Contrary to expectations, the outcome of the Edo State governorship election, held on September 19, 2020, has rekindled hope in the nation’s democracy. It has shown that with determination, political will and sincerity of purpose, we can surmount our electoral woes. It has also engendered a sense of pride and fulfillment not just in Edo people but also in other Nigerians as well. The poll was largely devoid of violence that trail elections in Nigeria. In many parts of the state, the atmosphere was calm. The electorate cast their votes without incident. Both local and international observers attested that the poll was free, fair and credible.
At the end of the exercise, the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) emerged the winner with 307,955 votes while his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came second with 223,619 votes.
Unlike many Nigerian elections, the declaration of Obaseki as the winner elicited spontaneous celebrations across Edo State. It was obvious that the will of the people prevailed and their votes counted.
Besides, the international community is pleased with the conduct of the election. The United Kingdom congratulated the winner. According to the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, the UK in Nigeria team observed credible process and commended both candidates for encouraging peace. Laing also commended the civil society organisations that monitored the election for their contributions towards ensuring a peaceful exercise.
Interestingly, the rival APC also congratulated the winner of the election. The Chairman of the APC National Caretaker Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, said “the peaceful conduct of the election and its outcome represent victory for Nigeria’s democracy.” He urged Nigerians to unite to move our democracy forward and put an end to the era when electoral contest was warfare. For the people of Edo State, it is a win-win situation.
However, this is not to say that the election was totally free of malfeasance as there were reports of ballot box snatching, vote-buying, and sporadic shooting in some parts of the state such as Oredo, Orhionmwon, Igueben, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha and Esan North-East. Also, there were reports of intimidation and harassment of observers and journalists.
These notwithstanding, the Edo election has set a new paradigm that the nation can build on for future elections. The governorship election for Ondo State comes up on October 10, 2020. Like in Edo, the build-up to this election has been characterised by incendiary comments by major political actors. The Ondo election must be an improvement on Edo poll. The integrity of our elections depends on how they are conducted. We believe that if all stakeholders play roles well, the outcome will be acceptable.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deserves commendation for a good outing in Edo. It should improve on the gains and correct the noticeable lapses in the forthcoming Ondo poll. The electoral umpire must address the issue of malfunctioning card readers and delay in the accreditation of voters and ensure that they not continue to mar elections in the country. There is need to improve on the online portal for relaying of results. Since electronic voting will make for a better election, efforts should be made to ensure that it is adopted for future elections.
We also commend the security agencies for their diligence during the poll. In some previous elections, security men allegedly colluded with some politicians to perpetrate electoral infractions as was the case in the 2018 governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states as well as the 2019 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states. Besides, the 2019 general election came short of the ideals of what we expected from security men in an election. In Rivers State, for instance, INEC accused soldiers of disrupting collation of votes.
Our commendation also goes to President Muhammadu Buhari for ensuring that the election went without interference and for congratulating the winner. We also commend the winners and losers for the maturity displayed so far. We laud Edo voters for the maturity they displayed during the exercise. They have proved that holding free and fair election is not a rocket science.
The onus is on Governor Obaseki to hit the ground running. Election is over and it is good that the governor extended a hand of fellowship to his opponents. He should take the entire Edo State as his constituency. Others should reciprocate the olive branch. This is the time to work for Edo people. At the same time, those not satisfied with the outcome of the poll should approach the electoral tribunal for redress.