Edo State eligible voters on the 28th of September 2016, went to the poll to elect their Governor. The contending political parties in the election were; the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), All progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP) and the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The conduct of the election it should be recalled, suffered a setback a forth night ago due to security reasons leading to its postponement from September 10th to September 28th. The African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), in line with its belief in election observation as a key activity for achieving free, fair and credible election, deployed observers to observe the Edo gubernatorial election having been accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to observe the election. The report of the observation is captured thus;
INEC logistics arrangement: The logistics arrangement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was very encouraging. INEC officials with their materials got to the polling units early. Polling units in Agbado Primary School in Oredo local Government, Western Boys High School, Adesuwa Grammar School and Gorreti-Ivbiotor Primary School 1 by Itohan Grammar School on Sapele Road, INEC officials with their materials arrived before 8 a.m. The same was the case at Ogan Primary School polling unit 11 and Iguenokha polling unit 20 in Okogbo ward 6 in Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the State. At Imado Primary School ward 4, Ekpoma, materials arrived the polling units early. Officials and materials were adequate and were alive to their responsibilities.
Accreditation process: Set up was concluded before 8.am in all the polling units. Accreditation and voting followed immediately. Unlike in previous election, both activities happened simultaneously. The reason undoubtedly was to quicken the process and finish at a good time. This also enhanced crowed control at the polling units as the electorates got accreditation and made to vote at the nick of the moment. Accreditation was enhanced by the use of the card reader. But in few cases where there were challenges with the card reader, incident forms were used.
Security of the process: The security deployment was heavy and very impressive. Men of the Nigeria Police, Federal Road Safety Corps, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) and the Armed Forces were on hand. A total of 25,000 Police men were deployed to provide security for the election. The men of the Armed Forces mounted roadblocks at strategic road blocks within the city Centre and other adjoining towns and villages. The security deployment largely accounted for the peaceful nature of the election, such that the premonition of uprising by some persons, did not see the light of the day. The conduct of the security men was good and commendable. it was obvious that they had been groomed on election duty roles, responsibilities and codes of conduct.
General participation: There was heavy turnout of voters. Eligible voters came out in droves to exercise their franchise. And because of the system deployed for accreditation and voting, there was an observable in and out movement to and from the polling units by the electorates. As a matter of fact, the election stakeholders including security, media, Civil Society Organizations, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties and the electorates performed creditably well. Thuggery was completely non-existent. Party agents conduct was encouraging. The voting environment where altogether peaceful.
Impression: INEC and other relevant stakeholders including security agencies, media, Civil Society Organizations, political parties and the electorates proved their mettle. The Independent National Electoral Commission did well by ensuring early arrival of its personnel and materials. Security deployment was salutary and the media was all over the place providing visibility to the exercise as it happens. The presence of members of Civil Society Organizations for the observation of the exercise, gave a value-add to the election. Nevertheless, the only thing that did not go well in the election was the several cases of vote buying.
Challenges: The challenge noticed during the exercise was;
a) Vote buying
Recommendation: We recommend the following;
a) Literature highlighting what constitute electoral offences should be pasted at the polling units to check the menace of vote buying.
b) The methodology deployed by INEC for voter/civic education in the Edo State gubernatorial election should be sustained and used in future elections.
Conclusion: The election was generally peaceful. Stakeholders put in their best. The methodology deployed by INEC for voter/civic education in the election is commendable and should be used for future elections in the country. INEC should find a way of dealing with vote buying on election day.