Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Edo 2016: Peaceful, issue-based campaigns are vital

The forthcoming September 10, 2016 governorship election in Edo State is one of the seven off-cycle elections in Nigeria. Other states with a similar fate are Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, Ondo, Bayelsa and Kogi. The reasons for this phenomenon are twofold. The first was as a result of judicial verdict arising from proved allegations of stolen mandate at the election petitions tribunals against the Peoples Democratic Party in Anambra, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo and Osun states. Second,the January 27, 2012 Supreme Court decision on the tenure elongation suit of five governors who won re-run elections after their initial victories had been annulled by the election tribunals. In the landmark judgment under reference, the apex court, in a unanimous decision, said the interpretation and intendment of Section 180(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is that no governor should spend more than four years as a tenure irrespective of whether his previous election into the same office was annulled after which he now won a re-run poll.
Post-2015 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission has conducted the off-cycle gubernatorial elections in Kogi State on November 21 and Bayelsa State on December 5, 2015. Both elections were declared inconclusive due to reported acts of brigandage and electoral heists perpetrated by the political actors in both states. This 2016, aside from Edo State, INEC has also scheduled the Ondo State governorship election to take place on November 26, 2016. Since the release of the timetable for the two elections, political activities in the two states have gathered momentum. Some of the events that have so far taken place include the sale of nomination forms and conduct of party primaries by political parties. INEC has also scheduled the Continuous Voter Registration for the two states from today, Wednesday, June 22 to Sunday, June 26, 2016.
On Saturday, June 18, 2016, the All Progressives Congress in Edo State held its primaries to pick its governorship candidate. Though there were 12 aspirants that contested the sole ticket, Mr. Godwin Obaseki clinched the ticket with 1,618 votes out of a total ballot of 2,873 delegates from 192 wards who were accredited for the election.
Ahead of the contest held at Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City, there were allegations and counter-allegations about buying of Permanent Voter Cards from delegates by an aspirant, non-disclosure of register of delegates 72 hours to the poll, some of the delegates being on payroll of some of the contestants, financial inducement of delegates, assassination attempt on one of the aspirants and the adoption of open ballot by the Governor Aminu Masari-led electoral committee. It was reported that some of the contestants wanted open secret ballot system whereby voting cubicles are made available for delegates to make their choice in secret and cast their ballot in the open. The aggrieved aspirants felt the open ballot system adopted could lead to unpleasant repercussions for some of the delegates, particularly if they had collected money from the aspirants despite not wanting to vote for them. The most important thing was that the APC governorship primary held last Saturday went smoothly without any security breach or violence.
The Peoples Democratic Party held its governorship primaries in Edo State on Monday, June 20, 2016. There were three aspirants and at the end of the poll, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu was elected as the party’s torch bearer with 584 votes out of a total of 713 votes. The election was also very peaceful. However, unlike the APC which charged N5.5m as Expression of Interest and Nomination Fee, the PDP charged a whopping N16m for the same. Perhaps, that accounted for the reason behind the few contestants that showed up. Though there could be other political parties that could field candidates for the election, it will be a two-horse race between the ruling party, the APC, and its arch rival, the PDP.
Incidentally, both parties have had the opportunity to govern the state since 1999. The PDP ruled the state from May 29, 1999 to November 12, 2008. While Chief Lucky Igbinedion ruled for two terms of eight years with his tenure ending on May 29, 2007, Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor was rigged in to take over from Igbinedion. However, the Court of Appeal kicked out the erudite Professor of Law in November 2008 paving the way for Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria (now APC) to be sworn in on November 12, 2008 having been declared by the appellate court as the rightful winner of the April 2007 election in the state. Oshiomhole was re-elected for a second and final term in 2012 hence this year’s governorship poll to elect his successor.
Another thing both the APC and the PDP have done in electing their torch bearer for the election was to pick their candidates from Edo South senatorial district. Ahead of the party primary, a Committee of Concerned Elders Council had asked the national secretariat of the APC to stop six of the aspirants from Edo South from taking part in the primary over what it described as the disregard for Section 20 (2) (iii) of the party’s constitution which upholds the “principle of federal character, gender equality, geographical spread and rotation of office to as much as possible to ensure balance within the constituency covered.” The group had wanted the APC to zone the seat to Edo Central. The kernel of its argument was that while Edo South produced Igbinedion and the incumbent governor is from Edo North, that of the Edo Central was cut short by a court ruling which upturned the election of Osunbor in 2008.
A number of things will heighten tension as campaigns begin in earnest at the aftermath of the successful and peaceful party primaries. One of them is the fact that the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, is from Edo State. He will want to deliver his state to the party to show his popularity, after all charity begins at home. Two, Edo State is the only APC state in the South-South geopolitical zone. The party tried to win Bayelsa in December 2015 but couldn’t. The APC will therefore want to hold tight to that “lone-goal” victory while the PDP will want to poach it to have a clean sweep of all the states in the zone. Third, Edo is one of the oil producing states and as such the APC will not want to let go of it without a fierce battle. Fourth, the September 10 election is a referendum on the performance of the incumbent governor whom his admirers nicknamed “Otokinado” (One who talks and does).
My charge to all the candidates for the forthcoming Edo governorship election is to make their campaigns peaceful and issue-based. As the primaries were held without skirmishes or violence, so should the campaigns. Candidates should eschew the use of inflammatory language and mudslinging. There should be no killings, destruction, kidnappings and other orchestrated social vices during the campaigns. The voters should not sell their PVCs and those who have not registered to vote should take advantage of the continuous voter registration starting from today to enlist on the register. Those who have registered but have not collected their PVCs should do so now before it’s too late. There is also now a window of opportunity for those who want to transfer their registration details to or from Edo State as well as those who have lost or damaged their PVCs to get replacements.