Edo State’s governor Godwin Obaseki managed to keep his job in last Saturday’s election, beating his closest opponent, Ize-Iyamu by a big margin. Fourteen political parties put up candidates in the high stake governorship poll.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer, Prof Agofure Rim-Rukeh, announced the vote tallies on Sunday. Gov. Obaseki, this time running as the candidate of Peoples Democratic Pary (PDP), received 307,955 of the total votes, 84,336 more than Ize-Iyamu’s 223, 619 votes. His All Progressives Party Congress (APC) has refused to accept the result, alleging “foul play” and “strong arm tactic”. However, it has urged party members to “stay calm while party leaders study the result and decide what next to do.”
Chairman of the APC Media Campaign Council, Mr. John Mayaki, said in a statement Sunday, “Our people were arbitrarily arrested, many of the figures were fabricated,” said the terse statement, which the party said was only a preliminary reaction. It alleged “illicit tampering with results, to shore up PDP’s numbers and mark down APC’s. Areas where we won, they cancelled them. They decreased the votes in areas we had advantage. They rejected our results and jerked up theirs.”
APC’s position differed from that of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has congratulated Obaseki on his victory. He said he was reiterating his commitment to free and fair elections. According to him, without free and fair elections, “the foundation of political and moral authority will be weak.” The President added: “I have consistently advocated for free and fair elections in the country because it is the bedrock of true democratic order. Democracy will mean nothing if the votes of the people don’t count or if their mandate is fraudulently tampered with.”
Independent election observers have said the election was relatively peaceful but observed “pockets of violence” in some places, along with votes buying. They said they were alarmed that voters did not follow the COVID-19 protocols of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Compliance with social distancing was very low, they said.
The relatively peaceful poll and President Buhari’s prompt congratulatory message to the winner, who is not a member of his party, are the big plusses to take away from the election. APC’s lack of grace in its reaction to the result is a minus. An even bigger plus is the long shadow of political godfatherism appears to be disappearing, for good, in this country. The election was, in effect, a personal battle between Obaseki and his former political godfather, Adams Oshiomhole, himself a former governor and now national chairman of APC.
The political rift between the two, which spiraled beyond the state to national politics, saw them switch parties and square up against each other on platforms they once criticised. The campaign, characterised by drama and controversy that did not spare the State House of Assembly, was tampered by the intervention of the Oba of Benin to calm frayed nerves.
Now that the election is over, we urge the winner to not celebrate his victory in a provocative manner. It is not just a personal victory but one for democracy and Edo people. This is a time to reconcile all the people of the state, sharply divided by a campaign that brought out the long knives. As for the opposition, we welcome its call on members to keep the peace. The courts are the place to seek reliefs for grievances, not the streets.