By Simon Ebegbulem
After his last weekend victory at the Edo State governorship election, Governor Adams Oshiomhole addressed the people of the state in a live press conference. He gave reasons why he was hard on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the early hours of penultimate Saturday. He also gave an insight on how his second tenure will look like, his relationship with the former Chairman Board of Trustee of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih and other issues. Excerpts:
Victory is for Edo people I thank the Almighty God for not only blessing my candidature, He also created a cool environment, moderate sunshine such that no one had excuse not to come out and vote. And immediately after the election, God brought the rain to come and cool the environment. To God be the glory that I have the honour to be re-elected along with my deputy.
I also believe that the event has also shown that men with little minds can plot violence but God can neutralize all of that. I want to express my condolence to the families of the policemen and INEC ad-hoc staff who died when their boat capsized around Ologbo area. My heart goes for the families. The government of Edo State will support them to ensure that their families do not lack.
I congratulate the people of Edo for, perhaps for the first time, expressed their choice for the office of the governor without the usual snatching of ballot boxes and thuggery that characterized previous elections, particularly the ones of 2007 and even 2003. The large turn out of voters shows that the people appreciate that there is no alternative to democracy.
This victory is truly theirs because, in a genuine democracy, the people are actually the winners to the extent that the person declared is a reflection of the popular will. The task now is for us to build on these gains and ensure that never again will any one who is not elected or any one who is not the free choice of the people be proclaimed by any one for any elective position not only in Edo but through out the country.
Why I attacked INEC
At the commencement of the poll, I made a statement about my impression with the way the election was going on. I was very hard on INEC because I felt and I remain convinced that INEC cannot be excused for not being able to deliver polling materials at a time provided by themselves, 8 a.m.. And given the fact that this was just one state election and with all the assurances we were given and knowing fully well that the materials were delivered from CBN to INEC office mid day on Thursday, there is no justifiable reason why INEC failed the people of Edo South to deliver voting materials on time.
I believe that the Resident Electoral Commissioner, I believe he demonstrated uncommon quality of leadership, even under tension he maintained his cool. I have no doubt in my mind that he conducted himself very responsibly. The challenge however is that in the course of trying to ensure effective supervision of the election, some of the people posted to Edo are people who cannot be considered as fit and proper persons to be entrusted with any sensitive national assignment that requires uprightness and a level of integrity.
We had information which I passed to Prof. Jega in a petition over six weeks ago to the effect that there was a deal between some elements in INEC and one of the political parties in Edo to delay the delivery of election materials to polling booths on election day. And in that letter I detailed that Edo South was the prime target particularly Oredo, Ikpoba Okahi and Egor Local Government Areas which constitute the heart of Benin City.
The calculation was that when you delay the supply of materials in these areas, given the population, many of the people may not be able to vote. Now it is unacceptable and there can be no justifiable reason for INEC will be able to deliver election materials to Edo Central and part of Edo North, such that accreditation started at 8am.
If they can deliver election materials to local governments two hours away from Benin City, how can you explain that you cannot deliver election materials within Benin including polling units that are five or ten minutes drive from INEC office. And in some cases the materials did not get to these local governments up to 12noon. We also complained to Prof. Jega part of the plans to mutilate voters register to create confusion on election day; again this aspect played out in some parts of Benin City.
The confusion at Garrick Memorial voting center, which incidentally is the very voting point of the PDP, where they had more names in the so-called addendum register over and above the names contained in the register that was displayed to the political parties is another issue. The document was doctored by an element in INEC.
The confusion at New Era voting center, where a register that was unknown to the people was the one that was delivered is yet another issue, so for about two to three hours, there was confusion in that polling unit. Again that was an rror of the heart not of the head.
Thank God that at the end of the day every thing went smoothly but if you look at the total number of registered voters and the total number of votes cast, you will know that the delay to supply materials to Edo South substantially reduced the number of people that wanted to vote. So I believe that on INEC official was responsible for the delay and it is in line with his character.
And I want to appeal to Prof.Jega to save his own name by not deploying corrupt INEC officials to conduct elections no matter where the pressure is coming from. He must understand that whatever INEC does or fail to do, in the final analysis, the buck stops at his desk. He must bear the full responsibility of the conduct of any INEC official. And I ask him to investigate why within Benin City, what led to the delay such that within Benin City where the materials are, for three hours, materials were not delivered and yet the same materials were delivered in some parts of Edo North and through out Edo Central so that he will give appropriate sanctions to those who tried to disenfranchise people from Edo South. And those local governments are the most populated in Edo.
Kudos Oba of Benin, others
Let me say that I am proud of the NYSC members, as well as students from UNIBEN and Auchi Polytechnic who were appointed as ad-hoc staff. From the report I received across the state, I believe they conducted themselves very well. So I want to congratulate the REC here and the leadership he provided. I believe that the outcome of this election is significant in many ways because, for the first time, Edo people across the three senatorial districts spoke in unison. The result shows that I won in all the 18 local government areas decisively. I believe that all the efforts by some persons to whip up ethnic sentiments have been rebuked by the good people of Edo State.
And I believe this will go a long way in shaping the character of our future election. No one will contest election purely on the basis of ethnic sentiment. The Edo electorate has shown that merit alone will determine their pattern of voting and indeed that their votes is not for the highest bidder. If it were for the highest bidder, some of those who lost their polling units, given the amount of money they spent, if you divide it by the number of votes they got in their polling units, it will appear that a vote cost as much as N50 million per vote cast.
Edo people have shown that they are not for sale. When you study the details of the voting pattern, who lost where, you will discover that Edo people have identified all those who they believe in their judgment are responsible for the kind of politics that have characterized the life of this state for a long time. The way the people have voted has made my task much easier.
You may recall that in my campaign I made a point that the tax of any government among others is to unite the people. I will build on existing bridges to unite Edo people because, as I always argued, Edo is not an artificial wall. All of us come from Benin and all of us accept the authority of His Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin as the paramount ruler in whom all Edolites respect, appreciate and recognize. I assure everybody that we will transform Edo to a level that the forces of darkness can never again take over the governance of this state.
Hands of fellowship
Let me appreciate all those who contested this election with me and the political parties involved. I want to appreciate the leadership of the PDP, and their candidate, Gen. Charles Airhiavbere. I believe they did their best to market the party and the candidate but Edo people decided on their choice. I believe they raised the stake involved in the election and that made the victory even sweeter.
I appreciate them and I hope that together we will work together and deliver good governance to the state. I also want to appreciate Mr Edebiri of the ANPP. I want to appreciate the candidate of the Labour Party, candidate of the SDMP, the candidate of the NCP. You will agree that these numbers all helped to remind us that we are in a multi party democracy. I want to formally extend my hand of friendship, I believe each and every one of us who contested this election did so because we are all committed to the development of Edo State.
We will govern for the benefit of all our people without any form of discrimination. I want to plead with them to recognize that there is no way in which we would have avoided a situation where more than one person wins. I call on them to work with me; there is enough space for every one and together we will take Edo to the next level.
Let me use this opportunity to appreciate one of our outstanding elder statesman, Dr Samuel Ogbemudia. I believe that Edo people are united to the fact of the contribution he made while he was governor of Bendel State. I want to appreciate him and I want to appreciate the leadership he provided during the electioneering campaign. It does not matter that of course he is one of the outstanding leaders of the PDP in Edo State.
Let me also appreciate Chief Tony Anenih, the leader of the PDP. Of course, to most people, and even in terms of some statements credited to him, many believe the election was more or less between himself and myself, but those are matters of detail. But let me put it on record that I appreciate him as an elder of our state who deserves respect from all of us.
But of course the challenge of democracy includes battle of ideas and, because of this battle of ideas, some time, the luxury of being too nice may not be present. But let me assure him and all our people, I appreciate him, I respect him and I will continue to respect him even as I might have fundamental differences in terms of our political ideologies. I will continue to show respect to him and members of his great party.
I also want to appreciate all the leaders of the political parties that participated in the election. The electioneering period is over, the people have spoken loud and clear. From Edo South to Edo Central to Edo North, we have a clear mandate that can be described as a landslide victory.
Let me finally place on record, my gratitude to his Royal Majesty, Oba of Benin. He has demonstrated that we are all his children and that he will not discriminate against any Edo man or woman. He is a living example of what a leader should be. I appreciate all the support he had extended to my government since I assumed office and the fatherly role he played in the course of this electioneering campaign. And I want to promise that I will collaborate with him to consolidate the unity of the people of this state.
Lastly, you will agree that when we talk about free and fair election, and celebrate the fact that this election turned out to be extreme peaceful, the role of security agents was outstanding. The Nigerian Army deserves special commendation. But we cannot appreciate the Nigerian Army without appreciating the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, President Goodluck Jonathan.
His assurances to the people of Edo State of free and fair election, I believe the President kept his word for truly being a statesman and President of Nigeria, rather than just the leader of PDP. I appreciate him and the leadership he provided. I want to commend the Chief of the Army Staff, the Commander of 4 Brigade, for providing leadership for the Nigeria Army. And reports across the state confirmed that the Nigerian Army were very civil and they assisted where they were called upon.
I also want to appreciate the Nigeria Police, they had their men on ground and they stopped all those who came to do thuggery in Edo State. I want to appreciate the IG and the State Security Service and the Director General for their efforts in ensuing security in every local government and ward.