Godwin Obaseki of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was re-elected governor of Edo State at the weekend, besting his challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, with a margin of 84,336 votes.
In the Saturday, September 19, 2020, poll held under a tense atmosphere, Obaseki scored 307,955 votes to defeat Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress(APC), who polled 223,619 votes.
As an icing on the cake, Obaseki got 13,445 votes to cruise past Ize-Iyamu’s 10,458 votes in his constituency of Orhiomwon local government council of Edo South. Obaseki won his Oredo council with 43,498 votes to Ize-Iyamu’s 18,366 votes.
Results for ward 7 (7,600) and ward 8 (7,896)), totaling 15,496 votes, were cancelled by the collation officer in Orhiomwon. But had Ize-Iyamu been awarded the entire nullified votes, his tally couldn’t dent Obaseki’s overall margin of lead.
The outcome of the poll comes at the back of a “verdict” by the Founder of Christ Deliverance Ministry, Lagos, Prophet Ekong Ituen, who predicted that Ize-Iyamu would win the contest.
Prophet Ituen, reputed to predict, with accuracy, national events, especially on electoral matters, was emphatic. He said: “Pastor Ize-Iyamu of All Progressives Congress (APC) will win the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo.
“I therefore urge Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to write his hand-over note, in preparation to handing over power to Ize-Iyamu as his successor.”
But the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission has obviously punctured the prediction, unless, of course, it’s primed to emanate from the courts later.
Remarkably, the acrimonies that trailed campaigns for the off-season poll didn’t abate during the balloting, collation and declaration of results, as the APC and PDP leveled counter allegations against each other’s “underhand” political activities.
The polls had barely closed on Saturday when the PDP campaign flooded social media with claims of the party securing enough votes for Obaseki’s return to office.
But the APC labelled the harbinger as “falsities” that should be disregarded, as they were from “fake INEC websites sponsored by the PDP to win an advantage in the ongoing election.”
There’re speculations that the APC will challenge the INEC declaration at the Election Petitions Tribunal, even as Obseki and the PDP savour the poll victory, and congratulatory messages, including one from President Muhammadu Buhari.
Meanwhile, the “beauty” of the election isn’t just in its outcome, but the relative “peaceful atmosphere” provided for the electorate to cast ballots amid threats of violence.
Surely, there’re shortcomings, and reports of pockets of clashes, with one or two casualties. Hence, the CLEEN Foundation, an election monitoring group, adjudged the voting as “peaceful, safe, credible and impressive across the state.”
Gladly, the “Lions and Tigers,” those “arming and controlling thugs,” the possessors of “immunity and power” of life and death, and thousands of “imported thugs” couldn’t fully deploy their paraphernalia of violence during the overhyped poll.
Thanks to the “domination of the environment” by a combined team of security agencies with a “show of force,” and the peace initiatives by the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II and the National Peace Committee.
President Buhari had sent an appeal, and a coded warning to the political actors and security operatives, to allow a free, fair and credible poll, as election isn’t a do-or-die affair.
Also in the mix were the interventions by the United States of America and United Kingdom, with both threatening visa bans on any masterminds of undemocratic acts in Saturday’s poll.
A few days to the election, the U.S. government, in what both sides of the Nigerian polity commended and condemned, announced visa restrictions to several political actors it has indicted as contributing to electoral malfeasance and violence in Nigeria.
Perhaps, flowing from the above, the political gladiators and their acolytes had a change of mind and gave peace a chance. So, September 19 was an anti-climax, which the electorate seized upon in the 18 local government areas to cast their ballots.
The outcome of the poll, which should depend on the five ‘P’s of success: “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance,” may’ve substantially reflected the will of the people of the state.
That boils down to how the campaigns of the 14 political parties that took part in the election were able to mobilize the voters, as “a single vote can decide an election.”
But prior to, and throughout the campaigns, the focus was on the two dominant political parties, the PDP and APC, and their respective candidates, incumbent Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, familiar foes, who represented the opposing camps in the 2016 election.
Ironically, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu were sponsored and promoted in the 2016 and 2020 polls by former Governor and National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who became the “issue” in the PDP and APC campaigns.
Thus, countdown to Saturday, Oshiomhole, who wasn’t on the ballot, was the talking point. For the PDP and APC, he’s both the problem and solution in the governorship contest.
So, the stage was set for an epic battle of the brawn between a political “godson” and a “godfather” in Obaseki and Oshiomhole, and there’s palpable fear of violence as a variable in deciding the victor and the vanquished at the poll.
This was when Omo N’Oba N’Edo Ukuakpopkolo, Oba Ewuare II, called for and brokered a peace meeting among the campaigns in the election, and their political leaders.
The gains of that “historic” meeting at the Oba’s palace didn’t last long, as the PDP and APC returned to the trenches; but the peace committee’s pact, Buhari’s cautions and the U.S. and UK’s admonitions pushed the “combatants” to sheath their swords.
The signing of a “peace accord” presented another opportunity for Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu to renew their commitment to a peaceful poll. The peace committee’s chaired by former Head of State, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar, with the Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Dr. Matthew Hassan Kukah, as deputy chair.
President Buhari’s appeal to Edo voters, political parties, election officials and security personnel was instructive in the sense of expressing his passionate commitment to “free and fair elections,” and expecting “other actors at ground zero” to follow suit.
“I want to see democratic standards in the country raised higher at every level, but these cannot be achieved when politicians resort to do-or-die methods to gain power by any means or machination,” Buhari said in his message.
“Conducting free and fair elections is one of my main concerns for our democracy, and I want this commitment to be one of the legacies I will leave behind when I depart office.”
As incumbent, Obaseki sent a heart-warming message to the people of Edo State, the core of which’s if winning the poll would result in spilling of blood, God shouldn’t give him victory.
His words: “If anybody decides to act in a violent manner, just walk away because our lives are very precious. I have a covenant with God; if it will cost the blood of anybody for me to get into power, he should not let me have power.”
As celebrations of a “new political era” have begun, will the “losing” side accept the outcome of the poll, or head to the Tribunal for redress of “alleged malpractice” in the exercise?
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos, Nigeria. Twitter: @EhichioyaEzomon WhatsApp: 08033078357.