CENTRE LSD/ANEEJ INTERIM REPORT ON THE EDO GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION HELD JULY 14, 2012.
[three_fourth_last]CENTRE LSD /ANEEJ INTERIM REPORT ON THE EDO GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION HELD JULY 14, 2012.[/three_fourth_last]
The progress in any society be it social, economic and political is determined by the quality of its political leadership. Leadership emerges through the processes of election which is a major component of a democratic framework that vest power for the determination of leadership on the people. The enthronement and entrenchment of democratic governance in Nigeria since 1999 has enhanced this even though its processes and procedures over these years have been marred by challenges of irregularities and fraud. The situation has thus occasioned the need for election observation, to among other things instil credibility into the process by helping to deter politicians and their cronies from undermining the election process. The July 14, 2012 Edo gubernatorial election can therefore not be exempted from observation to ward off irregularities. The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD) being one of the organisations accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission to observe the Edo election, in a bid to contributing to the achievement of free, fair and credible election, collaborated with Stakeholders Democracy Network (SDN) and the Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice (ANEEJ) and deployed 50 observers to observe the election in the three senatorial districts in the State, including Edo South, Central and North senatorial districts.
Participation in the Edo State gubernatorial election was impressive and the exercise was generally peaceful. In the three senatorial districts, the turn out was overwhelming. Eligible voters including the elite class participated. In Edo South including Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ikpoba-Oha and Ihunmwode local government areas of the state citizens came out in droves to vote. The same was the case in both Central and North senatorial districts of Uromi, Ekpoma, Igueben, Afuze, Auchi, Agenebode, Jattu to mention a few. In Ovia South East, the turnout was a little bit challenged by fear because of the high security presence, the broadcast of the Governor Comrade Adams Oshiomhole notwithstanding. It is also attributable to the nature of voter registration that was done in the State previously that saw some eligible voters registering were they do not reside, and also for the factor of relocation by some citizens.
The role played by security agents was impressive. The Army, Police, Civil Defence, Road Safety and other para-military personnel were everywhere. There were occasional patrols by men of the military. Military and Police helicopters hovered all over the place to ensure absolute maintenance of law and order. The deployment of security in the state was frightening and the behaviour of some of them did not suite the occasion, improper training on election duty might be responsible. Interaction with people on election duty like the observers and the media did not go well. At Uselu in Egor Local government, Okada in Ovia South East, Dawson junction in Oredo Local government, men of the army manning the various locations attempted to turn observers and media men back and this resulted in some altercation. At Ekosodi around the University of Benin, an observer was molested; cameras were sized from them by security officers having the inscription “DSS” on their uniform. In spite of these excesses exhibited by the security men, the security agents did a lot to bring what could have degenerated into some ugly situation into control. At the Ugbor GRA area, the Police helped in the rescue of the publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Mathew Oroghide who the electorate almost mobbed when they perceived alleged attempt to interfere with the election process. He was about being mobbed when Policemen came to his rescue.
Late arrival of materials almost marred the process in some areas, particularly in Ovia South West, Ovia North East and Oredo. Materials arrived in some of the polling stations between 10.30am to 12noon. At Iguosa and Oluku for instance, materials started arriving at 11am even in spite of their proximity to the INEC office in the area. This affected participation as most people became fatigued. Even with these misgivings, the insistence by polling officials that accreditation should stop at 12 noon citing the INEC guidelines did not help matters. At Oredo Local Government Area, materials also arrived late in spite of the fact that Agbado Primary School distribution Centre was located within its vicinity. Preferences it was learnt were given to farther polling stations in the distribution of the voting materials. In fact at about 8.40am, corps members who are supposed to be manning their different polling units were still seen at the Agbado Primary School trying to confirm the correctness of the materials with them. This also happened in one of the polling units at Obagie Primary School in Orhionmwon Local Government Area. The situation purely showed lack of organisation on the part of the INEC staff at the distribution Centres.
At the different polling stations across the State, party agents were visible and orderly. No case of ballot snatching and stuffing was noticed. There was also no case of thuggery at the polling stations. The one man one vote mantra worked and this could be adduced probably to the high presence of security operatives and the determination of the electorate to ensure that the result reflect the wish of majority of Edo People. However some isolated cases of vote buying happened in Asoro Primary School in Oredo Local Government Area ward 10 Sakponba road, the electorate resisted and it checked by security agents present. There were also few cases of wrongful invalidation of votes for lack of knowledge of the INEC guidelines the adhoc staff. This was prominent at George Idah Primary School.
Participation of the physically challenged
The exercise gave room for the participation of the physically challenged and aged persons in the society. In Ikaladerhan Primary School in Okada, a deaf and dumb person was guided for accreditation and voted by herself during voting. The presiding officer allowed the aged and physically challenged persons to vote first before every other persons at the polling station. The same was the case at George Idah Primary School in Oredo, Urhomehe Primary School where there were two polling units in Orhionmwon.
The sorting and counting process were participatory. Counting in all the places observed were participatory with every one voter who has remained at the polling units.
1. Immaturity was displayed by some observers. Some did not know what to do in terms of their task perhaps due to lack of training, and some were reportedly picking and making calls when counting was on.
2. The existence of two registers in some of the unit was a misnomer. One register with passport photo, one without.
3. Loss of lives. It was reported that a boat capsized while heading to Ajoki from Ologbo. One INEC staff and three policemen died. The use of life jacket would have helped but unfortunately may not have been provided to the travellers.
Based on the challenges that characterised the exercise, the following recommendations are key;
1. There is need to revisit the idea of voting point creation to enhance proper time management.
2. The concentration of polling units in Primary Schools is commendable and should be upheld. Voting in Primary Schools made the whole exercise compact and also made securing the venue easy.
3. The existence of two registers spotlights an urgent review of the current voters register before 2015.
4. The high level of participation, attributable to improved voter education should be sustained by the relevant stakeholders.
5. For future election INEC should improve in their logistics arrangement to ensure that personnel and materials arrive polling station on time
The outcome of the election was a true reflection of the people’s choice. The election was peaceful in spite of the huge security concerns expressed by citizens before the election. It is clear that the co-ordination among the different security operatives made it possible. The election shows that free and fair election is possible in Nigeria if the different stakeholders play their individual roles. This obviously should be upheld in the conduct of future elections especially as the Ondo election is about the corner.
Osasah Monday Edemhanria Innocent Kingsley Ozegbe
Centre LSD ANEEJ SDN