THE Edo Local Government Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Benin City recently gave its ruling on the elections held on October 22, 2013, in Esan North East Local Government Area with different reactions trailing the ruling of that tribunal.
While the Tribunal upheld the election of eight out of eleven wards won by the All Progressives Congress, APC, it ruled in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the other three wards. However, the tribunal ruled against the chairmanship result as announced by Edo State Independent Electoral Commission, the body recognized by law to conduct and announce the election result.
Interestingly, the tribunal ruled and ordered a re-run of the chairmanship election, not because the results so declared by the body were faulted, but on technicality that the results were announced in Benin City, the state capital and not in Uromi, headquarters of the Esan North East Local Government Area designated as the collection centre where it should have been announced as provided by the Electoral Act.
Now the question: why were the results announced at the EDSIEC headquarters in Benin City and not Uromi? A number of factors are said to be responsible for this, chief among them being the state of insecurity and level of brigandage perpetrated by some politicians who wanted to force their irrelevance in the Local Government down the throats of the people. Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole had complained about this on different occasions, the first being at the swearing-in of the 17 Local Government Chairmen after the April 20 election.
His concerns, were more damning after the November 22, 2013 re-run election in Esan North East Local Government Area, where he was reported by Vanguard Newspapers in its edition of Thursday, November 24, 2013 at Page 45 as saying, “‘I am embarrassed that the police have become electoral officials.”
Oshiomhole had accused the Minister of Works, Mike Onolemenmen, and other PDP chieftains of unleashing their police escorts on the people of the area during the elections, just as he alleged that the PDP leaders recruited some Uromi-born mobile policemen to intimidate voters and perfect arrest of APC leaders.
Oshiomhole reportedly said, “what I heard, yesterday, and I am still investigating…if the reports are correct, then Nigeria should be put on notice that the police may well have chosen to become the INEC or EDSIEC officials and have chosen to overthrow those who are authorised by law to conduct elections.
As a Nigerian, I am embarrassed that the police are involved in carrying electoral materials, arresting EDSIEC returning officers and coercing them into a police station and converting it into a collation centre supervised by policemen imported from Abuja and Lagos in order to subvert the will of the people of Esan North East.
“As a civilised man, I felt ashamed that men in uniform at rather very senior level supervised this criminal act in the election. The Minister of Works and other federal functionaries, including Assembly men used their exalted positions, taking unfair advantage of the police assigned to protect them and deployed them for election purpose, detaining returning officers and treating them as if they were prisoners of war compelling them to sign fake results.”
It is noteworthy that the PDP published a full page advertorial same day at Page 20, in the same Vanguard newspaper where it announced concocted results of the said election. One wonders where they fished their figures from.
What observers find amusing is how the PDP which lost the gubernatorial seat in 2012, and was rejected by the people in Esan North East, where they lost in all the wards but one to the Action Congress of Nigeria, which transmogrified to the APC in the said election suddenly, within a year, reversed its electoral fortunes such that it expected to win in the Local Government.
Why would the PDP create such a tense and unfriendly environment and engineer the arrest of electoral officers such that they could announce the results at Uromi? Why would the party publish falsified results to confuse the people and create tension in the local government with the sole intention of creating an unconducive environment for the electoral officers to perform their duties in Uromi, which eventually necessitated the announcement of the result at EDSIEC’s headquarters in Benin City.
With the benefit of hindsight, and with the recent court verdict, one can infer that the PDP foresaw the defeat that awaited them in the October 22 elections, and their strategy was to do everything to ensure that EDSIEC would not be able adhere strictly to the provisions of the electoral act on announcing the results in Uromi.
•Eguaikhide, a University lecturer writes from Ekpoma, Edo State