…Early scores appear too close to call
…Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole, Shaibu win polling units
…PDP alleges plots to replace Edo North results
…APC, PDP bicker over shootings in Urhonigbe, Owan West
…INEC confirms violence, hitches, may take drastic action
…Skirmishes in 6 LGAs
By Clifford Ndujihe, Kingsley Omonobi, Henry Umoru, Gabriel Enogholase, Omeiza Ajayi, Dirisu, Ozioruva Aliu & Olayinka Ajayi
THE anxiety in the polity was thick, yesterday, as results of the governorship election in 18 local governments, 192 wards, and 2,627 polling units of Edo State trickled in.
In what panned out as a tight race between Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, scores from polling units released at press time were too close to call.
The poll, which witnessed impressive voters turnout, was marred by isolated cases of violence in some local councils (Orhiomwon, Owan West, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Ovia South West, and Oredo), late commencement of the process in some polling units and malfunctioning of Smart Card Readers, which Obaseki and his immediate predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, decried.
Results announced at polling units, but not yet confirmed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), showed Obaseki, Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole, and PDP deputy governorship candidate, Comrade Philip Shaibu, winning their polling booths.
The PDP candidate also won the polling unit of a former Edo State governor and APC Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
How the big men fared
Obaseki won in his Unit 19, Oredo, Local Government Area. He polled 184 votes to Ize-Iyamu’s 62.
The PDP candidate also secured the highest number of votes cast at polling unit 02, ward 002, Oredo local government area, where Odigie-Oyegun voted. Obaseki polled 109 votes to defeat Ize-Iyamu, candidate of the APC, who garnered 40 votes.
Oshiomhole delivered his Ward 10, PU 001, Estako West Local Government Area 100 per cent to the APC as Obaseki of the PDP had zero vote. According to the result announced, the APC polled all the valid 1,202 votes cast while the PDP scored zero vote.
Ize-Iyamu cornered his Ighododo Ward 5 polling unit with 292 votes, defeating Obaseki who scored 21 votes.
Shaibu,on his part, delivered his Ward 11 polling unit 5 of Etsako West LGA to PDP. Here PDP polled 401 votes compared to APC’s 148 votes.
The ruling party had the upper hand in factional Speaker Frank Okiye booth in Esan North-East, Ward 3 unit 4, where ADP scored five votes, PDP had150 votes and APC got 61 votes.
The acting Chairman of the APC, Col David Imuse, retd, lost his polling unit as APC scored 93 votes to PDP’s 126 while a former Chief of Staff to Obaseki, Taiwo Akerele, won his Unit 11 in Ward 1 where the APC scored 211 votes as against PDP’s 88.
There was massive deployment of security agencies with soldiers manning border points between local government areas but there was less compliance with Covid-19 social distancing except in very few areas where voting started early. However, by midday when the voting centres became crowded, social distancing and wearing of face masks were completely jettisoned.
There were several instances of vote- buying with physical cash being tactically handed over to voters including 2 to 5 kg of rice, tomato paste and bales of cloth but the atmosphere in all the centres visited was generally peaceful.
As early as 7:30 am, voters were already out at Irrua Girls Secondary School in Esan Central local government area in Edo Central waiting for INEC officials.
Obaseki, Oshiomhole lament failure of card readers
Obaseki, shortly after casting his vote at Unit 19, Oredo in Oredo Local Government Area of the state, expressed disappointment over the failure of card readers in several wards across the state.
Obaseki, who said he spent hours on the queue due to card reader issues unlike what happened in 2016, said the failure of the card readers showed the unpreparedness of INEC.
On the issue of vote-buying at polling units, the governor said security agencies were not doing what they assured Edo people and Nigerians before the election.
In like manner, Oshiomhole lamented that card readers were not working at some polling units.
He spoke after casting his vote at polling unit 01, Ward 10 in Uzairue Northeast, Etsako West Local Government Area. The former National Chairman of the APC, however, warned the INEC not to compromise.
Security personnel, voters, electoral officials flee in Urhonigbe
Security personnel, electoral officials and voters ran for their dear lives in Urhonigbe, Orhionmwon local government area following an escalation in electoral violence which tended to cast a blight on the poll, which had earlier in the day begun peacefully.
As of the time of this report, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the electoral officials were currently in protective custody at the police station in the area.
Sporadic shooting and incidences of ballot snatching reportedly characterized voting in some polling units in Ologbo, a riverine community in Ikpoba-Okha LGA and Ward 9 in Egor LGA.
There were also reports of massive inducement of voters in Egor LGA particularly in Ward 9, Unit 11,12,13 &14.
Security team investigates reports of gunshots
Head of security for the Edo governorship election said he will investigate various areas and polling units where cases of gunshots were reported during accreditation and voting.
Mr Adeleye Oyebade, Deputy Inspector-General of Police, who heads the Edo Election Security Monitoring Team, told the News Agency of Nigeria that they were moving to areas where they had earlier received complaints of gunshots.
There were also cases of gunshots at Oza community, near Abudu in Orhiomwon Local Government Area.
APC, PDP bicker over shootings
The APC and PDP bickered over shootings in Urhonigbe, Owan East. The APC expressed concern at the possible escalation of electoral violence in Urhonigbe and Owan West, accusing the PDP of intimidating voters and electoral officials.
Spokesman for the APC Media Campaign Council for Edo governorship election, Prince John Mayaki, raised the alarm in a statement.
In a swift reaction however, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the APC became jittery about losing the election and had resorted to instigating violence.
APC accuses PDP of churning out fake results
The APC Campaign Council also accused PDP of churning fake results claiming victory in the election
It said: “ We laugh at the speculative results by the PDP where they churned out fake figures in pretence that they have already secured majority votes”.
According to the statement, PDP’s “electoral vaudeville” will not secure them the election, noting that the figures and images being bandied in the media were falsities that should be regarded without any seriousness.
“PDP has been churning out false figures. They released an edited picture, for instance, of Comrade Oshiomhole voting for PDP. They released news that PDP won in our candidate’s polling unit. These are all falsehood. We will not stoop to their level.”
APC instigated crisis at Obaseki’s PU – PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP denied the allegation that its candidate, Obaseki, led thugs to his Unit 4 polling unit in Oredo Local Government Area to disrupt the election.
The party, while dismissing the allegation, wondered why the APC was bent on creating crisis at Obaseki’s polling unit, whereas its candidate, Ize-Iyamu, voted with ease at his own unit.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, Ologbondiyan said the APC “is scared of the reality,” adding that the crisis at the Emoekpae Primary School polling unit was the creation of the APC.
Police stretched but election generally calm – PSC
The Police Service Commission, PSC, said there was enough presence of police and other security agencies at the governorship election.
However, the commission noted that the continued deployment of unarmed security personnel to voting units exposed the election to serious threats in some locations.
A statement by Ikechukwu Ani, Head, Press and Public Relations, said: “The Commission covered the three Senatorial Zones and visited 132 polling units in nine local government Areas.
“The Commission received 53 calls and 32 text messages to it’s three dedicated telephone numbers for the election.
“There were an average of three police men in several polling units while in many of the units in Edo North, there were an average of seven to 10.
‘The Police men in the polling units visited, were professional, courteous and arrived at their places of assignment in good time.
“They were however, in some places, overwhelmed by voters who turned out in large numbers.
“Most of the complaints received from callers were mainly on cases of vote-buying, snatching of ballot boxes in the face of the inability of the Police to offer any resistance and skeletal shooting incidences.
‘There were also complaints from some of the participating police officers who said they were yet to receive allowances for the election. Meanwhile there were massive security details along major roads and junctions in the state with strict enforcement of no vehicular movement.’’
INEC confirms violence, hitches, talks tough on materials’ hijack in Egor
Confirming violence at the election, an INEC official in Benin said the process was disrupted in about six units in Urhonigbe, Orhionmwon local government area.
He said the INEC ad hoc staff in the area awere at press time at the Urhonigbe Police Station.
“Units 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9 in Registration Area RA 08 Urhonigbe South, Orhionmwon LGA have been disrupted. Sporadic gun shots everywhere. Ad-hoc staff, security personnel and voters are on the run. Some of the staff are now at Urhonigbe Police Station”, he said.
INEC officially confirmed the shooting incident in Orhionmwon local government area, saying it was working with the police and other security agencies to ensure the peaceful conduct of the election.
INEC also said it was in receipt of images showing alleged hijack of electoral materials in Ward 9, Unit 15 of Egor local government area, saying while it was working to salvage the situation, it may be forced to take a decisive action against results generated from the affected unit.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this in his preliminary address at the ‘Edo Governorship Election Virtual Situation Control Room’ held through Zoom.
Yakubu, who condemned reports of vote-buying and selling, also frowned at the violation of COVID-19 safety protocol especially with regard to the social distancing rule.
He explained that in places where some Smart Card Readers malfunctioned, the electoral body had to activate its backup system and replaced all faulty card readers.
The INEC boss added that the few ad hoc staff who could not get their stipends the previous day had been settled and are at their work stations, conducting the elections.
Speaking on the several issues raised during the session by observers on the field, Yakubu said: “On the shooting in Orhionmwon, we have gotten in touch with our officials and the police. If they feel that there is any need to escalate it, we would definitely get in touch with the Deputy Inspector General DIG leading the electoral operations and also to the IGP at the Force Headquarters.”
PDP alleges plots to replace Edo North’s results
As collation of results of the Edo election continued last night, the PDP alerted the INEC, and the Department of State Service, DSS, of alleged moves to replace results where the PDP was leading, particularly in Edo North.
The allegation was contained in a statement by its spokesman, Ologbondiyan.
The statement read: “While we charge our members to remain vigilant and follow their results ‘bumper to bumper’ to all the collation centres, we however caution the security agencies against being used to replace results that have already been declared at the respective polling units.
“Already, we are aware that results are being manufactured in Kogi State to be used as replacements for already declared results, particularly in Edo North. We draw the attention of INEC to such results being bandied by the APC, including the fake result claimed to have emanated from Etsako West, where a vote of 914 was allocated to the APC, as against the genuine declaration at the polling units.
“A cursory check on the results being circulated in the public space by the APC failed a litmus test of the identification numbers of INEC declaration of results.
“Whereas polling unit results are identified as Form EC8A, the results being paraded by the APC carry a fake identification number of Form EC60E.
“Our party expresses concerns that this sinister adventure of the APC is being encouraged by the slow pace of uploading already declared results in INEC’s virtual portal.’’
The party further called on IGP Adamu and the electoral umpire to rise up and defend the voice of the people without further delay.
European Centre decries non-compliance with COVID-19 protocol
The European Centre for Electoral Support, ECES, yesterday, said voters in Ologbosere primary school, ward 4 with 40 units and other polling units they visited were not observing the COVID-19 guidelines as stipulated in the INEC policy.
Mr Wilson Manji, the deputy project coordinator, said that although voters were all wearing face masks, they did not maintain social distancing.
Wike, Okowa, Makinde urge vigilance
National Chairman of the PDP Campaign Council and Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, last night, called on the various stakeholders in the Edo governorship election to ensure the collation centres were secured.
The governors, who spoke to journalists in Benin City, commended INEC and the various security agencies for conducting what they called a peaceful election in Edo, noting that the work was not over until the results of the election were released.
Said Wike: “The Edo election has been quite peaceful and I want to commend everybody for the peace we have enjoyed. Like I have always said, problems do not arise at election but during collation. So we call on INEC to fulfill the promise it made to Nigerians that it will release the Edo election results at real time.
“We are very happy with the election so far. But you cannot find security presence at the ward collation centres. After results have been announced at polling units, we expect that police presence will be more at the ward collation centres. That is where we feel concerned now. We appeal to the federal government to mobilise security personnel to the various ward collation centres and the local government collation centres, so that the people’s mandate can be protected.
“I urge the people; the media, civil society organisations and voters to be vigilant at this time and watch over developments at the collation centres.”
Okowa and Makinde stressed the need to ensure that the success recorded in the voting process should be extended to collation of results so that the PDP and Nigerians will commend INEC, for a job well done.