Tony Osauzo, Daniel Kanu and Ighomuaye Lucky
Violence, vote buying and disregard for social distancing, yesterday, trailed the conduct of the Edo State governorship election.
Despite the massive deployment of security personnel to protect voters and forestall violence, there were several reports of violence in voting centres across the state.
In Egor Local Government Area, the wife of the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was battered, when she resisted thugs who allegedly took away voting materials.
Similar acts of violence were reported in many parts of the state, during which thugs reportedly shot at voters and in the process killed a woman said to be in her 30s and the polling agent of the APC. Another person was fatally injured in Ovia South West, Ward 9 and 10.
Eyewitnesses reported that the thugs besieged the two wards while voting was in full swing, shooting directly at the people, resulting in two persons being hit by bullets. In the resulting melee, many people were injured.
“The shooting was entirely uncalled for, but they did it nevertheless. The PDP thugs came in a van, which was most surprising to us, because of the police presence. When the woman fell, we knew she had been hit. She died immediately.
“The other person said to have been shot at Ward 9 has not been confirmed whether alive or dead, but I gathered her condition too is serious. Only God knows if she will survive the gunshot. Many others who had gunshot wounds were taken away in available vehicles,” a person who witnessed the incident said.
In many of the voting centres monitored by Sunday Sun correspondents, it was observed that voters were quietly being given money in exchange for their votes, just as social distancing was completely ignored.
Commenting on the conduct of the election, Edo State governor and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Godwin Obaseki, yesterday, expressed disappointment over the failure of card readers in several wards across the state.
The governor who spoke to journalists shortly after casting his vote at his unit 19, Oredo Ward 4 voting centre at Emokpae Primary School, in Benin City, spent close to two hours on the queue before he could vote, owing to a slow- functioning card reader.
He said the failure of the card readers showed the unpreparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“I expected better preparation on the part of those saddled with the responsibility to conduct this election. To wait for one and a half hours on the queue before exercising my franchise is a bit disappointing.
“Given that this is a whole day’s election, I expected better planning and preparation and resources should have been put into this election.
“At the last presidential election, in my polling unit, there were two polling points which eased the burden on voters. You all are witnesses to how long it has taken.
“The card reader here is working slowly, and this is the situation in all the major voting centres in Oredo Local Government Area of the state as I speak.
“At Garrick Memorial School, I understand that over 500 voters are already stranded because they can’t vote due to slow processing of the card reader.
“One would have expected that INEC would have deployed more card readers and more voting points in high-density polling centres,” he said.
Responding to the issue of vote buying at polling units, the governor said that the security agencies were not doing what they assured Edo people and Nigerians before the election.
“The security agencies assured us that they would not allow anybody who doesn’t have any business of voting into a particular place, but they are working contrary to what they promised us.
“You can see cars parked with a lot of cash being disbursed to people buying votes, and it seems to be normal practice; but we are not perturbed as people know what to do. Cash can’t buy their future,” he said.
Meanwhile, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has said he is optimistic of winning the election.
Speaking shortly after voting at Iguododo Primary School at his Ugboko Ward 4, Unit 26 in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the state, Ize-Iyamu commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for a peaceful conduct of the electoral process. He also commended INEC for adhering to the COVID-19 protocol.
“The process is good and going on smoothly; there is no thuggery and violence; the place is peaceful and calm. I am happy that INEC came with thermometers to check temperature and they also gave out face masks to our people.
“We encouraged our people to come out in batches so that they can strictly adhere to the COVID-19 protocol of social distancing,” he said.
He added that he had not been able to get information about the conduct of the election across the state due to the poor network at his voting community, expressing optimism that he would emerge victorious in the election and that he was confident of victory across the 18 local government areas of the state.
Also speaking after voting at George Idah Primary School, Ward 2, Oredo, Capt. Wells Idahosa Okunbo, described the election as peaceful and orderly.
“This is what we have been praying for. I thank God the election is peaceful – no antagonism and no oppression I can see around here. It is a day we all waited for. I pray that God will do His own.
“This is all I am praying for – a better Edo State that is devoid of oppression, where our children can once more be employed the real way, positively for positive change,” he said.
Security presence during the governorship election was massive and the election started on time with the early arrival of voting materials at Edo central district.
At Iruekpen (Edo Central) there was adequate security as military personnel mounted checkpoints.
At Ogbomoide Primary School which is under Ward 6, with three units (6,7,8), voting materials arrived at 8.03 am except at Unit 6 which materials arrived late due to bus problem according to Richard Ihionkhan, the PDP agent.
Sanitisers were made available for voters. Infra-red thermometers were also provided. Social distancing was observed as well as wearing of face masks which was made compulsory.
At Central Primary School, Iruekpen (Ward 6), which had three polling units (3,4,5), all election materials came on time. Social distancing was observed and voters were compelled to wear face masks.
House of Representatives member for the constituency, Hon. Joe Edionwele commended the voting process as of the time he spoke with journalists around 11.00am. Presiding Officer, Oyesomi Ezekiel Adedapo, in his remarks said: “All is well so far.”
At Ward 5, Umudum Primary School with two polling units, a youth corps member and the presiding officer, Aderonti Tolulope, confirmed to Sunday Sun that everything was in place.
There was enough security presence and voting commenced at 8.30am. The weather was clement while voters were in high spirits. A peaceful atmosphere existed at all the polling booths visited at Igueben, Ewohimi and Ekpoma although observance of COVID-19 protocol was not total.
Meanwhile, ten youths were arrested at Opoji Junction Ekpoma. Security operatives at the scene told Sunday Sun that the youths pasted a ‘security on duty’ tag on the Hiace bus that conveyed them.