Do not rig Edo election
The much awaited Governorship election in Edo state will hold on Saturday 19th September, 2020. We are worried that the election, if not properly managed, would be marred by heavy gun fire, late arrival of voting materials, killings, reports of ballot box snatching, technology failures, results manipulation and even violence as recently witnessed in other states. Nobody should rig the election for whatever reason. State and non-state actors, political parties and youths of Edo state must comply with electoral guidelines.
As a democratic principle, elections make a fundamental contribution to good governance. Elections enable voters to select leaders and to hold them accountable for their performance in office. Accountability can be undermined when elected leaders do not care whether they are re-elected or when, for historical or other reasons, one party or coalition is so dominant that there is effectively no choice for voters among alternative candidates, parties, or policies.
The state’s interest is and should always be supreme over an individual’s ambition
Nevertheless, the possibility of controlling leaders by requiring them to submit to regular and periodic elections helps to solve the problem of succession in leadership and thus contributes to the continuation of democracy. Moreover, where the electoral process is competitive and forces candidates or parties to expose their records and future intentions to popular scrutiny, elections serve as forums for the discussion of public issues and facilitate the expression of public opinion.
It is in the light of the above that electorates look forward to the day of election to exercise their franchise guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. But this inalienable right cannot be done under a tensed atmosphere. The electorate needs to be assured of his safety before going out to vote. He also must be assured that his vote would count after voting. Experiences from some states such as Imo, Rivers, Kano, Bauchi, and most recently, Kogi do not give much to cheer.
Last week, political parties and their candidates signed a peace accord in Benin City with a promise to ensure free and fair election across the State. Before then, the Oba of Benin had a meeting with candidates of the major political parties, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is common knowledge that previous peace accords at both federal and state levels were not respected. What would make the Edo episode different would be if the contending parties respect and honoured the agreement and caution their supporters.
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While we have confidence that the electoral umpire, INEC, will conduct a free, fair and credible election, however, the perception with the public is that the election will be manipulated. Sadly, this has become the common rhetoric in the state with insinuations that it doesn’t matter what happens in the polling units, that the federal might would be deployed to ensure the election is rigged. Whether true or false, that perception has been reinforced by both the calibre of people leading the campaign in the state, their utterances as well the huge deployment of soldiers across Edo state. Why would a governor from another state come to Edo with a full complement of soldiers? Many families in Rivers and Kogi States are still mourning their loved ones who died from gunshots during the 2019 general elections. Actions such these instill fear in the electorates and may if not carefully managed, affect voter turnout on the day of election. INEC must come out very clearly to prove that it is truly independent by addressing these and other contending issues.
The campaigns witnessed pockets of violence and attacks. President Muhammadu Buhari must provide adequate security for the citizens and ensure there is no form of violence during and after the election.
INEC alone cannot resolve all the challenges facing the electoral and political system. A lot will depend on the collaboration and support of other key stakeholders in the electoral process, including political parties, security agencies, media, and civil society organisations. Rather unfortunately, INEC does not have control over these actors.
All those involved in the Saturday governorship election must maintain the peace, respect electoral law and the wishes of the people. While we urge the eventual winner to be magnanimous in victory, the losers should accept the fact that election is not a do or die affair. No person’s blood is worth shedding. The interest of the state and the nation is and should always be supreme over an individual’s ambition.