By SIMON EBEGBULEM, BENIN-CITY
It has been celebration galore for members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Edo State, following their victory at the September 28 governorship election in the state. The candidate of the APC, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, defeated his closest rival, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, after polling 319,483 votes as against 253,173 polled by Ize-Iyamu.
While the state has been agog with celebration by APC members, the PDP is kicking against the result, claiming the election was rigged. But the APC described the opposition party’s claim as laughable, stating that the PDP was in pains after its alleged plan to rig the election fell flat before the election. Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who led the APC victory party in Benin-City, went round the streets and markets accompanied by Obaseki and expressing his gratitude to the people. Oshiomhole said victory at the polls has ended the dream of some political god fathers in the state and vowed that the state will never go back to the dark days.
While the PDP is threatening to head to court to contest the result of the election, Benin-City stood still, last Thursday, for Obaseki and the deputy governor-elect, Philip Shaibu, when they received the Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The Resident Electoral Commissioner in Edo, Mr Sam Olumekun, and the INEC Commissioner in charge of the South-South zone, Dr Mustapha Lecky, described the election as one of the most credible conducted by the Commission, but noted that INEC will continue to improve on the use of the card reader.
After receiving the certificate, Obaseki, Shaibu and the mammoth crowd that accompanied them, walked from the INEC headquarters to Ring Road where market women, youths joined in the celebration. The event locked up the popular King’s Square for several hours. A chieftain of the APC and Special Adviser to the Governor on Political Matters, Charles Idahosa, explained why the PDP is angry over the result of the election just as he described its leaders’ cry as a deceit “because they, including Ize-Iyamu, knew from day one that they will lose the election in as much as their rigging machine failed to work”. Idahosa said: “You can see the mammoth crowd following Obaseki round the streets with joy because that is the governor they voted for.
Let me tell you why PDP is crying. While we were campaigning vigorously across all the nooks and crannies of the state, PDP was busy trying to induce the adhoc staff of INEC including the NYSC members who were going to participate in the conduct of the election. To tell you how desperate they were, they went to Auchi Polytechnic and UNIBEN, identified the lecturers who were going to be used by INEC for the election and bribed them.
When we found out, we raised the alarm and, in order to ensure they conducted a credible election, INEC went to a neighbouring PDP state to bring the adhoc staff. That is how they failed in this one. Then they decided to import militants into the state and their game plan was that on the day of the election, the militants will perpetrate mayhem, particularly in Oredo, Ikpoba Okhai and Egor, then get some INEC officials who will help them smuggle in their result which they have written already into INEC. The PDP was in possession of result sheets which it is parading today as the authentic result and, as a matter of fact, we are asking INEC to prosecute the leaders. However, when the election was initially postponed, they were shocked because security agents mopped up the militants in their different hide outs in the state and they were demobilized.
So, in the election, they were stuck with the result because there was nobody to perpetrate violence that will enable them smuggle that result into INEC. It was the same result they went to place on the internet claiming it was the main result. How can you release an authentic result on the internet when people were still collating the result from the various units and wards?. They did that to confuse the people and create the impression that they were winning so that pastor will not claim that he was rigged out”.
Oshiomhole, who reacted to the threat by the PDP to contest the result of the election in court, while addressing APC youths during a road show, after a ‘Thank You’ visit to the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, said: “We are happy with the outcome of the election. We have gone to present the candidate to the Crown Prince, the Edaiken N’Uselu, and he (Obaseki) has been very well received.Thank you for coming out to celebrate. I am sure we encourage our opponents to go to court. We will be able to lead evidence to show how much they profited from electoral fraud because the Ize-Iyamu that I know is not worth fifty thousand votes. We will expose them where it matters in the courtroom. Remain firm and resolute. For me, I am happy. The political funeral of the godfathers is final.
There is nothing they can do to turn the will of God. So, this is our finest hour and I can’t wait to meet them in court. My message to them is, it’s God who knows their sin against our people that decided to recall their political life. He has only used us to cement it and to celebrate their political funeral. I want to be remembered not only for the road. We want to be remembered for liberalising the politics and getting rid of godfathers so that you the youths can take charge of your destiny.”
Meanwhile, the PDP is divided on the result of the election. While the state exco, led by Chief Dan Orbih, has condemned the conduct of the election, a former Chief Whip of the Senate and leader of the party in the state, Senator Rowland Owie, and the member representing Ikpob Okhai/ Egor in the House of Representatives, Mr Johnson Agbonayinma, described the election as free, fair and credible. Also, a pressure group in Edo PDP, the Restoration Group, described Orbih as a serial loser and called for the resignation of the state exco, saying the party was not prepared for the election. Addressing journalists, on Monday, the arrowhead of the group and leader of the PDP in Oredo Local Government Area, Mr Uyi Igbinigie, said that, contrary to the position of the party leadership that the election was rigged in favour of the APC by the INEC, “the election was one of the best conducted so far by INEC and it was free, fair and credible”. He went on: “The problem was that before the election, because of the financial recklessness of the PDP during the last general elections, PDP already had a bad name in Edo. And to add to the injury, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who was the PDP candidate, was among those who collected N700million for the presidential election. And his visit to the EFCC on the matter left a sore in the campaigns. The other reason was the attitude of the state exco led by Chief Orbih. Rather than speaking on what PDP will do during the campaigns, Orbih was busy raining abuses on Oshiomhole who is an outgoing governor and Godwin Obaseki. Meanwhile, Obaseki was quietly telling Edo people what he will do for them. So we should not waste our money going to the tribunal; we believe that the PDP needs to sit down and re-strategize but that will be after the entire state exco must have resigned for peace to reign in Edo PDP”.
On his part, Agbonayinma said: “I want to congratulate both Obaseki and INEC. Obaseki deserves victory because it is the obvious that the generality of the people of the state wants him and that is democracy in action. For the fact that I am a PDP man does not mean I will not commend something good. I live in America and they don’t play do-or-die politics there. So, I congratulate Obaseki and I hope he will surpass Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s record because he has a huge challenge before him. And for INEC, you see, most times, all of us blame INEC for inconclusive elections but you can see that it is not their fault that what we had happened in Edo. There was no violence in that election, people came out freely and happily to cast their votes and you saw the result. So that will tell you that if we don’t witness violence, INEC will always conclude elections. So, we have to orientate our politicians not to see politics as a do or die thing. They should emulate what happened in Edo so that we will not continue to rubbish INEC. This has shown that if politicians behave, INEC will do their job perfectly”.