Dr Abiola Akiyode – Afolabi, Chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), has told the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it has no reason to fail in the conduct of the Edo State governorship poll slated for Saturday, September 19, 2020, adding “it is time to move forward and move better, INEC should walk the talk and put into practice the assurance given to the electorate and the nation that the election will be free and fair.”
Addressing a press conference in Benin on the eve of the election TMG in collaboration with Edo Civil Society Organization (EDOCSO) urged INEC to “up its game and strictly play by the provisions of the Electoral Act while responding appropriately to issues as may occur as the election progresses.
“INEC owes it a duty to all irrespective of their political affiliations, to be fair, impartial, and nonpartisan in its relations while creating a level playing field for all parties and contestants.
“The success or failure of this election to meet international standard will determine the fate of other elections and the attitude of electors to INEC’s credibility to conduct election.”
On security, TMG raised the alert that “about two third of Edo State (13 out 18 local government areas) is on security red alert due to pre-election violent activities of some political gladiators who have seen election as a do or die affair because for them, politics is not about service to the people but a profitable business.
“So, security personnel, most especially policemen deployed for election activities should never be found wanting in discharging their duties responsibly, professionally without bias. On election day, all are equal, no special preference to position or status.
“TMG is very much aware of the presence of governors from other states in the state to support their candidates on the eve of election. TMG condemns this practice of unnecessary last minute solidarity which is capable of heighten tension in the state and can intimidate security agencies.
“Such solidarity should have been limited to the campaign period. Their presence will worsen cases of vote buying and political tension judging from the nation’s experience in the past elections where ‘invading governors’ came to states having election with bags of their state funds, their security details and political thugs conducting themselves irresponsibly due to their immunity.
“This is unpatriotic and crisis ridden. This style should stop immediately.”
Going further, TMG asserted that “the developments in the state in recent times suggest heightened tension, increased mutual fears and suspicions as well as inclination for violent confrontation and lawlessness, threatening lives and property of ordinary citizens and undermining the chances of having free, fair, nonviolent and credible elections even in the midst of the lingering Covid-19 global pandemic.
“The increasing spate of allegations and counter allegations being bandied about by the political parties and their candidates is becoming worrisome. It is quite unfortunate that politicians have turned political campaigns and rallies to theatre of war while places like Oredo and Iyamo in Edo South and Edo North local government areas respectively, have become political hotspots in recent time especially with unlawful movement of armed thugs as reported in the state.”
TMG called “on security agencies to strictly pay attention to adequate security measures so as to prevent any outbreak of law and order and remain neutral throughout the process of election and thereafter.”
According to TMG, “some political parties have deliberately promoted political banditry as politics. We condemn this. Since the inception of the political campaigns in the state, the two major political parties and their candidates have been seen trading in war of words with different allegations and counter allegations.
“Given the weighty nature of these allegations, there is need for political parties and their followers to conduct themselves in a responsible manner. Political parties should embrace the obligations imposed on them by law in the best interest of our country.
“We therefore urge all political parties to work together by embracing peace so as to restore normalcy to the electioneering process in the states. The country is already palpitating with fear and very much embroiled in violence, as such another spate of violence is disastrous and inimical to the stability of the country.”
Also, TMG called “for the establishment of Electoral Offences Mobile Courts to deal with electoral offenders with dispatch before and on the day of election as a way out to lessen violence on the day of election. TMG will work to make necessary intervention in this regard.
“We call on all voters to come out en masse and vote for the candidates of their choice without fair or inducement. The power to elect belongs to you and you must be ready to vote and follow your votes.
“TMG Information CentreNo doubt, like several other observation missions, TMG observation will make election malpractice a high-risk business during the coming election. Going forward, we will be reaching out to you and the public on each phase of the Election Day process. Throughout Election Day TMG will provide updates on the conduct of the election based on the near real time reports from its observers.
“We call on the people of Edo State to take their fate in their hands by exercising their franchise during the election and remain resolute in their bid to entrench enduring democracy and rule of law in Nigeria. We also urge stakeholders to work harmoniously toward a peaceful, free, fair, and transparent election in Edo State come Saturday, September 19, 2020.
“Nigeria’s elections have been marred by violence in the past. TMG calls upon all candidates and political parties to help ensure the election is peaceful on Election Day and thereafter.”