Edo HouseÂ re-run election:
By Siamon Ebegbulem
The political strength of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Action Congress (AC), in Edo state, was put to test once again last weekend, during the re-run House of Assembly election for Akoko Edo constituency 1.
The re-run election was betweenÂ Anslem Agbabi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Kabiru Adjoto of the Action Congress. Amidst protests by the PDP, the AC candidate was declared winner of the election having polled 5,335 votes as against the 3,741 that was scored by Agbabi of the PDP.
Protesting the result of the election, the leadership of the PDP in the state, led by its former Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, stormed the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) center in Benin CityÂ and alleged that Governor Adams Oshiomohle used government machinery, the police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to rig the election.
The leader of the House of Representatives, Col.Tunde Akogun (rtd), Chief Dan Orbih, who led other party leaders at the press conference, narrated how thugs loyal to the Governor, invaded Aiyegunle, Akogunâ€™s home town, disrupted the election after abducting the INEC officials in his polling booth.
But in a counter claim, Governor OshiomohleÂ at a separate press conference at government House, alleged that Akogun abducted the INEC officials to his house so as to thumb print the ballot papers, adding that elections commenced in the area after their rescue by the police.
The Governor said that â€œthe PDP rigging machine was dismantled after we stopped them from perpetrating rigging which is their usual style of elections and that is why they even started calling for the cancellation of the election before the election proper.
Tell me, what credentials does PDP has in Edo state to win election? Nothing. I said that it must be one, man one vote and without that, no body will go home.
I am glad that this election was very free and fair in spite, of what the PDP is saying. Before the election, I told my people that we will go into the election with free mind, that if we win fine, if we lose we will go home but there must not be any rigging.
I equally discussed that with Chief Anenih and we all agreed that none of us including the Speaker, Zakawanu Garuba should be seen at the area. But later on, I learnt that the PDP leaders stormed the place to rig.
They started the night before the election at about 3am , but they were stopped by security agents when they tried to hijack the election materials from the INEC office. They tried twice and failed and that was when they started calling for the cancellation of the election. So they have no credentials to win elections here.
They were perpetrating all those evil when I was not in town, but I am now in town and it can never happen againâ€ he stated.
But countering his claims, the Senator representing Edo North, Senator Yisa Braimoh, asserted that â€œthis election has shown that all Oshiomohle has been telling the world about electoral reforms are just mere rhetoric.
A situation where the governorâ€™s ADC, his Chief of Staff and Secretary to the state Government could lead hundreds of armed thugs to invade Akoko Edo for the House of Assembly election is undemocratic, unacceptable and a shame to this government.
Do you know that I was harassed, while majority of our members were beaten up by the AC thugs, majority of whom were imported from Kogi state? We can not accept that election, there was no election, the whole thing was a charadeâ€.
To buttress his point, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ogbonna Onovo, paraded some armed thugs in Abuja , whom he saidÂ confessed that they were hired by a Chieftain of the AC in the state, Mr Austin Amune. He said their aim was to unleash mayhem during the election.
But reacting swiftly, the state government through a statement signed by the state Commissioner of Information and Orientation, Mr Abdul Oroh,Â expressed displeasure over the statement by the IGP, adding that â€œwe are embarrassed that Mr Onovo relied on the alleged confession of thugs and the PDP leadersâ€.
But speaking also, a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Chief Dan Orbih, stated that â€œ the arrest of those people was very commendable because we raised alarm before the election that the AC has imported thugs to unleash mayhem on the people of the state but no body listened. Look at the kind of arms that were arrested with those boys.
Are we fighting war in Edo state that somebody who calls himself a Comrade Governor will encourage things like that and even defend or cast aspersions at the Inspector General of Police?
This is not the kind of democracy we want for our nation and we must all discourage thuggery in elections. That is why there has been an upsurge of kidnaping and killings in Edo state.
Tell me,Â if these boys were not arrested, what would they have done with those high profile arms? We must please encourage the police rather than chastise them because they refused to do their biddingâ€.
Since the elections, the AC and the PDP leaders have engaged themselves in a war of words.
There were also reactions from civil society organizations and the Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) in the state. While the CRPP through a statement signed by its Chairman, Dr Samson Isibor, condemned the election which it described as a charade, the ANPP in the state in a statement signed by Comrade Godwin Erhahon, hailed the outcome of the election and described the allegation of rigging by the PDP as misleading.
Isibor stated that â€œ the way and manner the election was conducted is an indication that the Comrade Governor is not ready for democracy as he preachesÂ to Nigerians.
One would haveÂ expected that he will show example by conducting a free and fair election in Akoko Edo rather than unleashing mayhem on the same electorate whom he claims to protect. We call on the INEC to cancel the so called election and arrest all those who perpetrated evil, including the government officials who were involvedâ€.
But the ANPP disagreed, asserting that â€œ we salute the gallantry of the Comrade Governor who has conquered the notorious terrorists and oppressorsÂ in Edo state politics.
We advise the National leader of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih to accept the fall of his party in Akoko Edo as a manifestation ofÂ the fade away of his power and the myth surrounding him as Mr Fix it.
The only safe option for Chief Anenih is to voluntarily resign from politics with half of his honour and glory remaining than wait to be humiliated and completely rubbished outâ€.
A coalition ofÂ civil society organizations, in a statement signed by the executive director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Reverend David Ugolor and Comrade Friday Obanor, NUJ Chairman in Edo state, said that â€œwhile it cannot be said that this was a perfect election, the monitoring team is satisfied that by and large voters were allowed to cast their votes for their preferred candidatesâ€.
But the Vice-Chairman of the PDP, (Edo North), Mr Paschal Ugbome, described the assessment as â€œmasterminded by the state government and should be disregarded. How can you say that an election should stand when a lot of people were not allowed to cast their votes due to the shooting that was experienced in almost all the wards? We expect groups like this to be truthful on sensitive issues such as this and stop playing to the galleryâ€.
There is no doubt that the election had heightened the political situation in the state and the end is still unpredictable. Saturday Vanguard learnt that Chief Anenih was very upset with the election and had expressed his feelings to the Governor.
Anybody who has been observing the politics of the state would know that Chief Anenih and his dedicated foot soldiers in the PDP would surely plot a revenge for Oshiomohle. But the Governor seems not to be daunted as he has vowed to dismantle what he described as the PDP rigging machine in the state.
But as the battle hots up, two House of Assembly seats are still being contested at the Appeal Court and the fear is that it may go the same way with Akoko Edo.
And if it does, only God knows what will happen in the state because the PDP is expected to go all out for the seats. Among the 24 members of the House, the PDP now has 13 while the AC has 11.The AC see it as a victory because the PDP can no longer garner the 2/3 that is requiredÂ to impeach the Governor.
But they pray they win the remaining two seatsÂ so as to see how they can get the required number to dissolve the 18 Local Government Councils being controlled by the PDP. However, the PDP knows these challenges and are expected to re-strategise. Unfortunately for the party, barely two months after it lost its factional chairman, Chief Samson Ekhabafe, who was missed very badly by the party during the re-run election, another leader of the party and chairman of Setraco, Alhaji Inu Umoru died at 76. But it is never over until it is over.
As it seems, the political battle between Chief Anenih and Governor Oshiomohle is going to be quite a long one. And the survival of the PDP in the state will depend on the ability of the PDP leaders, led by Chief Anenih to check Governor Oshiomohle and his maradonic style of politics which is most times very confusing to both leaders of the PDP and his AC.
But one thing is clear, Oshiomohle is going to be a very hard meat to chew in politics or inÂ other aspects of life following how he has been able to adjust to the rugged political situation in the country.