Edo 2020: Blueprint for better elections in Nigeria – Moshood Isah  

NEWS DIGEST – The Just concluded Edo Governorship has been described by analysts as an almost violence-free election and relatively credible, while others believe the elections can be used as a model for future elections in Nigeria.

The election is indeed a substantial improvement from what was experienced during the Kogi and Bayelsa elections where massive violence and electoral malpractice seemed to be the order of the day.

Recall that Civil Society Organisations had called for the cancellation of the Kogi elections due to a lot of infractions that substantially undermined the credibility of the process. The credibility of Kogi election was severely compromised by political parties and security agencies, with reports claiming that security officials acted helplessly as if they were under instructions to not respond to the situation, while political thugs jeopardized the process.

Similarly, the Bayelsa election registered a lot of issues with Parallel Vote Tabulation Data showing that elections did not hold in at least 24 percent of polling units due to either logistics or security challenges. This also brings the question of the legitimacy of the entire process even though results were announced and winner declared.

Reports from Yiaga Africa who deployed observers to polling units and collation centers show that the result of the Bayelsa governorship election was manipulated during the collation process.

However, the feedback from the just-concluded September 19, Edo Governorship election shows substantial improvement especially with the conduct of security agencies and improved professionalism by security agents. Importantly, the people of Edo made a decision, and it is cheering to know that their decision at the polling unit reflected in the final outcome of the election.

Similarly, election observation groups especially Yiaga Africa had come out to say, the official results released by the election management body is consistent with the Yiaga Africa Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) estimate. Thus, governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the 2020 Edo gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units.

While there were reports of vote-buying, harassment, ballot box snatching in a couple of polling units, they were not substantial enough to undermine the credibility of the process. Notwithstanding, security must improve in maintaining professionalism and remaining non-partisan.

Placing the Kogi/Bayelsa elections side by side with the Edo election, one begins to wonder what was done differently, considering the electoral body is still led by the same Prof Mahmood Yakubu, and the Inspector General of Police is indeed IGP, Mohammed Abubakar Adamu. As a matter of fact, the major political parties that contested the elections remain the same, even though personalities and locations differ.

First of all, it is instructive that there was an early warning system put in place ahead of the poll. Although this was done in Kogi and Bayelsa, this time around there was an additional step to identify potential flashpoints with consistent engagement with security agencies.

Also, the willingness of security agencies at both the federal and state level played a role in the protection personnel and voting materials.

Another important contribution to the almost violent-free election in Edo may be attributed to the stern words from the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, who chides both candidates of the major political parties ahead of the poll. This culminated in the signing of peace accord by the candidates and vow to adhere by the letter and spirit of the accord.

Thus, you may want to commend the National Peace Committee (NPC) for responding to the call by stakeholders on the threat of violence as indicated in the pre-election environment. The interventions contributed in no small measure to the peaceful conduct of the election.

However, we must not be carried away with the fact that INEC still recorded a really slow start with data showing that only 4% of polling units commenced accreditation and voting at the stipulated 8.30am.

Similarly, flagrant violation of COVID-19 guidelines leaves Edo state with a potential spike in Coronavirus cases. This is not an acceptable standard and must be improved during the Ondo Governorship elections.

The INEC results viewing portal deployed for the election has demonstrated how citizens’ access to polling unit results increases the integrity of the electoral process and encourages the acceptability of electoral outcomes.

However, there were issues around the upload of results on the portal in good time. This is another area that must be improved in the next election which is barely a fortnight away.

Finally and probably most importantly, the Edo Governorship election recorded the lowest turnout in the history of elections in the state. Much more has to be done in mobilizing citizens’ participation in the process while registration and voting processes need to be more seamless with better electoral reform.

Moshood Isah is the Media Officer of Yiaga Africa