Presidential poll presents Surprises and upsets in Edo

As official results of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections are being awaited, there are indications that the opposition party in Edo State, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is set to turn the table against the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.

The PDP which has never won elections in Oredo Local Government Area, with Benin City as both the local government headquarters and state capital, made a very good showing in virtually all the wards in the council area where votes were publicly counted, beating the APC, in some cases, by a very wide margin. Counted votes at ward 2, unit 2 where the national chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun cast his ballot showed that the PDP was leading. (Scoring 88 for the presidency in unit 002 against APC’s 65 votes. For the House of Representatives, the PDP polled 79 against APC’s 75. The ruling party however led the PDP by one vote in the senatorial contest scoring 76 against PDP’s 75. In unit 001, PDP led the APC in race for the Senate with 59 votes against APC’s 43). At Igbesanmwan Model Primary School, Benin, and Garrick Memorial Primary School, Ekenwan Road the PDP won overwhelmingly in the over 20 polling units. While the APC dusted the PDP and other parties in Edo North senatorial district, the zone of the state governor, Adams Alyu Oshiomhole, it was however a no-go area for it in Edo Central where a national leader of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih hails from. The PDP reportedly swept the polls in the area. The election in Orhionmwon local government area where the state deputy governor, Pius Odubu and a chieftain of the PDP, Osagie Ize-Iyamu hail from, was cancelled and rescheduled for what the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mike Igini described as “serious compromise of the electoral process in the area because of non-distribution and mix-up of result sheets”. In a statement, Igini said it was observed that SPOs distributed materials without result sheets in some areas. He said there would be no return of results from the affected polling units where result sheets were not distributed.

The election was generally peaceful, there were however pockets of ugly incidents in some parts of the state, particularly in the Auchi axis of Edo North. Raymond Dokpesi, chairman of Daar Communications, and proprietor of African Independent Television escaped death by the whiskers when some armed men alleged to be members of the ruling party in the state, opened fire on his convoy riddling the armoured vehicle with bullets. The ruling party also alleged that a youth leader was clubbed to death and his body set ablaze “by thugs ….in Ikpoba Okha local government area of Edo State”. A statement by the chief press secretary to the governor, Peter Okhiria alleged that the said victim, Igie Osayande was killed “when thugs led by one politician [name withheld] invaded Ward 9, units nine, 10 and 11 in Obagienevbosa community, off Sapele Road in Ikpoba Okha local government area”. APC gent in Ward 11, Sunny Osagiede alleged that the said politician had stormed the area with thugs demanding to be accredited when accreditation had closed whereas he was not from the area. He said the problem escalated when the said the politician in question received information that the PDP was losing. “He returned to the ward after the calls with his boys and scattered the ballot boxes and tore the ballot papers into shreds. In an attempt to resist them, the APC youth leader, Igie Osagiede was attacked by the thugs and clubbed to death. His body was set ablaze”.

However Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, a PDP chieftain and former NDDC commissioner, said the deceased youth leader was indeed the aggressor. According to him, trouble started when an APC chieftain brought a busload of people to Ward nine to vote. “The people resisted him and he mobilized the boy to storm the area with some thugs. He pulled out a pistol and fired somebody and that one died on the spot. As he made to escape, he started firing, hitting two other people. When he ran out of bullets he wanted to enter the Mercedes Benz ML 350 4Matic that he came with and he was caught and the mob started to beat him”. Iduoroiyekemwen said though he was not around the area when the incident occurred, “when I heard, I was the one who called the security agencies who then rushed to the scene. But he was dead and his body set ablaze”. According to him, it was not one person that died but two. He said the two injured persons were rushed to the hospital.  The police and the soldiers were said to have prevented irate youths of Obagienevbosa from unleashing mayhem on the Uhie community where the deceased youth leader came from to avenge the death of one of their own. The conflicting details could not readily be confirmed, as the police public relations officer could not be reached.

Across the state, leaders of both political parties were not impressed by the performance of the card readers deployed for accreditation and late arrival of materials to polling stations. In some cases, election materials were not accompanied with result sheets, which created tension and held up voting in some areas as party chieftains insisted on seeing result sheets before voting could commence. At Igueben, the local government of PDP stalwart, Tom Ikimi, the visibly concerned political leader described the use of card readers as a letdown. According to him, “at several units here, the equipment (card reader) has failed…It took me some time to get accredited. But as you can see, everyone is enthusiastic to participate in this exercise, but the two card readers just packed up”. At Iyamho, only one of the two card readers was functioning prompting INEC officials to employ manual accreditation. Governor Oshiomhole said he had spoken to Igini and the INEC chairman that the card readers did not work.

Apart from the complaint by the governor against the activities of the military, it was observed that in other places, the security agencies did not give the people cause for concern. Patrick Eholor, a human rights activist, praised the conduct of the security operatives, stating, “I have never seen them operate like this. There had not been any chaos or harassment or intimidation. They have maintained a safe distance from the voting arena”. Eholor is convinced that Nigeria has attained the height of credible elections, declaring, “Hopefully, by the next election, it’s going to be better than this”. The Isekhure of Benin Kingdom, Nosahkare Isekhure who voted at Asoro Primary School, Sokponba Road said though there had been some little problems by way of delay and in terms of arrival of materials, “but under the condition we are experiencing today, we must expect that”. He described the peaceful atmosphere that prevailed as “the greatest credit for INEC and also for all Nigerians who are willing to enthrone democracy and ensure that we rule by rule of law by the electoral process”.

Giving his assessment of the process after he had been accredited, Parry Osayande, retired Deputy Inspector-General of Police and former chairman of the Nigerian Police Commission, admitted too that “it had been quiet all through”, stating that “I have been involved in elections in this country since 1954; this is one of the best, well attended, so, I think we are improving”. Oyegun said there had not been reports of violence but that there was anxiety over initial inability to activate the card readers but from the reports he had gotten, the card readers had started to work in most places. The APC national chairman commended not just the massive turn-out of voters “but their patience because people were here as early as 7 am when INEC wasn’t here yet. INEC arrived at about 8.30. Unfortunately when they came also, the card readers were not functioning at all. So, that took another two hours to resolve”.

Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, the PDP candidate for Oredo constituency was visibly agitated over the problem with card readers at the Garrick Memorial Primary School that he was in no mood to speak to journalists. According to him, “we are trying to make INEC get the card readers to work. Jega said they were ready so I am hoping that they will actually show us that they are ready. People are eager to vote as you can see and they should be given the right to vote today in this election”. Charles Airhiavbere, PDP governorship candidate in the April 2012 election in the state also complained about the failure of the card readers to work. “But it is peaceful. They just need to resolve it; it’s a new system and we are hopeful that in the next few hours, they will get to the rhythm. I am optimistic that everything will be okay”. He said there had been such synergy that the two major party agents have met to see how they can resolve the INEC logjam; they are doing the trouble shooting together so, there is harmony. And as a leader in this area, I can assure you there will be peace”.

Elections in Delta State were also generally peaceful though some upsets are expected in the outcome of the National Assembly elections.

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