The elections held in Edo state have been lauded by all as a victory for democracy and Nigeria as a whole. The winning candidate recorded an overwhelming victory of over seventy percent of the votes in all 18 local government areas of the state. Despite irregularities which were surprisingly cited by the candidate in the clear lead, it would appear that the voice of the people was loudly heard in the elections in Edo.
Some of the lessons the nation as a whole can draw from the conduct and results of the Edo elections are;
- Your track record counts. The most prevalent reason Edo citizens quote as their reason for re-electing Comrade Oshiomhole is the fact that he actually has results to show for the last four years he has been in office. This is almost a novelty in a country where incumbent candidates vie for re-election on the basis of promises of what they will do if voted into office rather than what they have done with the four year mandate the people had already given them. The key edge incumbent officials have in an election campaign should not be their access to government resources (with which several run their campaigns) or their control of law enforcement power (to intimidate opponents and the masses). It should be the simple fact that they have served as conscientious, worthy stewards of the position they have been awarded by the people. To put it in a nutshell; everyone likes a performer. Comrade Oshiomhole’s main attraction is the fact that he has largely fulfilled the promises he made when he sought for the premier office in Edo State the first time and practiced, in essence, a politics of development.
- The electorate, when pushed to the wall, will choose what they perceive as best for the communal good rather than individual compensation. The Edo elections appear to ring a death toll for the era of both god-fatherism and moneybags politics in the region and hopefully Nigeria as a whole. The lofty connections and “godfathers’ of the other candidates did not appear to do them much good, as the vote did not reflect the well known strategy used by certain political parties pay for votes or hire thugs to intimidate the people into voting for them. Edo people have for the second time voted in a candidate with humble beginnings and no trail of monetary compensation for votes recorded.
- The ad hoc status of INEC’s field staff has to be addressed for hassle free elections. A large part of the irregularities recorded in the Edo elects were a result of the use of ad hoc staff like youth corpers as field workers in administering elections. A look at past elections show that youth corpers have constantly been blamed for every problem with the election process, from being pressured (or given monetary compensation) to falsify results, to acting in a lackadaisical, unprofessional manner in their election duties, to actively engaging in thuggery and intimidation of voters. It is high time a more effective and lasting solution than using youth corpers as ad-hoc staff, is found to address INEC’s staffing capacity problem. The use of volunteers (who have gone through mandatory security clearance) can be explored by INEC to phase out youth corpers and the attendant irregularities their involvement as INEC ad hoc staff brings.
- The voter register has problems. If the Edo elections are a pre-cursor of things to come then a critical look will need to be taken at the voter register. The incidences where voters failed to find their names on the register or found their names but no pictures were appended is worrisome, to say the least. The authenticity of the voter register will have to be ascertained and a system of continuous voter registration put in place to ensure that a nationwide outcry does not ensure in subsequent elections.
The reasons why Edo elections are such a turning point are because the elections were basically peaceful, Edo voters turned up in large numbers to express their preferences and said preferences were respected by the election governing body, the law enforcement agents, Observers (both foreign and local), and other political parties (despite half-hearted grumblings by some parties). As simple as these elements seem, they are what constitute a free and fair elections and they have been very few instances where all have been present in any election in Nigeria.
Hearty congratulations, therefore, are due to the people of Edo State, because this victory belongs, above all, to them. It is everyone’s prayer that all stakeholders and participants in the Ondo elections scheduled for later this year and the general elections in 2015 will have learnt these lessons and subsequent elections will be even more representative of free and fair elections.