As the September 19 Edo State governorship election approaches, we enjoin the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the security agents, the politicians and their supporters for a hitch-free exercise. A total of 14 political parties, including the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), are billed to participate in the election. Ordinarily, there should not be any cause for alarm given that the election is a stand-alone exercise. But if the fallout of campaigns so far are anything to go by, then there is a cause for worry.
The utterances of some of the politicians directly involved and some not from the state give cause for concern.
Considering the use of intemperate language in the campaigns, we call on the politicians and their supporters to play the game according to the rules. Therefore, the Edo State governorship election must not be reduced to a “do or die” exercise as witnessed in some of our electoral contests in recent past. We urge the politicians and their supporters to eschew violence during and after the exercise.
On its part, the Federal Government must do everything within its powers to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible. All the security agents deployed for the exercise must be patriotic and professional in carrying out their duties. It is their duty to ensure that the election is not marred by violence and other electoral infractions. It is important that the participating political parties should realise that election is a process.
In fact, they ought to know that election is a celebration of democracy and not a warfare some politicians have taken it to be. The Federal Government, the electoral agency and the security agencies must ensure that the poll is flawless. We say this because a flawed poll is not likely to be accepted by the people.
We enjoin the electoral umpire to use the conduct of the September 19 Edo election to correct some of the noticeable lapses in its previous outings, particularly in Osun, Kogi and Bayelsa states, which were reportedly riddled with electoral infractions. The Edo exercise should rise beyond this. The election must be free, fair and transparent. The ballot must count. INEC must not only be impartial but should be seen to be so. There should be no vote buying or manipulation of election results. It is gladdening that INEC has vowed not to announce any of the candidates the winner if the election is marred by violence or proven underhand activities.
We appeal to the voters to turn out in large numbers and cast and guard their votes.
The conduct and outcome of the Edo election will demonstrate how far we have learnt from our 21 years of democracy and in particular, the 2019 general election. The Edo election will also determine how the Ondo governorship election scheduled for October 10 will be. We believe that a successful conduct of Edo election will to rekindle faith in our electoral system. Therefore, everything humanly possible should be done to carry the people along to avoid voter apathy.
INEC must be on top of the game. Cases of malfunctioning Card Readers and complaints of voters not finding their names in the Voter Register or not locating their Polling Units can also be minimised. There is need for adequate security to guard against violence during the exercise. However, the deployment of security agents is not be used to scare or intimidate voters.
It is worth recalling the pledge of President Muhammadu Buhari to bequeath to Nigerians a legacy of transparent electoral culture. Since the Edo election provides a veritable opportunity to put that process in motion, we urge him to do so.
As a leading nation in Africa and the largest democracy on the continent, Nigeria cannot shirk its responsibility to set a good example in conducting a credible election in Edo. At the same time, we enjoin the Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC and the political actors in Edo to ensure that the exercise is hitch-free.