By Victor Omoregie
On 24 April, 2013, Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC) conducted elections into the 18 local government areas (LGAs) in the state. Results of the elections were released for all the local government council areas except one, Esan North-East. Since the cancellation of the results of the LGA, there has been grave-yard silence pervading the area.
However, one of the major actors in the elections, Mr. John Yakubu, has been shouting himself hoarse over what he has termed injustice to himself and the denial of the dividends of democracy to the people of Esan North-East LGA. Yakubu is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairmanship candidate in the LGA in the elections. He had been the chairman of Esan North-East LGA from 2007 to 2010. He left government specifically on 25 October 2010 after the tenure of the council chairmen were truncated.
Are you a professional politician or businessman?
I am a businessman into civil construction, and oil and gas. I have been in business for over 30 years.I have been in the business of creation of wealth. Creativity is part of my life, adding value to whatever I place my hands on. Four years ago, my people called me to come and serve them, that is how I found myself contributing my quota to the political development of Esan North-East LGA.
It seems that your political career is on hold at the moment. What is responsible?
Having served my people between 2007 and 2010, I was once again called upon to contest the chairmanship position in the April 24 local government elections under the banner of the PDP. The elections were earlier scheduled for 20 April but was shifted to 24 April. It was a transparent, credible, free and fair election and, by the grace of God, I won.
Was this contention that it was free and fair agreeable to both the voters and contestants?
Yes. If you talk to 19 out every 20 person within the local government area, you will receive the same positive response regarding the elections. However, it was very unfortunate that the elections were cancelled by EDSIEC.
What led to the cancellation?
I cannot really say exactly. Results of the elections were collated and announced in every polling booth of the 106 polling stations in the local government area. By the time the Presiding Officers and Presiding Clerks were looking for the Returning Officers, some of them had absconded, including that of Esan North-East. I am calling on the police to look for the Returning Officer in-charge of Esan North-East, to explain how he collected money for a job he never did. After the elections, people were going about satisfied that they had participated in a credible exercise, only to hear different stories regarding the conduct of the elections.
Exactly what did they hear?
After the elections, we started hearing that the results of the elections in Esan North-East had been cancelled for no reason.
Where did this information emanate from?
It came from the EDSIEC chairman, Mr. Solomon Ogor. I am still waiting for the EDSIEC chairman to give reasons the elections were annulled. He did mention something about thuggery. I agree with him as some thugs hired by a party came from Benin and invaded our local government in order to forment trouble. They were all arrested. I expect the Edo police commissioner to prosecute those arrested.
So the position today is that the election results were cancelled because of insecurity…
That is what the EDSIEC chairman is claiming to have been the reason. He said it was because of national insecurity that the election results were cancelled. The insecurity that he was referring to was not particular to Edo State or Esan North-East. I want to plead that the elections be conducted afresh, with at least a thousand Police personnel in attendance.
In your view, what is the way forward?
Let me say, first of all, that somewhere, somebody is playing God. Somebody is depriving the people of Esan North-East of dividends of democracy. Today the people of Esan North-East have no council just because of the voice of one man, the EDSIEC chairman and he has not proffered any reason for his action.
What role is your party playing in the drama unfolding on the cancellation of the election results?
My party (PDP) has come out to say that the elections, to a large extent, in some local government council areas, were not free. To be particular, my party has asked the EDSIEC to fix a new date for fresh elections in Esan North-East. My party is ready to participate in the rescheduled elections. This is because the PDP is on ground in the area. We are confident that if the elections are conducted 100 times, the PDP will emerge the winner.
Have you considered going to court?
For now I see no reason to head to the court, because if the EDSIEC chairman was to testify in court, his response would probably be that the elections were inclusive. With the case in court, the opportunity to set up a care-taker committee to run the affairs of the council would arise. We do not want to be pulled into such a situation. We are saying if the EDSIEC chairman says that the elections were inconclusive, he should make amends to conclude the elections by organising fresh ones. We are begging the EDSIEC chairman to fix a date for the rescheduled elections.
We are begging him to come and conclude the elections just as he did in other local government council areas. Let him relocate his office to Esan North-East. It has been done before by the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) when elections came up for some particular states. He should not delegate anybody to do this particular duty. He should take total authority and be in charge.
Let the state Commissioner of Police, Director of Department of Security Services (DSS) and heads of other relevant security agencies concerned with the electoral process all be involved in the proposed rescheduled elections in Esan North-East. This action would truly bring to fore the true meaning of the slogan ‘One-Man One-Vote’ and would see the party that would emerge the winner. The people of Esan North-East are ready, the PDP is ready, the only ‘person’ that is not ready today for reasons best to them is EDSIEC.