Edo: ACN floors PDP again

By SIMON EBEGBULEM

Governor Adams Oshiomhole conducted his first local government council elections in Edo State penultimate Saturday. Elections into the 18 local government councils of the state had not held since he was sworn-in in 2008, due to legal issues the state government had with former members of the Edo State Independent National Electoral Commission (EDSIEC).

Expectations on the polls were high due to the personality of the governor and his one man one vote mantra. Whereas many PDP controlled states including Bayelsa  held local government elections recently and the  opposition parties  didn’t win  any seat, people were watching with keen interest whether the Comrade Governor will follow suit  or he will conduct free and fair local government elections that may see the opposition PDP  in Edo  winning  a seat

or two. After inaugurating the Solomon Ogoi-led EDSIEC, the state government mobilized funds for it and tasked the commission to ensure  free and fair elections.

The two major political parties in the state, the ACN and the PDP, commenced campaigns but the ACN campaign was more visible. Oshiomhole led the ACN campaign in the 18 local government councils while the PDP was only visible in Ovia North East, Esan North East and Etsako Central.

Initially there were arguments as to whether the PDP should boycott the elections  after the humiliating defeat it suffered in the hands of the Oshiomhole ACN in the July 14, 2012 governorship election in the state. However, the party, led by Chief Dan Orbih, expressed the  desire to go into the contest and called for  free and fair elections.

When the ACN held its primaries ahead of the  elections,  there were disagreements in some local government councils over the choice of candidates anointed by the leaders. The leadership of the ACN agreed they were adopting the consensus approach  to avoid a  contentious party primaries  that may polarize the

party. But  there were  areas where the leaders did not agree and the aggrieved ones were only waiting on the day of  election to punish their party. Sensing the problem that may arise, Oshiomhole made frantic efforts  to reconcile aggrieved members before the elections, but he made about seventy per cent success.

For instance the governor had  issues with a leader of the ACN in his Etsako West,  Alhaji Usman Shagadi, who opposed the governor’s chairmanship choice of Kadiri Hassan and insisted on Shuiabu Elamah. But majority of the leaders agreed on Hassan; Shagadi and a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Abubakar Momoh, were not happy with that decision.

While the parties were strategizing for the elections, the EDSIEC made arrangement to print the election materials in London  to avoid a situation where it would  leak before the polls. The PDP  raised  the  alarm that the EDSIEC had concluded plans to write the result of the LG polls at  the Government House, Benin-City. Though the idea to print the ballot papers abroad was  laudable, the EDSIEC ran into trouble when they had problems flying the materials from Lagos to Benin-City.

Sunday Vanguard learnt that it was the Friday President Goodluck Jonathan visited Lagos for a function and therefore the Lagos  airport was briefly shut to commercial flights. As a result, they decided to move the materials by road to Benin that Friday night and they  arrived Benin at about 5:30am Saturday, the election day. That was how the late arrival of election  materials marred the exercise in the 18 local government

councils. People who came out in large numbers started casting their votes at about 1pm.

As a matter of fact,  aggrieved ACN members in Auchi, the governor’s area, capitalized on the EDSIEC lapse and started making trouble when Oshiomhole  went there  to find out  whether materials  had arrived  after casting his vote in Iyanomo. The  ACN members  started throwing stones at the governor’s convoy. An  ACN lawmaker was said to have been arrested. But the situation was brought under control by security operatives.

The elections went peacefully in most councils, but the late arrival of materials stalled the exercise  in  Esan North East, Chief Tony Anenih’s domain, and Esan West.  PDP members in the areas insisted that the elections could not go on since the materials arrived late thereby forcing the EDSIEC to shift the exercise to Wednesday.

The elections in Oredo and Ikpoba were  also moved to Thursday because materials for the councillorship were  not printed. At  the end of the exercise, the ACN won in 17 local governments;  the result of Esan North East was  being awaited  at the time of  this report. It was learnt that the EDSIEC  had issues with some results which were said to have been recorded by the police where Returning Officers were said to have bolted away due to the activities of thugs.

Sunday Vanguard observed that the crisis that ensued in most areas were ACN fighting themselves  and not necessarily the PDP fighting the ACN because the PDP was  over whelmed. Like in the ward of the chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, the ACN lost the councillorship position  due to the fact that some leaders of the party in that area said the candidate was imposed on them. The Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadohme, lost his to the ACN.

Protest

But the Edo PDP  kicked against the entire result, describing the exercise as a charade. They called for the cancellation of the polls  just as they called on the governor to resign. The youths of the PDP, on  Tuesday, stormed the Ring  Road, Benin-City,  protesting the swearing in of the 14  ACN chairmen who won their elections.  The protest grounded activities in Benin City for over two hours and  tension  heightened when the ACN youths stormed the King’s Square, commending Oshiomhole  and the EDSIEC for organizing  free and fair elections.

Tony Kabaka,  who led the ACN youths,  said: “This is the first time we are having local government elections  in this state. When the PDP was there for ten years, they only wrote the names at Government House and announce to us. We will resist any attempt to destroy the image of the Comrade Governor. The PDP thinks.

Orbih called for the sack of the entire members of the EDSIEC, alleging that they connived with the ACN leadership to make result sheets unavailable.  The chairman of the ACN, Thomas Okosun, debunked the claim, saying the PDP was never prepared for the elections. According to him, the PDP never campaigned for the polls.

The Coalition of Registered Political Parties (CRPP) in Edo, and a political group in the state, Edo is in Safe Hands, commended the EDSIEC for the conduct of the election but  advised that they should improve in future elections. State chairman of the CRPP, Dr Samson Isibor, said: “ We want to commend the governor and the EDSIEC because this election is the freest and fairest we have ever witnessed in this state. When the PDP was in government in the state, we never held any local government election and that is why we are surprised that they are protesting..”

On his part, Edo State chairman of Edo In Safe Hands, Washington Osifo, admonished the PDP to distinguish  Oshiomhole from the EDSIEC, saying the party should not castigate “a  man who has always acted and is still acting with the provisions of the law and constitution of the Federal Republic.

He added, “Therefore, we will resist any attempt by any group or party to distract the Comrade Governor. As  a  mass based organization with structures across the length and breath of the state, we hereby place  all structures at alert. Anyone trying to foment trouble will meet the wrath of the people. We are appealing to everyone to follow the path of peace in  the interest of our state.”

Speaking on behalf of the new local government chairmen at their swearing-in, on Monday, Mrs Lucy Omagbon, Chairman Ovia North East Local Government Area, assured that they would work to ensure the development of their local government areas.

Oshiomhole, at the occasion, apologised for the late arrival of materials for the polls and condemned the PDP’s attack on his government.

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