The Edo State governorship election held on September 19, 2020, which returned Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner, may have rescinded into history books, but one of its learning curves, which will resonate for decades, is that security agencies can be professional in election security when they so resolve. Contrary to all permutations and expectations, especially when viewed against pre-election threats by the gladiators and their massive supporters, the election was not only largely peaceful, but credible.
The death of Florence Imafidon, said to be wife of the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Egor Local Government Area of the state being a snag. At the election, Obaseki polled a total of 307,955 to defeat his main opponent, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of APC who scored 223,619 out of the 557,443 accredited votes and was accordingly returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Undoubtedly, the Inspector- General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, deployed 31,000 police personnel led by a Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Leye Oyabade, in the state and they oversaw pre-election, election and post-election security concerns to ensure the Force’s integrity. This deployment from various states of the federation complemented by other security agencies posted to the 192 electoral wards spread across the 18 local government areas ensured the poll was devoid of violence and produce a governor who represents the choice of Edo electorate, underscored the lots of subterranean pre-election security activities.
It was glaring that a number of election threat assessments, obviously handled and coordinated by some committees, must have preceded the election. The security apparatus did not only ensure the safety of the over 8,842 INEC officials and electoral materials deployed in the state, it displayed top-notch professionalism, which was a remarkable departure from the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship polls held earlier.
The shameful attacks and counterattacks, propaganda, name-calling, illegal amassing of arms and ammunition, brazen use of weapons by supporters of political parties and the crises between the former National Chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole and Governor Obaseki, which caused no little apprehension, paled into insignificance with the sterling performance of the security agencies.
It is for this reason and more that we laud the deployment and performance of the 31,000 police personnel under the leadership of DIG Oyebade, who is in charge of Research and Planning, assisted by the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Federal Operations at the Force Headquarters, Karma Hosea Hassan and eight commissioners of police. The Force made the nation proud in this particular instance. We found this deployment and performance of the officers and men very electrifying. Indeed, the security agencies lived up to our call ahead of the contest that the election must depart from the past and be peaceful, free, fair and credible.
In retrospect, there is no doubt that the various peace meetings with the political parties, especially the parley by the Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, the Chairman of National Peace Committee and former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar and the peace accord signed by the various political parties as midwifed by the police leadership and INEC played a major role in the peaceful conduct of the election.
Again, it is observed that the stern warning of the United States and United Kingdom to impose sanctions on perpetrators of electoral fraud, including seizure of their assets in the UK and the actual action taken against such culprits of election fraud in Kogi State was a great factor in the election. We make bold to say that unlike before, the security agencies seemed to have created a new path.
We however frown at the reported movement of thugs and intimidation of voters in some parts of the state capital, especially in Ikpoba area, where voting was hindered. Also condemnable is the invasion of Governor Nyesom Wike’s hotel in Benin, just like thugs harrased Governor Seyi Makinde in Lokoja. With the Ondo State election a couple of hours away, we strongly recommend such unbiased and very professional performance for the security agencies as it was in Edo State.
This is very important to enable Nigeria commence working on the same laudable path. Already, pre-election danger signals from Ondo State are palpable, as a number of attacks and acts of thuggery have been recorded, despite major contenders’ expression of commitment to a peaceful contest. We call on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of APC, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of PDP and Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi of ZLP, to rein their supporters and give peace a chance.
In fact, all contenders in the Saturday October 10 governorship election in Ondo State must abide by the terms of peace accord signed on Tuesday in Akure, the state capital. The last governorship election in Edo State signposts a gradual shift from the over-militarised election of yesteryears. Bearing in mind that consistent efficiency is critical for building vital institutions, which is pivotal to national development, we strongly advocate a continued commitment and sustenance of the Edo trajectory.