Like rivulets trickling down the cottage rack, voters in Edo and Ondo States, respectively, are on the march again. In a matter of months, they will file out to respectively elect a new governor and deputy governor, endowed with a four-year mandate. While the Edo election is scheduled to hold on September 19, this year, Ondo is billed for October 10. As stakeholders in the coming polls make frenetic preparations, bearing the suddenness of the Coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted many laid-out programmes globally, it is seemed apposite to again remind all concerned of certain civic morals. Asymmetrically, the chequered history of elections in Nigeria’s democratic experience assaults all forms of decency, when recurring cases of electoral malpractices such as ballot rigging, voters’ intimidation, inducement, disruption of voting centres through criminal acts, subvertion of figures at collation centres, and the like, come to mind. Besides, such oddities are often witnessed by post-election violence such as killings, arson and other violent attacks.
Ondo State particularly has a bitter story to tell in this regard. Way back in October 1983, the state was embroiled in a conflagration, in the aftermath of the governorship contest between Governor Adekunle Ajasin and his ex-deputy, Chief Akin Omoboriowo. Following the announcement of Omoboriowo as winner of the poll, the streets simply went on fire, as Ajasin’s supporters who felt shortchanged, went for the jugular of Omoboriowo’s loyalists. In the three-day long riots in the state (which then included current Ekiti State), no fewer than 1,000 persons were estimated to have been killed, with many of the victims burnt to death. In tow, scores of houses and vehicles were set ablaze with many several properties and public utilities destroyed. That unfortunate incident was then widely touted as largely responsible for the termination of the Second Republic democracy by the military junta headed by now President Muhammadu Buhari.
That experience behind, the Ondo people, nay the entire Nigerians, are assumed better informed. However, under prevailing circumstances, emerging trends in the build-up to both Edo and Ondo governorship elections call for concern of major worry is that in Edo State, there is a looming crisis arising from a personality clash between the immediate past national chairman of the APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, and the Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki. At the twilight of Oshiomhole’s reign as Governor of Edo State, he had anointed Obaseki to succeed him; but months after, things went awry between godfather and godson. The denouement of the dogfight is, to say the least, worrisome, when the question for a peaceful, free and fair election comes to reckoning. As outcome of the clash, Oshiomhole, through litigation and political ambush, lost his plum job as APC national chairman, while a frustrated Obaseki left the APC for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in anger.
By and large, the pressing need for all stakeholders to rise up to the occasion, by ensuring that the Oshiomhole-Obaseki clash does not spill over and bastardise the coming Edo election, cannot be over-emphasised. We feel that in strong consideration of contending forces in both Ondo and Edo States, ahead of the coming elections, all concerned must up their game, to ensure credible electoral processes in the concerned states. The umpire for the polls, the National Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), should eshew all forms of bias, through pecuniary or filial compromise, knowing that they are entrusted with the destiny of the people, who look up to the electoral body for fair conducts. More importantly, the security agents, especially the police, should be non-partisan in maintaining law and order towards getting due results in the electioneering process. In the same breath, politicians in power should eschew abuse of office through influencing the security outfits to pervert events during elections. As the Edo and Ondo elections knock on the door, the whole world is watching to see what Nigeria will make out of the conduct of the polls. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.