The declaration of the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Godwin Obaseki, as the winner of last Saturday’s governorship election in Edo state by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not come to many as a surprise. This is borne out of the fact that INEC was adequately prepared and committed to a transparent and credible process just as the National Peace Committee (NPC) brokered a peace accord between the candidates.
The Returning Officer, Prof. Akpofure Rim-Rukeh, who announced the total result of the election, said the All Progressives Congress (APC) polled 223,619 votes, while PDP got 307,955 votes. He declared the candidate of the PDP, Godwin Obaseki, winner of the election. Obaseki won in 13 of the 18 local government areas of Edo state, while his closest rival Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the APC won in five LGAs. The governor also defeated Ize-Iyamu in his Orhionmwon local government area. Obaseki got 13,445 votes, while Ize-Iyamu got 10,458, a margin of almost 3,000 votes.
In a remarkable demonstration of statesmanship and sportsmanship, President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the leader of APC, swiftly congratulated Obaseki for winning the election for a second term in office. Buhari, who hailed the peaceful conduct of the election, restated his “commitment to free and fair elections.”
In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari urged Obaseki to show grace and humility in victory. He said: “My commitment to free and fair elections is firm, because without free and fair elections, the foundation of our political and moral authority will be weak.
“I have consistently advocated free and fair elections in the country because it is the bedrock of true democratic order. Democracy will mean nothing if the votes of the people don’t count or if their mandate is fraudulently tampered with.” The president praised the people of Edo state, security agencies, the parties that participated in the election and their candidates for conducting themselves responsibly.
Also congratulating Obasaki, some PDP governors, namely, Ben Ayade (Cross River), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto) praised Buhari and security agencies for the peaceful conduct of the poll. Ayade said Obaseki’s victory did not surprise him, considering his achievements in the past four years. He urged Obaseki to see his “victory as a clarion call to do more for Edo people who have these four years reposed their confidence in you.”
The governor, in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Christian Ita, added that he was delighted that Obaseki’s re-election “now brings the entire South-south under PDP’s total control.
Ikpeazu said he was particularly pleased that Buhari stood firm on the side of our constitutional democracy and recognised the rights of the people to freely elect their own leaders by maintaining an admirable level of neutrality in the election. “The result of the election shows clearly that the people of Edo state were not prepared to circumscribe their sovereignty under any circumstances. They have spoken clearly that no one can take away their rights to choose their own leader.”
Tambuwal also thanked the president for “allowing the conduct of the election to be free, fair, and devoid of violence. From Aso Rock came a firm directive that the game must be played according to the rules. In following this directive our security forces jettisoned the toga of allying with the outlawed mode of electoral conduct. I commend Mr. President over his statesmanship. Similarly, the election umpire (INEC), hitherto tainted as biased, reviewed its position and stayed on the path of equity and fair play”.
In contrast, however, the campaign team of the APC in Edo state accused the PDP and its candidate of manipulating the governorship election. The APC called on its members to stay calm while party leaders study the result and decide what is next. John Mayaki, the chairperson of the APC Media Campaign Council, said the party has rejected the result, citing alleged strong-arm tactics. “Our people were arbitrarily arrested, many of the figures were fabricated”. He alleged that results were manipulated to shore up PDP’s votes and reduce APC’s. Areas where we won, they cancelled them. They decreased the votes in areas we had advantage. They rejected our results and jerked up theirs”.
The APC also said there was arbitrary arrest of its members who could have resisted the alleged rigging and that Mr Obaseki raised a false alarm. “Obaseki shouted that he was being rigged out and blamed INEC at the initial stage but that was to divert attention from the evil going on in the field.” The party, however, told its members to stay calm, thanking them for their support, and adding that party leaders were studying the result and would announce their decision and course of action as soon as possible.
Blueprint commends all the stakeholders including the NPC, INEC, security agencies, the media and political parties for the successful conduct of the Edo state governorship election. We are, particularly, excited that President Buhari had refused to deploy the “federal might” to negatively influence the election. We urge INEC to replicate the same feat in the upcoming October 10 governorship election in Ondo state in its efforts to deepen the nation’s multi-party democracy.