The pro-democracy think tank, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has rated the conduct and outcome of the September 19 governorship election in Edo State as relatively credible, irrespective of the challenges and infractions, which marred the process.
The Center handed down its verdict in a final observation briefing held today at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, noting that the election was relatively peaceful as compared to other polls recently conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The final observation report signed by CDD Executive Director, Idayat Hassan and Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Professor Adele Jinadu commended the vast array of stakeholders involved in the process,which it praised for working tirelessly to ensure the tense atmosphere in the build up to the election did not result in violence on a scale, as envisaged.
CDD described the general peaceful conduct of the election as a refreshing development. Stating It points the way away from the degeneration that has historically been the country’s sad experience with electoral outcomes, and towards outcomes that significantly reflect the mandate of the electorate.
“The election potentially augurs well for the future of democracy and development in the country, particularly in view of the determination shown by the electorate to protect their mandate and ensure that it counted in the critical penultimate months to the election day.
“In addition to the electorate, the credible outcome of the election was due to the activities of various strategic stakeholders, particularly the Independent National Electoral Commission, and to the pace-keeping efforts the Oba of Benin and the Abdulsalam Abubakar led National Peace Committee, who worked and intervened firmly.
“Their intervention helped to turn electoral ‘swords’ into ‘plowshares’
However, CDD warned that there remain certain anomalies in the process, which if left unaddressed could turn the current euphoria into a mirage that would evaporate, precipitating a reversal to the status quo ante of the country’s experience of seriously flawed electoral outcomes.
“The decline in voters turnout has become a trend, which would not augur well for robust participation of the electorate, including marginalized groups.This is because CDD noted that in 2003, voter turnout stood at 78 percent of 1,432,891registered voters. In 2020 however, only 25.2 percent of voters turned out to cast their ballot out of a registered number of 2,210,534. CDD figures similarly showed a consistent decline in voter turnout from 78 percent in 2003 to 40.5percent in 2012, and further down to 32.3 percent in 2016. CDD therefore expressed worries that the further decline in voter turnout in 2020, which came down to a low of 25.2 percent could be read as a steady loss of faith in the electoral process.
Speaking on other critical issues in the electoral process, the Centre identified the controversial modality used for selecting the governorship candidates of the two major political parties as a major cause of tension during the electioneering adding that the acrimony that resulted from it created serious intra- party fissures that cast an ominous pall over the peaceful conduct of the election.
The statement further reiterated the political culture of a zero-sum approach to competitive electoral process that tends to precipitate violent electoral conflict and to encourage the abuse of the power of incumbency for partisan party political advantage.
The statement revealed further the competent and effective administration and management of the election by INEC to generate trust in the conduct of the election, the malfunction of smart card readers in a number of polling units, as a sticky issue, which would have to be dealt with in future election,eventhough the overall performance was smooth across the state.
“The combination of vote buying and insidious influence campaign is an emerging trend, which changing the pattern of votes without the electorate knowing they have been influenced.
“Also the general poverty in the state and the high unemployment rate, particularly among the youth, provided a pool from which political parties and their candidates drew to corrupt the electoral process and to steal the people’s mandate.
“It is clear from the Edo governorship election that, when encouraged and mobilized, citizens can serve as effective guardrail to securely protect electoral mandate from assault by anti-democracy elements.
“Importantly we task INEC to concentrate on the dual purpose of implementing her protocol on conducting elections during COVID 19 and improved voter education program. This are broad tasks that must be implemented ahead of the forthcoming Ondo governorship elections.”