Not less than 12 out of the 18 local government areas of Edo State will play a decisive role in Saturday’s (today) governorship poll as incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki, who is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, clashes with the leading opposition All Progressives Congress governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Though 14 parties fielded candidates for the poll, observers have argued that the election would be a two horse race between the PDP and the APC.
According to analysis, the 12 battleground local government areas are Egor, Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo, Ovia North-East, Ovia South-West and Uhunmwode. Others are Akoko Edo, Owan West, Owan East, Etsako East, Etsako West and Etsako Central.
Six out of the 12 battleground LGAs are located in the Edo South Senatorial District where both the incumbent and the leading opposition candidate hail from.
Interestingly, the Edo South Senatorial District has the highest number of voters totalling 1,281,414 votes, according to the figures released by the Independent National Electoral Commission. This represents about 74 per cent of the entire voting populace which INEC put at 1,726,738.
Further findings revealed that the remaining six battleground LGAs are located in the Edo North Senatorial District where the immediate past Chairman of the APC, Adams Oshiomhole, and the state deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, hail from. The deputy governorship candidate of the APC, Gani Audu, also hails from Edo North.
Figures from INEC’s voter register show that Edo North Senatorial District has 564,122 voters.
However, the Edo Central Senatorial District which has 364,998 voters is expected to be dominated by the PDP. According to findings, the Edo Central Senatorial District has been historically dominated by the PDP.
Meanwhile, INEC put the number of registered voters for the election at 2,210,534. However, 483,796 PVCs were not collected, leaving 1,726,738 voters eligible to take part in today’s election.
According to INEC’s breakdown of the eligible voters with permanent voter cards in the 18 LGAs, Akoko Edo has 115,343 voters; Egor has 158,817; Esan Central has 40,831; Esan North-East has 66,790; Esan South-East has 58,802; Esan West has 83,467; Etsako Central has 42,042; Etsako East has 67,715; Etsako West has 128,188; and Igueben has 34,988.
Others are Ikpoba/Okha with 214,822; Oredo, 240,197; Orhionmwon, 102,739; Ovia North-East, 113,167; Ovia South West, 77,468; Owan East, 77,827; Owan West, 46,245 and Uhunmwonde 57,290. According to the delimitation of the state, elections would be conducted in the 2,627 polling units in 192 wards in the 18 LGAs of the state.
APC, PDP to jostle for Edo North votes
Political stakeholders said the trio of Oshiomhole, Shaibu and Audu who are from Edo North would make the six LGAs in the senatorial district a major battleground.
The six LGAs in Edo North are: Akoko Edo, Owan East, Owan West, Etsako Central, Etsako West and Etsako East.
Several LGAs in Edo divided between APC, PDP – Analyst
A political analyst, Alex Stephen, said all the LGAs in Edo North Senatorial District would be a battleground for the two leading parties, the PDP and the APC.
Stephen listed some of the LGAs to include Akoko Edo, Etsako East, Etsako West, Etsako Central and Owan West.
He said, “In the Akoko-Edo Local Government Area, it is a battleground for the candidates. And in my town which is in the LGA, there has been a crisis there for over two weeks. This happened because the state House of Assembly member representing the LGA is from my village. He is one of those who have refused to defect to the PDP.
“Then, the Chief of Staff to the deputy governor is also from my village and he defected alongside his boss to the PDP. The entire town and LGA are factionalised into the APC and PDP and there has been too much of power tussle and turbulence there.
“I understand that the same is with Owan West. In fact, the entire Edo North senatorial zone is divided. Oshiomhole, Shaibu and Ize-Iyamu’s running mate are all from the Etsako West.
“You see, Shaibu was brought up and nurtured by Oshiomhole. Philip is a grass roots man. Oshiomhole was also a grass roots man before he became the APC national chairman. The chairman of his ward was the one who went on national television and said they had expelled him from his ward. As we talk now, it is 50-50 for the two leading parties. People feel that Oshiomhole is an Abuja man, while Shaibu is young, dynamic and more of a grass roots man. However, there are some other people who feel Oshiomhole has been badly treated by Obaseki and they are ready to support him this time round.”
Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu battle in strongholds
Also, analysts said five out of the seven LGAs in the Edo South Senatorial District, which has over 70 per cent of PVC holders, would be major battlegrounds for both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu.
Aside from the fact that both of them are from there, the Edo South has the largest number of voters among the three senatorial districts. This made it a natural battlefield.
There are seven LGAs in the senatorial district. They are: Egor, Ikpoba/Okha, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Ovia North East, Ovia South West, and Uhunmwonde.
However, some analysts believe Obaseki is expected to win Oredo LGA where he hails from while Ize-Iyamu is also expected to win his Orhionmwon LGA. The remaining five LGAs are expected to be fought over by the APC and the PDP.
APC to tackle PDP in Edo Central
The Edo Central Senatorial District which has five LGAs will also record some battles. According to analysts, even though the PDP has always won the senatorial district, the APC may likely take the battle to the PDP’s stronghold this time.
An Edo-based political analyst, Mr Douglas Ogbankwa, revealed that the APC might not easily concede the place to the PDP this time round.
He said, “I must say that the PDP where the governor just moved to is strong in Edo Central area while the APC structure he left behind is still very virile except for few political allies who moved with him. We will be looking at local governments like Esan West, Esan South-East and Esan Central.
“We may have one or two areas where the deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, is strong but the Owan West and Owan East are the strongholds of the APC, where there are strong political leaders.
“Also, one should consider the dynamics in the House of Assembly where 17 are with the APC while seven are with the PDP. So in a state election such as this, the number a party controls in the Assembly could prove decisive. The number of lawmakers each party has in the House of Representatives and the Senate is also crucial.”
Another political analyst and social commentator, Mattew Edaghese, said the pendulum of victory might swing to the PDP even though it might be difficult to predict
He said, “I speak as a political stakeholder and as a freeborn citizen of Edo State. From the political calculation and the situation on the ground as it is now today (Friday), the ruling party, PDP, stands a very wonderful chance of winning the poll. The support base of both parties juxtaposes. But you will agree with me that the APC and the PDP can hardly be separated in terms of real identity because the governor just left, the APC some weeks back and before he left he was the leader of the party in the state.
“As political pundits, we should realise he did not just leave as an individual, he left with his supporters and also has the sympathy of some other people who are still members of the APC. He can also count on the PDP that he acquired its political assets who are loyal to him as their candidate. So if you add that to the sympathy he enjoys among APC members, I do not see the senatorial district where the support base of the governor will not be strong.
“Unless magic happens, from Edo North to Edo South to Edo Central, which is a traditional PDP base, we are virtually talking of a one-party arrangement in the state. Certainly the governor stands a very tall chance of getting re-elected,” Edaghese added.
300 policemen lay siege to Wike, govs’ hotel –PDP
The PDP on Friday said over 300 policemen laid siege to the hotel where Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, lodged on his arrival in Benin ahead of the election.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the Rivers State Government and the PDP said they would hold the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, responsible should any harm befall Wike, who is the Chairman of the PDP National Campaign Council for the Edo Governorship Election.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communication, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, said, “Yes, it is true (that policemen have barricaded the hotel where Governor Nyesom Wike is lodging in Benin City). Governor Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano State) and Hope Uzodinma (Imo State) are moving around Benin, but his (Wike’s) own hotel is barricaded by over 300 policemen.
“We are going to hold the IG responsible should anything untoward happen to our governor. Rivers people will not just fold their hands if any harm befalls their governor.”
Similarly, the PDP Chairman in Rivers State, Amb Akawor Desmond, in a series of tweets via Wike’s Twitter handle, @GovWike, said the police’s action was a breach of the pledge the security agencies made not to harass and intimidate anyone.
Also, the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus, decried the harassment, saying, “We have information that governors of the APC and the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, are staying at the house of the former APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.
“If APC governors are in Benin, the PDP governors should be in Benin. Our governors would remain in Benin; no one can intimidate us.”
INEC warns electoral officials against malpractice
INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, on Friday warned its workers against electoral malpractice.
In a statement titled, ‘Message from the INEC chairman’, Yakubu said, “Let me appeal to all of you to remain steadfast and committed to the ideals of the commission. Nigerians and the international community expect so much from us. We must ensure that no political party or candidate is accorded any advantage over the other.”
Activist lauds Oba of Benin’s peace moves
An Abuja-based political commentator and human rights activist, Dr Paul Amen-Aifuwa, has praised the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, for his intervention in ensuring peace in the state.
In the run-up to the election, the polity had reportedly been heated up by the two major political parties in the state, prompting the intervention of the monarch.
Amen-Aifuwa in a statement said, “The monarch had probably presciently seen the danger in the unusual signals of an unabated drumbeat of ‘war’ and daredevil thuggery that were palpably felt in the state’s political scene. It’s needless to say that these were the factors that propelled the moves by His Royal Majesty to broker truce and sue for harmony and peace among the parties.”
Obaseki charges Edo electorate to vote candidates of choice
The state governor, Obaseki, has also charged the electorate in the state to troop out en masse to vote for their preferred candidate.
In a broadcast, the governor assured that the police and INEC had made the necessary arrangements to ensure a peaceful, transparent and fair election.
He added, “All parties participating in the election have signed a peace agreement and have committed to a peaceful process. Adequate steps have been taken to ensure compliance with the state’s COVID-19 safety protocols during the election.”
Increase sanctions for riggers, ADP urges US, EU
The Action Democratic Party has called on the United States, European Union and the United Kingdom to increase the sanctions for those who rig the election.
The US government had during the week imposed visa restrictions on some individuals for their actions during the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa state elections, and in the run-up to the September and October 2020 elections in Edo and Ondo states, respectively.
The ADP National Publicity Secretary, Prince Adelaja Adeoye, said, “The party commends the United States for slamming sanctions on election riggers, calling on the United Kingdom, European Union, and others to increase the consequences and sanctions for election riggers in Nigeria.”
Hotels in Benin fully booked ahead of poll
Barely 24 hours to the election, hotel reservations within Benin City and its environs were fully booked by visitors to the state. News Agency of Nigeria reported that some of the hotels had their rooms filled up as of Thursday night.
Some hotel officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most of the reservations were made weeks ago.
NAN reported that some journalists who arrived in Benin on Wednesday encountered difficulties in securing hotel accommodation as they didn’t make reservations ahead of time.
A hotelier, Blessing Uwe, who has a hotel on the Airport Road, said the last time the hotel was fully booked was December 2019.
Don’t wait for result after voting, police tells voters
The police has asked the people of the state to return home immediately after voting rather than waiting for the counting of the ballot.
The Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Research and Planning, Adeleye Oyebade, who is to coordinate the election, said this on ‘Good Morning Nigeria’ programme on NTA on Friday.
He said, “It is better to come, do what you want to do and go home so that you don’t leave and say you don’t know the result after because some people will be kept behind bars and we will do proper investigation and diligent prosecution of offenders that we will apprehend.”
Oyebade also said the roads, waterways and airspace in the state would be closely monitored to prevent anything that could disrupt the election.
Situation Room raises fears over police hostility
A coalition of over 70 civil rights organisations under the aegis of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on Friday raised fears over the hostility and “unprofessional conduct” of the police officers deployed for the election.
“Situation Room calls on the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force to caution their men and enjoin them to be neutral and professional in their conduct,” a statement by NCSSR chair, Esther Uzoma, read in part.
YIAGA warns against intimidation of voters
One of the election monitoring groups, the Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, Africa, has cautioned the police and other security operatives deployed for the poll not to intimidate voters.
The Director of Programmes, YIAGA, Cynthia Mbamalu, who said this in an interview with Saturday PUNCH in Benin City on Friday, explained that the heavy presence of security in the state could either instill fear in the people or give them the assurance of security.
TMG condemns governors’ presence in Edo
The Transition Monitoring Group has condemned the presence of governors of other states in Edo State on the eve of the election.
The Chairperson of TMG, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, said at a press briefing in Benin on Friday, “TMG is very much aware of the presence of governors from other states in Edo State to support their candidates on the eve of election. TMG condemns this practice of unnecessary last-minute solidarity, which is capable of heightening tension in the state.”
Vote with caution, Edo disability rights groups tell members
Also, disability rights groups in the state on Friday called on their members to exercise their civic rights with caution in today’s governorship election.
The President of the Network for the Advancement of People with Visible Disabilities, Mr Melody Omosah, said, “They should be consciously optimistic about the whole process. They should come out. But should they notice any unsavoury development, they should leave the polling units as quickly as they can. They should take their own safety into their hands.”
Also, the President of Unique Love for Persons with Disabilities Initiative, Ann Ojugo, said, “Inasmuch as we are saying that people should shun areas of violence, it is our right to come out tomorrow (today) and cast our votes. But the only thing is that they have to be careful. Where there is violence, they should look for an escape route. I have told my people and sent out messages.”
Meanwhile, civil society organisations in Edo State have condemned the buying of votes by desperate politicians and political parties ahead of the governorship election in the state. The CSOs, under the aegis of the Edo State Civil Society Organisations, on Friday said the electoral malpractice had taken a higher dimension as political parties no longer engaged in the act in secret but in the open as recent viral videos had shown.
“It is a worrisome dimension that has been introduced into our politics and this Saturday’s election is not going to be different. It is becoming more difficult for politicians to rig elections on the part of INEC. So, politicians are concentrating more on the electorate to be able to secure higher votes. That has been the latest trend,” the spokesperson for the coalition, Osazee Edigin, said.
By John Alechenu, Chukwudi Akasike, Friday Olokor, Eniola Akinkuotu, Jesusegun Alagbe, Alexander Okere, Olufemi Olaniyi and Adeyinka Adedipe
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