emmanuel of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Lucky Osagie Idehen of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Igbineweka Osamuede of Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and Amos Osalumese Areloegbe, Action People’s Party (APP).
Others are; Osifo Uhun-Ekpenma Isaiah of Labour Party (LP), Agolebun Tracy of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Stevie Nash Ozono of National Rescue Movement (NRM), Felix Ikezor Obayangbon of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Jones Osagiobare of Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Akhalamhe Amiemenoghena of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
It would be recalled that in the 2016 governorship election in the state, Obaseki who was the then candidate of the APC, defeated Ize-lyamu of the PDP. Obaseki polled 319,483 votes, representing 52 percent of the votes cast while Ize-lyamu scored 253,173, representing 41 percent.
Both have switched platforms in today’s election.
Buhari warns against “do-or-die” mentality
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has advised the parties, candidates and security personnel involved in the election to act in responsible manner.
He said in a message: “I am passionately committed to free and fair elections, but my own commitment is not enough if other actors at ground zero refuse to abide by the rules.
“I want to see democratic standards in the country raised higher at every level, but these cannot be achieved when politicians resort to do or die methods to gain power by any means or machination.
“The do-or-die mentality in politics is a threat to free and fair elections because the actors are more focused on winning than caring about a fair outcome that reflects the will of the people.”
He urged the parties and their candidates to maintain peace and order, and advised INEC officials and security agents to remain neutral to ensure free and fair elections and avoid actions capable of compromising the integrity of the elections.
Voters seeking highest bidder – CDD
The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) said contrary to the previous practice where parties and contestants look for voters to buy their votes, it is the voters that are now looking for the highest bidder to sell their votes.
This is contained in the CDD’s Election Analysis Centre (EAC) pre-election briefing jointly presented in Abuja by the CDD’s Director, Idayat Hassan; chair CDD-EAC, Prof. Adele Jinadu and Senior Fellow CDD, Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim.
Observers have listed Etsako West, Akoko-Edo and Oredo local government areas as violence areas in the state.
Daily Trust on Saturday reports that the trio of former national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu and deputy governorship candidate of the APC, Gani Audu are from Etsako West Local Government.
Obaseki and Ize-lyamu are based in Oredo Local Government, our correspondent reports.
The CDD also listed the hot spots of possible violence as Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West and Akoko-Edo, all in Edo North Senatorial District.
Also, in Edo South are Oredo, Orhionmwon, Egor, Ovia North East, and Ikpoba-Okha as well in Edo Central Senatorial District, Esan Central, Esan North East and Esan West.
In its own security assessment, the YIAGA Africa in the organisation’s first pre-election observation report titled “2020 Edo Election: An election defined by strong arm tactics and violence” jointly presented by the Executive Director of the organisation, Samson Itodo and a board member, Ezenwa Nwagwu, listed 13 areas across the three senatorial districts of the state as possible flashpoints of violence.
3 cops to man each polling unit
The Nigeria Police said it had deployed 31,000 personnel to the state.
It disclosed that each of the poling units would be manned by three policemen.
The police also deployed DIG Adeleye Olusola Oyebade, an AIG and eight commissioners of police to the state for the poll.
Speaking with Daily Trust Saturday, the spokesman of the Edo State Police Command, SP Chidi Nwanbuzor, said the deployment was approved by the Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, to ensure a peaceful election.
Also speaking, the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the election, Adeleye Oyebade, said no fewer than three policemen would monitor each of the 2,627 polling units across the state.
Oyebade said the deployment was to ensure free, fair, peaceful and credible election.
INEC on its part has deployed five Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) and two National Commissioners for the election.
The commission has also deployed about 20,000 ad-hoc staff for the conduct of the election.
Our correspondent reports that non-sensitive materials have been deployed to their various destinations while sensitive materials have been kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), awaiting distribution.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Johnson Alalibo, said they were set for the poll, noting that 12 of the 14 items lined up for the poll had been concluded.
We are afraid of violence – Residents
Meanwhile, residents of the state have expressed fears of possible violence.
A resident of Benin City, the state capital, Mr. Osayamwan Elvis, urged the candidates and the political parties to caution their supporters against violence.
“The election should be peaceful so that we can freely vote, we want a free, fair and credible election and nothing more,” he said.
Also speaking, another resident who gave her name as Lilian, expressed doubt on the neutrality of security agents during the election.
“What happened in Kogi gives me the feeling that the election will not be free and fair because security personnel may take sides and some people have been boasting of federal might,” he said.
Miss Eunice Itseme said she was not concerned about who wins the election provided that the poll is transparent.
“Past elections in this country have not been free and fair and this is the reason why you see this tension in the state.
“I feel it is better to allow the will of the people to prevail than force one of the candidates on the people,” she said.
She however urged security agencies and INEC to remain neutral during the election, noting that once the election is free and fair, there would be no violence.
A media consultant, Dada Ayokha, noted that the election would be unique compared to that of 2016, as the two candidates have swapped platforms.
“I see the election as a situation between two enemies, not contenders.
“Nobody seems to be worried about the performance, rather about godfatherism, Tinubu’s agenda and so on.
“I don’t expect anything substantial from the two candidates after the election in terms of performance,” he said.
A cross section of corps members engaged as ad-hoc staff for the poll who were contacted by our correspondent declined comment.
However, one of them who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they would be neutral.
He also expressed fears on possible violence.
“We will be neutral but we expect the candidates, their parties and supporters to adhere to the rules of the game.
“We want to discharge our duties peacefully to the best of our capacities,” he said.
‘Be neutral to all candidates’
The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday, urged staff of the commission to remain above board in the performance of their duties.
Speaking in Abuja, he said all INEC staff for the election must ensure that no political party or candidate is accorded any advantage over the other.
He urged them to be neutral at all times and stick strictly to the commission’s code of conduct and oath of neutrality to which they had all subscribed.
“It is clear that all eyes are on INEC to deliver a free, fair and credible process.
“I have no doubt that our staff members will rise to the occasion.
“We have done it several times before and we can do it again,” Yakubu said.
He said the commission appreciated the never-ending sacrifices made by its staff at all times, often beyond the call of duty to ensure that the commission carries out its mandate.
Wike’s in danger in Benin – Rivers government
The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Poulinous Nsirm, said the hotel where Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike is staying in Benin City was under siege by over 300 policemen late yesterday.
Nsirim said in a press statement in Port Harcourt on Friday night that what was more disturbing was that the policemen led by DIG Leye Oyebanji had allegedly been very audible with threats that the governor should leave Edo State.
He said Wike was appointed the PDP National Campaign Council chairman for today’s governorship election, adding that such appointment was a legitimate, constitutionally recognized appointment in electoral rules, guidelines and processes in the country.
“It confers on him, the democratic authority to be in Edo State to spearhead the campaign and lend support to the governorship candidate of his political party.
“Governor Wike has not committed any crime to warrant this intimidation and we want to state categorically that the siege on his hotel is totally unlawful, illegitimate and provocative.
“This is even more so when placed against the backdrop of the fact that Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, who equally occupies this same position in the APC and indeed his counterpart, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State, are all in Benin carrying out the same assignment for the APC.
“They are moving about freely, without any siege on their locations or molestation, threats, harassments and intimidation.
“We hereby put the Nigerian government and international community on notice that the life of Governor Wike is in danger and under serious threat,” Nsirim said.
He said that Rivers people would hold IGP Mohammed Adamu personally responsible if anything happens to Wike.
Efforts to speak with the Edo State Commissioner of Police on the matter proved abortive before press time as calls and text messages sent to him and the police spokesman were not responded to.