Tony Osauzo, Benin
Today, is the D-Day, when the people of Edo State will go to the polls to cast their votes to either elect a new governor or re-elect incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki for another term of four years.
The political atmosphere in the run-up to today’s election has been very charged, as the campaigns have been trailed by both physical violence and hot verbal exchanges, which combined to heighten the political tension in the state.
The peace initiative by the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, has however finally led to the signing of a peace pact by the political parties and their candidates, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the two major and serious parties participating in the election.
It is expected that the signing of the peace accord presided over by a former Head of State and Chairman of the National Peace Council, General Abdulsalami Abubakar in Benin, would restrain violence at the election, as the candidates of the parties, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of APC and Governor Godwin Obaseki of PDP, pledged to abide by the spirit and letters of the agreement.
Now, given the boasts of finally ‘burying godfathers’ during the campaigns, today’s election is going to be a fight for the political control and soul of Edo State, a fight for political survival and relevance and a fight for ego. Therefore, all arsenals would be fully deployed by the two contending political parties in their bid to win the ‘electoral war’.
Though electoral vices such as ballot snatching/stealing, rigging, vote-buying and violence, were roundly condemned at the state governorship election stakeholders’ meeting and during the signing of the peace pact, which took place early in the week, there are strong indications that some of those vices, especially vote-buying, may feature in today’s election.
Clearly, this is where cash may play a role in swinging victory in the election.
From the viewpoint of INEC and security arrangements, all is set for the election, as sensitive materials such as ballot papers and result sheets for the conduct of the election arrived the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in Benin on Wednesday, a clear departure from previous elections, where such materials arrived late.
Other non-sensitive materials had earlier been delivered to the 18 Local Government Areas of the state ahead of the election, signifying the readiness of INEC to improve on its timely conduct of the election.
Similarly, security personnel for the election have been deployed to their places of assignment. Across the state, there is intimidating presence of policemen. Analysts believe that while such heavy deployment is warranted by threats of violence during the election, it could have a dysfunctional effect in intimidating voters who may stay away and thereby create voters-apathy.
In today’s election, the candidates and their running mates have their eyes on winning as the ultimate goal. In this regard, it should be noted that while the two governorship candidates of APC and PDP are from the South Senatorial district, their running mates are from the North Senatorial district.
The two districts have a population of eligible voters of about 1.2 million and 350,000, respectively. Consequently, any political party and its candidate that is able to win in the two senatorial districts may be in good stead for victory whilst not discounting votes from the Central Senatorial district with the lowest eligible voters in the state.
Notwithstanding the influence of the political parties and their candidates, latent political interests may be at work to swing victory in today’s election. No doubt, the election would be tight, as both the APC and the PDP have put in everything, intensified their campaigns and rallied their support groups in the count down to today’s polls.