Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State in the volatile Niger Delta region will involve 14 political parties. But, it will be a battle between the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Godwin Obaseki, and the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).

Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are Benin indigenes in Edo South Senatorial District.

It has been back and forth between PDP and APC leaders over allegations of thuggery and violence. But, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, on September 2, during a peace meeting with top Edo politicians in his palace, asked Obaseki’s running mate and Edo Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, to call his ‘boys’ to order and give peace a chance in Edo.

On July 25, at the Oba of Benin’s palace’s main entrance, PDP leaders from across Nigeria, who paid the first-class monarch courtesy visit, were booed by unknown persons, with sporadic gunshots making passersby to scamper to safety, while no fewer than 10 persons were seriously injured.

With the campaigns in full swing in the 192 wards across the 18 local government areas, it has been accusations and counter accusations, especially between chieftains of PDP and APC, over attacks and violence, as well as vandalism of campaign billboards, posters, banners and destruction of canopies, chairs and other items at the venues of campaigns, with many politicians raising the alarm, whether fake or real, about plots to assassinate or attack them by their opponents.

The APC and PDP in Edo also engaged in war of words over N5 billion for electoral malpractices in the state.

Ize-Iyamu media aide John Mayaki, disclosed that APC had uncovered a sinister plot traceable to the PDP and Obaseki to compromise identified officials of the various agencies carrying out key roles and facilitate comprehensive rigging agenda during the September 19 governorship election.

APC said: “It was revealed that the plotters agreed to earmark N1 billion cash as the gift for specific officials of the various agencies involved in the prosecution of the election in Edo State, with an extra N4 billion set aside to purchase votes across the state on September 19.

“Each voter is pencilled to receive N20,000 on election day. The money is being planned for shipment into the state through the airport. With us are the detailed information including those who held the meeting, the venue of the meeting, identified officials of the various agencies to be purchased and the channels of disbursement of the cash haul.

Edo APC also reiterated that Obaseki’s seven-member House of Assembly that sat inside Government House, Benin, had just approved his N1.5 billion loan from a new generation bank and the $75 million World Bank’s loan meant for education, to be applied for Saturday’s election.

It said: “While APC’s governorship candidate in Edo will win the September 19 election on a fair and level-playing ground, without reducing himself to dirty crookery as being hatched by PDP, it is enough to declare that the rejected party’s rigging plans will avail them nothing, as the electorate have seen through the deceit of Obaseki, who spent entire four years piling excuses and Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), with the people’s welfare remaining secondary in his estimation.

“We call on relevant agencies of the Federal Government, including the Nigeria Police, Department of State Services (DSS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to mount structures to scuttle the grand lie, which PDP is planning to tell on September 19. The move is a potential strategy to set the state on fire by unleashing every imaginable brand of mayhem and thuggery.

“This is also a call on the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to warn officials of the commission to resist this godless temptation and maintain their integrity. If PDP has planned to rig the election, INEC should stay off and steer clear of offering their support. Rigging and vote buying are stamps of authority for a party that has already lost out in the scheme of things in Edo state.”

PDP in Edo, through its Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, described APC’s allegations as childish, simply to divert attention from what the leaders of the party (APC) were planning to do, while urging discerning minds to ignore the lies.

Edo PDP alleged that the leaders of the ‘unpopular’ APC were engaging in propaganda, since they had nothing to offer people of the state, while assuring that Obaseki would emerge victorious on September 19 and to be inaugurated again on November 12.

Yakubu, however, declared that no Edo state’s politician would benefit from impunity or be rewarded for bad behaviour during the September 19 governorship election, while assuring that votes would count.

He said: “The commission is determined that no one will benefit from impunity or rewarded for bad behaviour such as vote buying, ballot box snatching and stuffing, multiple voting, hijacking and diversion of election materials, disruption of collation, falsification of results, attack on INEC officials or compelling them to declare unofficial results. The people of Edo State must be allowed to freely vote for their preferred candidate without inducement or harassment.

“On election day, the national headquarters of INEC will monitor the election throughout Edo State. Our zoom situation room will receive live reports from the field. Accredited observers and the media will also be invited to join at intervals. By doing so, the commission will receive first-hand information as the election is going on. At the same time, citizens can contact us on our various platforms such as the toll-free INEC Citizens Contact Centre (ICCC) telephone line, in addition to our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.”

IGP, in his remarks, declared that the security agencies would deal decisively with disruptive elements before, during and after the September 19 election in Edo.

Adamu also disclosed that 31,000 police personnel would be deployed in Edo for the poll.

He said: “Election remains the most critical part of any democracy and this underscores the series of violence that has characterised the build-up to the election in Edo State. We are not resting on our oars to ensure that security is top notch in the state before, during and after the election.

“Plans have also be perfected by all the security outfits involved in the election to deal decisively with disruptive elements and proactively frustrate any attempt to undermine the election. We shall be deploying 31,000 personnel to protect INEC officials, materials and the electorate.

“The massive deployment is not only to deter misguided political actors, but to show that they will be brought to justice, while the residents who go out peacefully to exercise their rights will be protected.

“Election should be seen as a call to service and not a do-or-die affair. I will implore parents and guardians to warn their children and wards to reject behind recruited by politicians to be used for thuggery.”

On September 15, the Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd.), warned Edo state’s politicians that violators of the peace accord were putting their integrity on the line.

Gen. Abubakar, a former Head of State, spoke at Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre on Airport Road, Benin, during the signing of peace accord by the 14 governorship candidates and the chairmen of the political parties that are participating in the crucial poll in Edo.

The peace accord was on the promotion of violence-free election, with the governorship candidates, members of the political parties and their supporters to accept the results of the Edo poll, among others.

In attendance were INEC’s chairman; the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah; the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty (HRM), Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, who was represented by Chief David Edebiri; and Edo deputy governor; among other dignitaries.

At the signing of peace accord, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu assured of violence-free election on Saturday, while promising to prevail on their supporters to ensure peace.

The chairman of NPC said: “I ask all the stakeholders and key people here present to commit to the spirit of this accord, while also remembering that the violators of this accord are putting their integrity on line, because you are signing this as ladies and gentlemen who are to be taken for your words. We therefore, call on everyone to work to ensuring a peaceful election process, to ensure that peace reigns in Edo State before, during and after the election.”

Gen. Abubakar told the governorship candidates and chairmen of the political parties that by agreeing to sign the covenant of peace, all of them had committed themselves to ensure an enduring peace in Nigeria and Edo state before, during and after the election and agreeing to look beyond short term political gains, sectoral interests or narrow party advantage and accepting nothing, but for the development of Edo state.

The chairman of NPC urged the electorate to desist from selling their votes, which he said would amount to selling their rights, freedom and conscience.

Obaseki, in his remarks, said: “I want to say on behalf of myself, as a candidate of the party and my party, the PDP, that we are fully committed to ensuring that we have peaceful election.”

Edo governor also appreciated members of NPC for their very laudable efforts.

Ize-Iyamu said: “Let me reaffirm our commitment to what has been signed and to assure Nigerians and particularly our people in Edo State, that we will talk to all our supporters and we will conduct ourselves peacefully. We will do our best to ensure that the election is peaceful. We support free, fair and credible election. We believe that is the only way that we can sustain our democracy.”

The governorship candidate of APC also assured all the dignitaries in attendance and other Nigerians that, by the grace of God, the governorship election in the state would be very peaceful.

Billionaire entrepreneur, Capt. Hosa Okunbo, in 2016, financed the election of Obaseki, but they are now at war, with the business mogul, a prominent indigene of Benin, now backing Ize-Iyamu.

The Oba of Benin actually made efforts to end the face-off between Oshiomhole and Obaseki, and still met with President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene, to no avail.

The philanthropist (Okunbo), also intervened and he even went to the extent of kneeling down to beg Obaseki to sheathe his sword, in order to ensure peace with Oshiomhole, but he told the billionaire that it would be fight to the finish.

Oshiomhole later became the national chairman of APC, thereby being so influential, but Obaseki teamed up with some governors elected on the party’s platform, some ministers and many chieftains of APC, thereby recently removing the former Edo governor as the helmsman of the governing party, but September 19 will be pay-back time for the PDP’s governorship candidate.

Oshiomhole, an indigene of Iyamho in Etsako West LGA in Edo North Senatorial District, is still highly loved and very influential throughout the state and beyond, but he is now saying that he will correct his 2016 mistake of supporting Obaseki, while pleading with Edo electorate to massively vote Ize-Iyamu, who he described as a more experienced and more popular grassroots politician.

Many Edo residents are still very angry with Obaseki for spearheading the removal of Oshiomhole as APC’s national chairman and will be ready to vote against him and his deputy/running mate (Shaibu), who is also from Oshiomhole’s Edo North Senatorial District.

Edo politicians and their supporters must always bear in mind that a winner, who is an indigene of Edo state, will surely emerge after the September 19 election, thereby not making the poll a do-or-die affair.

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