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High Stakes As Edo Enters Moment Of Decision

Published by Guardian on Mon, 09 Jul 2012

COME Saturday, and barring any last minute change of heart by the participating parties and their candidates, the electorate in Edo State will file out to elect a governor who will preside over the affairs of the state for the next four years.The reason for this cautious optimism is because too many wild and dangerous allegations are flying around and it won't be out of character for some spoilers to attempt to frustrate the process, through some ex-parte court intervention, or by some other last minute disingenuous invention.Therefore, it is important that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stays on top the situation, making it extremely difficult for anyone to seek to procure some excuse, or to fly some evil kite.As at last week, just a few days to election, there were still worrying signs that the level of desperation displayed by politicians on all sides in past months had not subsided. Reports as at yesterday were that voters' cards were been bought and sold in Benin. The major contending camps are still trading strong allegations.The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was still raising serious allegations that could affect the course of the election.The national leadership of the party said the Action Congress of Nigeria in Edo State is building an 'army' in the name of vigilante group for the purpose of rigging the forth-coming governorship election in the state.It alleged that the ACN planned to import hoodlums from neighbouring states to cause mayhem and destabilise the state ahead of the election.Deputy national chairman of the PDP, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, stated this at a press briefing in Benin that intelligence report on the 'secret army' and ACN activities are already with the appropriate authorities.Another serious allegation is the purported lack of confidence by the PDP in the continued use of youth corpers as ad hoc staff to help INEC prosecute the election. The party's grouse is that the government of Adams Oshiomhole had jerked up corpers' allowances in order to curry their favour during the election.The PDP also alleged, that youth corpers had been seen in the campaigns of the ACN, meaning that they had sold their loyalty to the party and could not be trusted as unbiased umpires. They alleged that they have recordings to show youth corpers at ACN campaigns.In the month of May, the ACN alleged that the PDP planned to use what should have been INEC's routine update of voter registration to inflate the register with fictitious names in order to benefit from it during the election. Oshiomhole led a multitude of his party supporters to protest the planned update.INEC responded by suspending the exercise, citing 'the charged political atmosphere and the serious threat to law and order,' as reason and promising to carry out the exercise after the election.There are other allegations too numerous to list, some bordering on criminality. But the ones that could be used by lazy politicians are those that could raise questions with the Electoral Act. For instance, the update of the voter register is crucial requirement backed by law. After every four years, it is taken that some citizens who were not eligible to vote in the last election, on account of age would have come of age. They have the right to vote and when the INEC found itself so constrained not to accommodate fresh voters, without as much explanation to the prospective voters, then it becomes an issue.Experts on election matters were miffed that INEC could be so hoodwinked to abandon the voter registration update, instead of ensuring that it carried out the exercise having the full confidence of all stakeholders.Issues of electoral violence are also frowned at in the law. If there is substantial reason to prove that Saturday's election will not be peaceful, that could provide a reasonable excuse to postpone it.INEC therefore, must ensure that those who are alleging do not take it by surprise, with serious evidence that could frustrate the whole exercise.The federal government has the onerous task to add to its credit the number of successful elections conducted under its tenure. So far, President Jonathan has promised that it would be free and fair, but whether his party feels the same way is a different thing.The ACN had also promised to withstand any attempt to be shortchanged. The point is that, if the election were allowed by politicians to be free and fair, voters would be able to decide who their leader is. That would move democracy forward and also development.The desperation that lurks in certain quarters, where voters are lured to part with their voter card for 'perishable notes' will not move Edo State forward. The campaigns have taken place; the debates have held. The people are now sufficiently schooled to separates jokers from those who mean business. The next best thing is for the election to be peaceful, free and fair. Anything short of that is not what the people want.Thereafter, those who have genuine complaints could now file their cases at the tribunal, with concrete evidence. It is expected therefore, that those who are smart, should by now stop alleging, but watching careful to harvest compelling evidence.
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