Nigeria: Edo Guber - Will the Peace Initiatives Count?

18 September 2020

In 24 hours from now, all the palpitations caused by the Edo gubernatorial election should have been over. Tomorrow is the D-Day.

So much has been said and done towards the governorship election.

One major concern about the election is not so much about who wins at the end of the day, but how the winner will emerge.

Clearly, it is a two-horse race, even though 14 candidates are on the ballot. The other 12 are more or less like the also-ran group.

The contest is strictly between the two gladiators: incumbent governor Godwin Obaseki, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The duo are the frontliners. They have both shown not only capacity, but have actually been the ones reaching out most to the Edo electorate. So in a way, the choice is largely between Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu.

The tendency associated with the two candidates also has to do with the capacity for violence. Long before now, there have been accusations and counter accusations about which side is massing up arms and spoiling for war. It is not mere accusation. On several occasions, we have seen the actual unleashing of violence . Once, it was at the sacred palace of the Oba of Benin. The supporters of both parties clashed. On another occasion, a campaign bus belonging to one of the parties was riddled with bullets. That there has thus been tension and fear of blood flow and possible loss of lives, is an understatement. The signs are all out there.

So, by tomorrow, will the Edo voters tear themselves down or not?

To forestall this, the Oba of Benin, at the beginning of the month, had invited the duo and their various party leaders to a meeting in his palace, where the monarch made Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu to commit themselves to peace. He warned them against any act of violence, urging them to emulate President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan.

At that meeting, not only did the duo commit to peace, they embraced each other and laughed .

But a week after, the echoes of violence was still heard in the various camps of the candidates.

Last Tuesday, the National Peace Committee headed by former Head of State, Gen Abdusalami Abubakar and the progressive Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hasan Kukah, moved over to Benin-City. Mission was to, again, get Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu to sign a Peace Accord aimed at re-assuring the electorate that the election will be violence-free.

Again, at the end of the signing, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu embraced each other warmly.

But many have asked, and are indeed worried, whether the mere clerical signing of such accords can actually guaranty that the polls will be free of violence. Would these accords indeed, rein in the Edo thugs? Both sides still hold each

other in mutual suspicion.

A month ago, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) had invited Tony Adun (aka Kabaka) and nine other APC chieftains, obviously to extract a commitment for peace from them. Kabaka is believed to be an apostle of anything but peace.

Even after that meeting with Kabaka et al, the drumbeats of war and brigandage did not cease.

The Police on its part have also met all the stakeholders in the election to ensure that there is a peaceful outing.

It is in pursuance of that that the Police authorities have deployed 31,000 policemen to guard the Edo election. That, ordinarily should ensure that all goes well. But that will not be the first time Police is deploying such huge numbers of its men to elections that did not quite turn out free and fair. Last November, the Police had deployed 35,000 policemen to monitor the guber contest in Kogi State. Yet, there were tales of rigging, ballot box snatching, harassment and even violence wherein the women leader of the PDP, Salome Abuh, was burnt to death in her own house. Where were the 35,000 policemen?

That means that the presence of policemen, whether in thousands or millions does not necessarily guaranty that all shall be well. Will Edo case be different?

It is interesting that INEC on its part has put in several measures to ensure the conduct is smooth and not end as an inconclusive exercise. The idea of monitoring both the distribution of electoral materials and the conduct of the polls itself, electronically sounds re-assuring. But will it stand the test of the push from desperate politicians and their followers?

Again, the idea of colour-coding the ballot papers from local government to local government, will go a long way to ensuring that the process goes well.

Ultimately however, technology will be allowed to be efficient only if man allows it. The smoothness and validity of the election will hugely depend on how the political actors decide to play. If they adhere and respect the spirit and content of the many accords that have been signed and the understandings reached, Edo will witness free and fair election.

But if on the other hand, the political malfeasance in the demagogues decide to take control of the system, we shall find out that all that has been planned are mere balderdash.

The next level of the worry is what will eventually happen to those who defy the peace accords. What is the sanction that will be meted out to them? This has become even more crucial because usually, election offenders are never prosecuted.

With the involvement of the royal father in Edo State, is there any metaphysical punishment for defying the appeal of the monarch? Bishop Kukah likened the peace accord to "exchange of vows" between couples. The duo have literally sworn before the gods and the oracles of the heavenly God to be peaceful. Would they be faithful to it? When the terms of such vows are compromised, are sanctions visited on the violators? Indeed, will these peace accords count tomorrow? We wait.

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