The die is cast! All is set for the Edo electorate to choose a new leader to govern them for the next four years. The governorship election had been shifted from the earlier scheduled date of September 10 at the prompting of the police and Department of State Services to enable them deal decisively with undisclosed security threats. The journey had been tortuous since the Independent National Electoral Commission, in March 2016, published the timetable and schedule of activities for the state governorship election. The actors and stakeholders keyed into the announcement and had been gearing up for today, September 28, 2016.
Come November 12, the Dennis Osadebey Government House in Benin will have a new host, the fourth governor in the state since 1999. Chief Lucky Igbinedion governed the state from 1999 to 2007. Prof. Osarehmien Osunbor took over from him until November 11, 2008 when the Court of Appeal nullified his election and declared the incumbent Adams Oshiomhole as the winner of the April 2007 governorship poll. It is Oshiomhole’s second term that is coming to an end on November 12.
Edo State has 18 Local Government Areas and a total of 1,925,105 registered voters; 192 Registration Areas; 2,627 Polling Units; and 4,011 Voting Points. The commission has deployed one Returning Officer; 18 Local Government Area Collation Officers; 192 Registration Area Collation Officers; 263 Supervisory Presiding Officers; 2,627 Presiding Officers 12, 036 Assistant Presiding Officers I, II and III; 2,530 Assistant Presiding Officers; 728 Reserve APOs (five per cent); 19 LGA Supervisors + 1 HQ Reserve; and 97 RA Cluster Supervisors + HQ 1 Reserve (2RAs/Supervisor).
On the part of the security agencies, the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, have deployed a combined force of 45,000. According to the Nigeria Police spokesperson, Don Awunah, in a press statement released last Monday, September 26, “In order to achieve the expected outcome of credible election acceptable to all stakeholders, the police will deploy 25,000 conventional police officers for the election. Tactical teams comprising of Police Mobile Force, Counter Terrorism Unit, Explosive Ordinance Disposal, Special Protection Unit, Force Animal Branch, Police Air wing (Aerial patrol) and Marine Police Unit (Riverine Patrol) will also be deployed”.
Awunah equally revealed that the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim K. Idris, has approved the activation of a revised operation plan for Edo State. The plan is expected to guarantee free, fair and credible election, secure electoral process, enable eligible voters exercise their franchise freely and voluntary, protect election materials and officials and ensure adequate security before, during and after the election.
The Commandant General, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Gana, also directed the immediate deployment of 20,000 personnel for the election. This was stated in a press release issued by Assistant Commandant, Emmanuel Okeh, Corps Public Relations Officer in Abuja on Monday. He said Gana had directed the acting Deputy Commandant General, Operations, Hillary Madu, to relocate to Edo State for the purpose of the election.
Okeh stated that Madu would be assisted by two Assistant Commandant Generals in charge of Zone G Benin and Zone E Owerri with five commandants drawn from neighbouring states. He noted that the personnel were to be re-deployed from Kogi, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa and Anambra state commands respectively to complement the Edo Command.
In addition to the robust security personnel deployment, the Edo State Government has also declared Tuesday and today (Wednesday) as public holiday to enable residents to participate in the civic exercise. The police authorities have equally declared restriction of vehicular movement from 12:00 midnight Tuesday, September 27 to 6:00pm, Wednesday, September 28, 2016 except those involved in essential duties who must be properly identified. The knotty issue of candidates sitting for their West African School Certificate examination has also been resolved as they have been urged to get to their examination venues latest by 7am.
On the part of the media and civil society groups, many of them have been accredited to observe the electoral process. In fact, 44 observer groups, both local and international, were accredited for the Edo election by the electoral umpire. They have in turn trained and deployed their members while many of them have been involved in voter education prior to the poll.
Now, as the election gets underway, given the assurances and reassurances by INEC and the security agencies, and having listened to the campaigns of the 19 political parties and candidates contesting today’s election, it is incumbent on all patriotic citizens of Edo State who have registered and collected their permanent voter cards to turn out en masse to vote for the candidate of their choice. They should resist any attempt by politicians or their agents to buy their vote and should go about this important exercise peacefully. Nonchalance to a civic duty such as being performed today can be costly as it can result in a wrong candidate being elected. There is no gainsaying that votes now count in Nigeria, otherwise politicians will not be resorting to underhand tactics to render election inconclusive. If the outcome of the election had been predetermined or that the votes do not count, INEC could simply have allocated figures and declared a winner rather than declaring election inconclusive.
I wish to remind the Edo electorate of Joachim Macebong’s admonition in a piece entitled, “The Importance of one Vote” on April 1, 2011. He said: “The most often heard excuse for not voting in an election is ‘my one little vote won’t make a difference.’ Yet, history is full of instances proving the enormous power of one single vote. In many cases, the course of nations has been changed because one individual ballot was cast or not cast”.
“In 1645, one vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England. In 1649, one vote literally cost King Charles I of England his head. The vote to behead him was 67 against and 68 for — the axe fell thanks to one vote. In 1714, one vote placed King George I on the throne of England and restored the monarchy. In 1776, one vote gave America the English language instead of German. Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes all became US Presidents by a margin of one vote. In 1868, one vote in the U.S. Senate saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. In 1875, a one vote margin changed France from a monarchy to a republic. On November 8, 1923, members of the then revolutionary political party met to elect a leader in a Munich, Germany beer hall. By a majority of one vote, they chose an ex-soldier named, Adolph Hitler, to become the Nazi Party leader. South Africa lost the bid to host 2006 world cup to Germany by one vote.”
Remember, your vote is your power, use it well!
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