The July 14, 2012 Governorship elections in Edo State, were reportedly overwhelmingly won by the incumbent Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. According to the election results, the Governor won in all the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.
Some discerning minds that were described at that time as cynics were however unsettled because of reports of the role which money played in the process. Many members of the main opposition party-the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) allegedly sold out while the law enforcement agencies were said to have been overtly partisan.
Even some politicians in the uniform of Chiefs reportedly assumed the role of canvassers on account of material benefits like Jeeps. Expectedly, everyone ignored the cynics because the results showed that the Governor defeated his opponents and their sponsors even in their own polling booths.
When therefore, a local government election in the state was fixed for April 20, 2013, everyone expected the ruling party- the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to once again, use its incumbency and the acclaimed popularity of its Governor to trounce the opposition.
Some analysts even introduced the symbolism of football into the issue by predicting that the election would take the form of a football match between Brazil, the acclaimed best football playing nation and one of the poorly rated countries. In other words, ACN was generally expected to trounce its opponents the way Brazil would humiliate a weak team by putting up a transparent superior performance that would make her record as many as 7gooals to nil.
The world would however, be obviously and exceedingly shocked to hear that Brazil won the game just because the match officials –all of them- appointed by the Brazilian Football Association, arrived late to the pitch only to record more goals than were scored during the match which lasted far less than half the prescribed regulation time.
This strange scenario appears to be what played itself out last week Saturday, when the ACN appointed election officials put on the toga of the infamous defunct Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). The latter was the nation’s electoral body which was disbanded 30 years ago, after it conducted the 1983 general elections which saw the ruling party- the National Party of Nigeria(NPN) winning more votes than were available as well as emerging victorious in centres were elections did not hold.
From the testimony of Independent observers, materials for the Edo local election got to polling stations in Benin City-the state capital as well as the operational headquarters of the electoral body as late as between 4 and 5pm. Whereas the lateness warranted the postponement of elections in such polling stations, the electoral body was able to ‘conduct’ elections in other polling centres –some of them over 100 kilometres from the same Benin City!
So many bizarre tales concerning the poor show donot deserve a recount here. Even if youths who ceaselessly protested many days after the event were sponsored to do so, we need to remember that in the last 5years, Edo citizens have been adequately schooled by their government on street protests. In addition, the contributory negligence of the election administrators justified the protests.
The immediate issue before us now, is not in earnest, the suspected case of partisanship of the electoral body, but the proven case of its constructive inefficiency- a charge that would have similarly been sustained if the opposition party- the PDP that is now crying foul was the one in government. Of course, a PDP government would have also employed the Electoral Commission as a tool of election rigging.
Indeed, there is no difference between the ACN and the PDP particularly in Edo State. As the Publicity Secretary of Edo PDP testified the other day on national television, majority of ACN members defected from the PDP obviously taking along with them, the rigging expertise they garnered from their old party
The Edo State “Independent” Electoral Commission performed woefully and ought to be dissolved without further delay. This is necessary because unlike what happens in other climes where bodies which fail in their assignments resign, the edo electoral body will not of its own quit because it is not in the character of Nigerian public officials to so act.
The Commission cannot even apologize for the lapses because they were deliberate. The pain in all of this for the citizenry is that once again, we are unable to conduct free and fair elections- a feature which has characterized every Nigerian election even before independence notwithstanding the encomiums being poured on the current Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Perhaps, political violence and the snatching of ballot boxes may have reduced but those are not enough to bestow free and fair elections on our nation. Nigeria needs to move with the times and adopt current best practices in election management. For instance, the conduct of an election ought not to be premised on faulty statistics.
In 2010, INEC organized a voters’ registration exercise. Till date, those that were captured as prospective voters by its temperamental “DDC” machines are yet to be issued with proper voters’ cards. The Commission has also not been able to revise the register since then.
Consequently, some registered voters who have since died are still listed in the register making it obvious that every election that has been held since then has been based on inaccurate figures. Similarly, many citizens who were unable to register in 2010 as well as those who have since attained the voting age after the 2010 exercise have been disenfranchised in every election held between then and now including the recent edo local elections.
It is inappropriate to describe as successful, elections in which some persons who are qualified to participate are officially but inexplicably excluded. It is worse to condone elections marred by avoidable lapses like shortage of materials or late arrival of election personnel and materials to voting centres. In every Nigerian election, these vices partially manifest in one form or another of the FEDECO ghost. It was however, the full ghost of FEDECO that resurrected in Benin City, Edo State on Saturday, April 20, 2013. It is a shame.