By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Simon Ebegbulem, Gabriel Enogholase & Josephine Agbonkhese
BENIN CITY—The two leading candidates in the Edo State governorship election, Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were last night racing neck and neck against the background of mixed fortunes for some of the state’s leading political leaders.
The biggest upset of the night was at the PU001 Staff Training School, Benin where the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and wife of the PDP candidate, Dr. Idia Ize-Iyamu voted. The PDP won the unit by 78 votes to APC’s 69.
Also, former Governor of the state, Oserhiemen Osunbor failed to deliver for the APC, as PDP won at his poling unit in Iruekpen, Esan West LGA by 168 to 120 votes.
In other early results, the APC candidate won his unit by 160 votes to the 77 votes scored by the PDP candidate. The PDP candidate, however, won his unit (Unit 26 Ward 5 in Orhionmwon local government area) by 369 votes to the one vote recorded for the APC candidate. The outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also won his voting centre in Ward 10, Unit 1, Iyamho in Etsako West LGA by 752 to 1 vote.
In other early results, Chief Mike Oghiadhome, who served as Chief of Staff to President Goodluck Jonathan, also won in his polling unit by 308 to 214, while Senator Matthew Urhoghide, the PDP campaign manager, won his Unit 9 by 139 to 51.
Against apprehension of violence, yesterday’s election relatively passed off smoothly with minimal reports of violence in the 18 local government areas of the state. The election was, however, largely marred by alleged inducement of voters with money being passed on to voters even on the queue. There was a heavy turnout of voters with many voters trekking long distances to their voting points.
The heavy turnout led to an extension of voting time in Ikpeshi, in Akoko Edo Local Government Area, where voting was ongoing as at 6.30 p.m.
Voting commenced quite early in many voting centres as materials and election officials arrived early enough with accreditation and voting commencing simultaneously.
Leading political officials, including the outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the two major candidates, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu all commended the turnout.
There were few complaints about card reader malfunctioning in Emokpae Primary school Oredo, Ayogwiri in Etsako Central and some parts of Orhiowmon. However, INEC officials made frantic efforts to fix the situation.
Obaseki voted at his unit 19, in Oredo ward 4 at about 10:30 am, while the candidate of the PDP, Pastor Ize-Iyamu voted at Unit 26, Ward 5, in Orhionmwon Local Government Area at about 9:53 a.m.
Obaseki who arrived alongside his wife to vote, joined the queue and spent about 30 minutes before voting. Ize-Iyamu, however, got quick courtesy from those in his polling unit, as he on arrival, was immediately ushered by others on the queue to vote.
The governorship candidate of the APGA, Osaro Onaiwu, who voted in Unit 27 Oredo Ward One, however, called on INEC to cancel the election, alleging inducement of voters as reasons.
He told Vanguard, last night: “The turnout was impressive because Edo people wanted change. But the people where disenfranchised by the PDP and APC. This is not the democracy we laboured for. This is not the kind of democracy we want to leave for our children.
“I asked for the cancellation since 2.p.m (yesterday) because there was no election. In my unit where I voted, the APC thugs went there, and they took the ballot box,” he alleged.
National chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, who voted in Ward 2 Oredo, described the process as very peaceful and transparent, saying “I am very pleasantly surprised because this is the best turn out I have ever experienced. It presumes that something good is about to happen, that people are keen to express their democratic options and that democracy has become totally wide spread. It is a very good omen.
Odigie-Oyegun, who after voting was confronted with the allegation of inducement of voters, rebuffed the insinuation even as he commended the conduct of the election.
On the inducement of voters as was allegedly observed by some people at his polling unit, he said: “When I look at a place like this, I don’t know how you can give someone money. How do you know somebody has voted, given how secret it truly is, nobody will know how you’ve thumb printed. Please, is there somebody sharing money, let me go to him and take my own.”
Speaking shortly after casting his vote, Obaseki commended the conduct of the election and expressed confidence that it will remain peaceful.
According to him, “the election is very peaceful in most areas though we heard about an isolated incident somewhere in Edo Central. I think it has been taken care of by security agents. I believe that it will go well and for me, what is most important is that we did not lose blood because of elections. My hope is that we have a very peaceful election so that at the end of the day, we will strengthen our democracy. I am very optimistic of victory.”
Also speaking, Ize-Iyamu, who described the conduct of the election as peaceful, said: “We are praying to God that what we see here is the same thing we will see in other places. I am impressed. The turnout is massive, and the voters are orderly. They have been using security agencies to harass our people; even till last night.
“I have also spoken to their superior, who has assured us that those who are doing so are on their own, but, they will call them to order. We are also aware that governors of two APC states are in Benin. That is worrisome. Campaigns have ended.
“But, in spite of all that, we have held that some persons had planned to smuggle in results at the wards and local government levels. But, I am confident that this one will not work,” he stated.
On his part, governorship candidate of the APGA, Osaro Onaiwu called on INEC to cancel the election, alleging “financial inducement, holiganism, violence.
“I will not accept any declaration of any result; this is the worst election we have witnessed in Edo state. Where people share money in polling units is unacceptable. Look at what happened in Oluku and Ologbo thugs took over the entire place. At St Maria Goretti people were sharing money everywhere to bribe voters. It is unacceptable”.
The Director General of the Obaseki, campaign organization, Osarodion Ogie, who voted in Unit 27, Ward 10 in Ikpoba Okhai, Local Government Area described the exercise as very peaceful and orderly. According to him, “unlike those days when you will hear complaints of late arrival of materials or voters apathy, you can see everything is well handled, and people are enjoying themselves today.
The former chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, also commended the process of the election but, however, said it was too early to make a general statement when he voted.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole also hailed the good logistics preparation for the election.
Speaking shortly after casting his vote at Unit 1, Ward, Iyamho Primary School, Etsako West Local Government Area at 11.13am, Oshiomhole who also said he was impressed with the large turn-out of voters, however, said there were some incidents in some parts of the state which the security agencies and INEC should look into.
While hailing the orderly manner at his polling unit, Oshiomhole said: “I believe this is a perfect example of the way it should be, but I cannot tell you that this is the way it is in other places because I have not been to those places. But I have received a report just now from the Onojie of Opoji that PDP thugs went and removed the card reader in order to prevent the people of Opoji from voting. So, we are dealing with that because the people have a right to vote. That right cannot be compromised, and INEC has a duty, a non-negotiable duty to ensure that the people of Opoji have a right to vote.
“I don’t know how that happened because they are supposed to have enough security in every polling unit, and if you have security in every polling unit, and some rascals and hoodlums can still come and carry the card reader, then that raises a number of issues both on the part of INEC and the security people detailed to protect the INEC, the materials, the voters in Opoji. That doesn’t mean this is happening everywhere, but that is where I have a report now.
“There are reports we are following up, but at this point, it will be too early for one to draw any conclusion. My unit is only one village out of thousands of villages in Edo State.”
The PDP, however, raised apprehension about the delay in the collation of results alleging that it was a plot by the APC and some INEC officials to rig the election.
The party in a statement issued late last night by the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Chris Nehikhare said, “We wish to let Edo people know that there has been enough time for the INEC to start announcing the ward results. Voting stopped at 2 p.m. and votes were counted immediately at the unit levels.”
“From results made available to us we are in a very comfortable lead. We are however shocked that till now no ward result has been declared. We are aware that APC and INEC plan to change the result at the collation centre and we wish to warn that any change to the result we are already aware of will be met with stiff resistance.
“INEC should tell Governor Adams Oshiomhole that the changing and swapping of results at the collation center is a no-no! Even worse is the attempt to prevent our agents into the collation centers.
“We however advice our supporters and members to remain calm. In a few more hours, the liberation of Edo will be official”
Speaking on the conduct of the election, the chairperson of the TMG, Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi said:
“There was early commencement of election day process, materials arrived early too, except in few places. The election appears to be peaceful in most of the polling units visited; there were reports of few cases of violence particularly ballot box snatching and political party agents instigated crises. There are also reports of huge inducements by political parties. However the turn out looks impressive, INEC had few cases of late starting, their distribution has since improved, minimal cases of card reader malfunctioning and INEC seems to have an effective ICT unit, that is mobile and was able to resolve most of the problems.
Programme Officer, National Association for Peaceful Elections in Nigeria, NAPEN, Ifeanyi Adigwe in his own assessment of the election, also confirmed that though the voting process started out peacefully in most parts of the state, also alluded to pockets of violence towards midday.
“At Adolor Ward(Polling Unit 8) in Ovia-North LGA, election was canceled because a strange man came threatening to snatch the ballot boxes.
At Irrua in Edo Central, the card reader was malfunctioning, and people were later advised to wash their hands with water and soap before thumb-printing.
“At Jatu, the process started out peacefully also but at noon, some unknown gun men tried to disrupt it by shooting sporadically. Nobody was however killed because security personnel waded in. But at that time, most people had scampered for safety. This security breach eventually affected voters’ turnout.
“In Benin City in general, the election process was peaceful throughout morning, but towards noon also, violence erupted in some areas due to the unruly behavior of party agents.