By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Simon Ebegbulem & Gabriel Enogholase
BENIN CITY—Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress, APC, yesterday, emerged governor-elect of Edo State upon his declaration as the candidate with the highest number of votes in the governorship election held Wednesday.
Obaseki polled 51.3% of the total votes cast in the election, according to the results declared yesterday.
He was trailed by Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who polled 40% of the votes cast, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The declaration was immediately challenged by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which accused officials of INEC of conspiring with APC and Edo State government officials to rewrite results gathered at the polling centres.
The returning officer for the election, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, who is Vice-Chancellor, Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Ekiti State, declared Obaseki winner with 319,483 votes to the 253,173 votes credited to the PDP candidate, Ize-Iyamu.
The APC candidate was also credited with majority of the votes in 13 of the 18 local government areas of the state, leaving the PDP candidate with majority votes in five LGAs.
None of the other 17 political parties that participated in the election won a majority in any of the local governments.
The declaration of Obaseki as the winner was immediately welcomed by the outgoing governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, and the victor (Obaseki).
It’s good for democracy — Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, congratulated the government and people of Edo State for a peaceful conclusion of the election.
In a telephone call to Governor Oshiohmole yesterday, the President noted with delight the victory of the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Godwin Obaseki.
He commended the well articulated campaign programme of the APC in the state, the doggedness of the governor, governor-elect and party members in going round the state to reach the people with records of good governance.
He said: “The victory is good for democracy, for Nigeria and for the people of Edo.”
He applauded INEC, security agencies, corps members and the electorate in ensuring peaceful election in the state.
Welcoming his declaration, Obaseki lauded the salutary roles played by President Buhari; his campaign manager, Osarodion Ogie; his wife Betsy Obaseki, even as he gave very special appreciation to the Governor Oshiomhole.
We’ll fulfil campaign promises — Obaseki
He promised to press ahead with his campaign promises saying: “By your votes, you clearly affirmed your faith in my ability to lead our state into a new era. This is a responsibility Philip Shaibu, my running mate, and myself do not take lightly. Our promise to build a state anchored on a productive economy that will transform and empower our citizens is sincere.
“We promised jobs. We promised empowerment of our citizens. We promised improved social welfare services and a more secured state. We will strive to deliver on all of these promises. As we travelled all over our great state selling our programmes, we also took note of your concerns and problems, and I want to assure you that we will do everything in our power to address them.
“Let me, at this point, sincerely salute the courage of all those, who came out to exercise their franchise in spite of the intimidating manoeuvres of merchants of violence to derail the conduct of a peaceful, free and fair election; you are the heroes of this election! You saw through their propaganda and lies, and you made the right decision.”
We’ve retired PDP chieftains — Oshiomhole
Welcoming the outcome of the election, Oshiomhole said he had now permanently retired some PDP chieftains from active politics.
Speaking after a road show round the state capital, the governor said: “They said they would disgrace Oshiomhole in this election because they were plotting evil during the elections, but God thwarted all their plans, and I told our people these people wanted to kill us because of election, but they will never succeed. And I want to thank security agents, who worked so hard to ensure that those evil people were apprehended.
“Just look at the result of the election, Igbinedion lost his ward, Ikimi was defeated in Igueben, and that is because these people have lost touch with the people.
“We had a rerun in 2012 with all the godfathers on one side and new forces of change on my side. I won in all the 18 local government areas. Our people have spoken loud and clear that they believe in democracy, they just don’t want to be beneficiaries, they want to be the drivers of the process. This was shown by the way they conducted themselves on election day.
“There is something unique in the way things have turned out. In Esan land, the senatorial zone of the PDP godfather, we won two out of the five local governments. We gave him a fight that he managed to escape. He used the factor of his age to play on the emotion of the people. It is a victory for the people of the state.”
Drama, intrigues accusations
The declaration of results at the INEC collation centre was, however, characterised by much intrigue and drama starting from the night of the election, when declaration of results was suspended at about 1.30 a.m., yesterday.
The PDP immediately cried wolf, alleging that the suspension of the declaration was part of the plot by the APC and its collaborators in INEC and security agencies to cook fake result sheets.
The party, through its spokesman in the state, Chris Enehikare, had declared that based on results from the polling units, the PDP candidate was having a comfortable lead across the state and warned that efforts to subvert the results would be stiffly resisted.
Meanwhile about the same time, the APC running mate, Philip Shuaibu led a group of APC partisans to the INEC collation centre in Etsako West Local Government area over disputes arising from collation in the area. The collation officer for the area alleged that Shuaibu pulled a gun at him to force his imprint on the result.
Shuaibu, however, disputed the account, saying he was shocked by the report of the local government area collation officer. “The same collation officer that went on air lying that I was harassing him with a gun is the same man who promised that the matter will be sorted out in Benin. So, we left the collation center with that mindset that we were leaving for Benin to take decision on the matter because the duty of the collation officer in that ward was to collate what is given to him and not to cancel and there was no element of violence in my unit that will result in the issue of cancellation of any result,” Shuaibu said in defence of the allegations against him.
KOWA governorship candidate, Mr. Osadolor Kingsley, also joined the fray as he called for cancellation of the election, citing irregularities in the election process.
He alleged that the voters were financially induced in most of the wards and units across the 18 local government areas of the state which made them vote against their will.
Ize-Iyamu rejects results
Rejecting the result at a press conference, yesterday, Ize-Iyamu, who expressed amazement at the way it turned out said the results did not reflect the figures collated at the polling centres and the wards.
“First, we are in total amazement at the details of the results released by INEC because all of them are fake and not the figures announced at various units and as collated at various wards across the state. The fake results announced by INEC are entirely a fabrication which did not reflect the true picture of what transpired during the election.”
“However, we are not totally surprised because long before now, we had anticipated this and had also warned INEC, security agencies and alerted Edo people at various press conferences and statements, on this situation.”
“Secondly, based on the results emanating from across the state, PDP won the election fair and square, and with a very comfortable margin. So it is with disgust that we have been receiving fake results which were never recorded in either the units or the ward collations centres.
Justifying the decision to reject the results, he said:
“We know that a fair turnout of voters was recorded state-wide because the weather was very clement and voters were enthusiastic. However, unknown to unsuspecting Edo electorate, INEC had long provided the serial numbers of all result sheets to Adams Oshiomole and his APC government, to print fresh result sheets
“This is not a mere allegation. From the benefit of hindsight, the 18 day period of postponement of the election was to provide enough time for the Governor and his government to print these result sheets and perfect the writing of fake results at the units and at all levels of collation. This scenario is further buttressed by the fact that on Monday, September 26th, 2016, when election materials arrived from the CBN at INEC state office for inspection, agents of the political parties including the APC and PDP were given pre-typed copies of the serial numbers of all result sheets and the ballot papers. This was a clear security breach and an infringement on the credibility of the process, as these are sensitive materials, which should not have been sighted even by INEC officers.
“Everything that has transpired had been carefully designed by the Adams Oshiomole led Edo State government and their cohorts in INEC. They perfected a scheme to void thousands of ballot papers, to enable them to perpetrate their devices. It is widely recorded that over 88% of the voided ballots were PDP votes.
He also cited several cases of the disruption of collation in some areas, including the case of Oredo where he said police, INEC, Department of State Services, DSS and other security operatives watched akimbo as thugs came and packed result sheets.
Describing it as a travesty of justice, Ize-Iyamu also noted the open inducement of voters with sums of N2,000 to N5,000 saying that the state authorities poured out at between N4 billion and N5 billion to bribe voters.