Saturday, 14 July 2012

Edo Gov Poll: Oshiomhole, Airhiavbere In Decisive Battle

Voters in Edo State go to the poll today to elect a new governor for the state in another major test case for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and politicians. Seven political parties: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Labour Party (LP), National Conscience Party (NCP), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP) are participating in the election. The candidates are the incumbent Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN, Chief Solomon Edebiri, (ANPP); Roland Izevbuwa (CPC); Andrew Igwemoh (LP), Paul Orunmwese (NCP); Major General Charles Airhiavbere (retd) of PDP and Frank Ukonga of SDMP. There were no reports of untoward incident as of late Friday, despite the palpable anxiety over whether the election would be peaceful, going by the tension-soaked campaigns that preceded the election poll. The concern came even in the face of assurances from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Atahiru Jega and the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, that the election would be free and peaceful adequate logistics and security arrangements had been made for the poll. In spite of the heavy presence of police and military personnel in the state and particularly at the state INEC in Benin City ahead of the election, economic and commercial activities were still going on uninterrupted, just as vehicular movements went on unhindered. Indeed, the commission’s office was streaming with party agents and soldiers and riot police personnel, who had been keeping vigil to avert any threat to law and order. Truck loads of heavily armed and stern-looking soldiers constantly patrolled some major and secondary streets roads in Benin City, the state, in a show of their readiness to ensure a peaceful election. Besides, military personnel were reportedly stationed at strategic locations in the South, North and Central senatorial districts in order to ensure security of lives and property. Troops were also deployed in entry points to the state, as well as in the waterways in coastal communities in Ovia North-East and Ovia South-West local government areas of the state. The leaders of the various political parties embarked on a last minutes formal and informal meetings to perfect winning strategies before relocating to their mobilise voters. Analysts believe that Oshiomhole, Airhiavbere and Edebiri are the major contenders in the race for the governorship seat. The state Government House witnessed skeletal services, as the government had on Thursday, declared Friday a half-work-day to enable civil servants make adequate preparations ahead of the election, just as there was heightened movement among the aides of Governor Oshiomhole. Hundreds of international and local monitors have also arrived the state but, journalists from within and outside the state found it an uphill task to obtain accreditation to safely and effectively carry out their duties in today’s polls. The process was slow and lacked proper coordination and organisation, and many journalists had to show up in person for the exercise even when they came from the same medium. The process, which involved registration of names, the media organisation and contact details of the journalists, had commenced on Monday. It was, however, left till Thursday before the commission’s Public Affairs Department announced that passport photos would be required for the exercise. The INEC Public Relations Officer, Mrs Imodu-Sule, had complained that not enough hands were available to assist her in the process of accrediting over 300 pressmen who will be covering today’s event. The exercise was carried out manually which made the process to go on at snail speed with instances of duplicated entries left to the discretion of the officer in charge. Meanwhile, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Kassim Gaidam said that the commission was determined to conduct a violent free election with the effective collaboration of all the relevant agencies.

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