By Simon Ebegbulem
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo and his Action Congress (AC), last weekend floored the Chief Tony Anenih led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) again, in another House of Assembly re-runÂ for Etsako Central Local Government Council.
The AC candidate, Mr Johnson Oghuma polled 7,884 to defeat his counterpart in the PDP, Chris Umogbai, who polled 3,712. The result was a bit shocking to those who observed the politics that was played in the state before the election, particularly as regards the use of federal might by the PDP.
The partyÂ had vowed to ensure that it wins the election, so as to tell its supporters that they are still on ground in spite of the fact that they are not controlling the state.
Consequently, having accused Oshiomhole of usingÂ government machinery, the police and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to rig the Akoko Edo House of Assembly re-run last year, the PDP requested for a new Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), the withdrawal of soldiers in the Joint Task Force, code-named â€œOperation Thunderstormâ€, the security out fit set up by Governor Oshiomhole to check the excesses of kidnappers and other criminals in the state. And finally, they asked for the removal of the Commissioner of Police in the state, Danlami Yarâ€™Adua.
They capitalized on the absence of President Umaru Yarâ€™Adua to get the Minister of Defense, Gen.Godwin Abbe to withdraw the soldiers in the Joint Task force in the state. It would be recalled that the President had approved theÂ deployment ofÂ soldiers for Oshiomhole who requested assistance in the wake of kidnapping and other violent crimes in the state.
However, despite the protests against the withdrawal of the soldiers, Abbe refused to reinstate them, explaining that it was the decision of the Federal Government in order not to involve soldiers in the areas where elections are being held. The REC Mr Aniede Abasi Ikoiwak, was equally removed and one Mr Ahmed Raji, replaced him. The Divisional Police Officer (DPO), in Fugar was replaced with some body else.
They (PDP) were not able to remove the Commissioner of Police, but they ensured that he was not saddled with the responsibility to conduct the election. A new Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police, Mr Felix Ogbaudu and about 1,600 policemen were de
ployed by the Inspector -General of Police, Ogbonnaya Onovo, to conduct the election. The police in Edo were asked to stay off so as to avoid arrest. While all these were going on, Oshiomhole asked his supporters to remain calm and campaign vigorously. AC supporters were apprehensive that there was a plan to ensure that the PDP wins the election. It was learnt that Chief Anenih provided all that was needed to ensure victory for his party.
It was reported that he was shocked with the result and there were accusations and counter accusations against some leaders of the party in the state over funds provided for the election.
On election day, the security was water tight. The entire Etsako Central was flooded with policemen and State Security Service (SSS) agents and people were searched to their pants. They provided an environment that would make it impossible for political thugs to import arms into the area. And contrary to earlier fears that there may be voters apathy, due to the earlier rumour that supporters of both political parties had imported militants and armed thugs to unleash mayhem on themselves on the day of the election, people came out enmass to cast their votes. Three parties, ANPP, PDP and AC contested the election.
As early as 6am, leaders of the AC and PDP stormed the INEC office in Fugar, for the distribution of materials. The AC raised alarm over the presence of fake INEC officials who were screened for the election. It was discovered that about twenty one names were fake INEC officials.
They were immediately dropped and real INEC staff were accredited immediately. Eight persons who were also discovered to be fake agents of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) at Ogbona, were also arrested after it was discovered that they were agents of one of the leading political parties in the state.
Vanguard also learnt that security agents uncovered cache of arms in a popular hotel in Benin City . It was gathered that the arms were billed to be ferried to Etsako Central for the re-runÂ but following tip off, security operatives stormed the hotel and confiscated the arms. Ten of the suspected thugs were arrested with the over twenty AK 45 guns and other dangerous ammunition. Vanguard observed that not less than eight or nine policemen manned each polling booth. About six Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) , were stationed at strategic areas in the area.
There was particularly tight security in areas considered flash points, such as Fugar, Ekperi and Ogbona, where the chairman of the PDP in the state, Chief Dan Orbih, hails from.Â Governor Oshiomhole monitored the entire exercise. Former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe, former Deputy Senate President, Senator Albert Legogie, Principal Secretary to Vice-President, Chief Mike Oghiadohme and a chieftain of the PDP, Pascal Ugbome, State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Kaduna Eboigbe, President of the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor, described the election as free and fair.
Earlier the governor told newsmen, that â€œwe hope that with the presence of large numbers of policemen, we must enforce one man one vote. I do not care who wins, but we must conduct a free and fair election here. The credibility of the election is sacrosanct to meâ€.
However, there were attempts by some chieftains of a leading political party in the election, to hijack ballot boxes at Ogbona, but they were resisted by youths at the polling station. Vanguard observed that majority of the people who voted, sat down to wait for the counting. The entire process was so transparent that it would be difficult for any body to rig.
However, Oghiadohme who spoke to newsmen shortly after he voted, acknowledged the peaceful atmosphere, saying that â€œthe turn out was very impressive and the security is okay. But it is sad to hear
that there is still a lot of unwarranted malpractices going on in some areas. But here that I voted is peaceful. This is a PDP Local Government, I can only say that it is expected that PDP will winâ€.
Admiral Akhigbe who also spoke to Vanguard said â€œ I am happy that every body is voting and you can see our people feeling happy that they have exercised their rights without being harassed. The young ones are happy. As a matter of fact, we were scared initially that the presence of policemen may stop people from coming out to vote. But our people are very enlightened; they still came out and cast their votes.
This principle of one man one vote is going to be a movement that we all must sustain in Etsako Central and Nigeria as a whole. Though I am in PDP but I have always insisted that the people must be allowed to vote. We are repeating this election today because during the last election, I warned against rigging but those who felt that they are he only owners of the PDP refused to listen. You can see the joy on the faces of our people because this is the first time that we will be experiencing this kind of peaceful election in our area.
The PDP is suffering today because Anenih refused to allow internal democracy in this state. The AC candidate for the election was in PDP, he is actually a cousin to the PDP candidate Umogbai. But Anenih and Oghiadohme never allowed internal democracy and that was how the boy (Johnson Ughoeke, AC candidate) left for the AC. They chased him out of the party, so tell me how the PDP can grow with such imposition and dictatorship. It was as a result of issues like this that our faction of the PDP went to court and we are still in courtâ€.
Senator Legogie pointed out that: â€œIt has been long our people saw a peaceful election like this. In an election like this, people are bound to accept the result. This is the kind of election that should be organized in Nigeria , if we conduct elections like this, there will be peace in the country.
Like some body called me from a neighboring community Dabba, that this is the first time they are seeing ballot boxes. So if this is the only thing our people have enjoyed so far, we are very satisfiedâ€. NLC Chairman, Eboigbe and Ugolor, who were among members of the civil society that monitored the election, described the election as very free, adding that â€œwe believe that this should be sustained because if we continue like this, our democracy will be betterâ€.
On his part, Ugbome stated that â€œin my own area where I voted, it was peaceful but I am yet to know what is happening in the other areas. I voted for my party (PDP) and I am very optimistic that we will win if the AC allows it to be free and fair in all the areas. I have heard that the governor and all his officials have been intimidating our people particularly in the interior areas. They came with truck loads of thugs and they scared many voters away. But I thank God that we never gave them the opportunity to kill our peopleâ€.
However, at the end of the day, the Principal Secretary to the Vice_President, Chief Oghiadohme lost his ward while Orbih survived the scare in his own ward. Admiral Akhigbeâ€™s support for AC candidate was the undoing of PDP in Fugar. Anenih had always regarded Akhigbe as none PDP member and a political neophyte. But Akhigbe used the Etsako election to punish Anenih, at least to send a message that his people are behind him.
It would be recalled that Admiral Akhigbe created the Council single handed while he was in power and brought development to his people. As it seems, his people showed their appreciation by supporting the candidate of his choice in the election.
Also reacting a chieftain of the PDP, Mr Sunny Aguabor (Bibi) said â€œitâ€™s a good thing that is beginning to happen in Nigeria . I commend INEC and police for a very good job. With this type of situation, Nigerians will no longer be afraid that their votes will not count.
I will also want to advise other states in the country to emulate what has happened in Edo so that future elections will be acceptable. And I also hailed PDP for accepting the result because the right person won at the end of the day. Real democracy has commenced in the state and we must all commend the governor for allowing free and fair election in the stateâ€.
Oshiomhole who reacted to the victory, said that â€œI do not care about who won the election but the process. I am glad that the people has voted their conscience. It is victory for democracy and the end of the god father. The result of the election has shown that Edo people owns the land not a single individual. Never again will our people be heldÂ hostage by a cabal., neverâ€.
But reacting in a statement, signed by its state Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, the PDP accepted the result but however accused the state governor of intimidating voters on the day of the election. According to the statement, â€œthe Edo State chapter of the PDP has accepted the results in the just concluded Etsako Central House of Assembly re_runÂ in spite of the widespread electoral malpractices which were perpetrated by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, his battalion of thugs and litany ofÂ state government officials as they paraded the polling centres, intimidating and inducing the electorate to vote forÂ AC.
The party is of the opinion that the election has come and gone and we must move forward and save the state and our party faithful, the agony of an acrimonious reaction to the manner in which Oshiomhole breached established electoral protocol and intimidated our communities in Etsako Central during the electionâ€. The statement further commended members for their unalloyed support and unwavering loyalty and urged them to remain steadfast as the party is poised on wrestling power from the AC in the next general election.
Reacting on the allegation by the PDP that state governorÂ manipulated the result of the election, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Mr Charles Idahosa described the allegation as laughable, saying that the result of the election was an indication that the â€œgod father has finally been buriedâ€.
According to him, â€œthe governor as chief security officer of the state, has the right to move around on the election day so as to ensure that every thing went well. But what has that got to do with the votes that were counted? The people came out willingly to vote for candidates of their choice and besides, that same election day, we saw the former deputy governor Lucky Imasuen, Mathew Iduoriyenkenwe and other PDP leaders moving around, so why are they complaining.
However, election observers under the aegis of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations, in a report released last Monday, described the election as very free and fair, just as they commended the police for their conduct through out the election. The report was signed by Executive Director, Africa Network For Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev.David Ugolor, Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Edo State, Comrade Kaduna Eboigbe, Secretary, Gani Fawehinmi Movement for Good Governance, Innocent Edemhanria, President One love Foundation, Chief Patrick Uholor and the Executive Director, Foundation for Good Governance and Social Change, Austin Osakue.