Edo LG poll: Unending rigmarole in Anenih's domain

Source: pointblanknews.com

By Adebanji Aluko
Not many missed the nullification last week of the October 22, 2013, council election conducted in Esan North East Local Government Area of Edo State as announced by the State Local Government Election Tribunal. What many, however, may not know was that the cancelation came after two failed attempts to conduct election in the council.

This is apart from the cancelled October 22 poll.Though the defendants–the All Progressive Congress (APC) and its candidate, Hon Sam Oboh–have promised to challenge the verdict of the tribunal, the record books may have been altered if the election is conducted again.

When conducted, it could be a record third election and the fourth attempt at conducting election into the council.The first attempt to institutionalize representative government in the council was on April 20, 2013, when council election was conducted in all the 18 local government areas of Edo State. However, election did not hold in the council and three others.

According to the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission (EDSIEC), the April 20, election had to be postponed in four councils including Esan North East due to logistic challenges.

The election was however rescheduled and conducted four days later, precisely on April 24. Still, Esan North East remained the odd one out as the election in the council was inconclusive.

Unlike the April 20 election, the EDSIEC was, coy in providing reasons for the cancelation of the rescheduled election, thereby giving the political parties an opportunity to trade blames.

After days turned to weeks and weeks to month, the people of the council pressed for the conduct of election into their council and the need to have elected official at the helms of their affairs. Members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were more clamorous in demanding for another election. They held rallies and lobbied the Edo State House of Assembly to press it on the EDSIEC to conduct another election in their council.

Also, they expressed confidence that if election is conducted in the council 100 times, their party would emerge victorious.Perhaps their confidence stemmed from the belief that Uromi, the headquatters of the local government is home to maverick politician and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih.

That was not all. The Minister of Works and governorship hopeful in the state, Architect Mike Onolememen, is also from the council. With the backing of the duo and the popularity of their candidate, Hon John Yakubu, who was a former chairman of the council, they beat their chest that they would not be defeated at the polls.The council is also seen as an impenetrable stronghold of the PDP in Edo State, although the party is considered very strong in the Edo Central Senatorial District, where the council belongs.

So, for the PDP, winning the election would signal a kind of resurgence it hope to build on to challenge the APC in 2015. For the APC, victory is equally crucial, if only to send message to the PDP leaders in the council that they can be defeated at home.It, however, took the EDSIEC about six months, precisely, October 20, 2013, before another election could be conducted into the council.

It may be recalled that election that day started late as voting materials arrived did not arrive on time, making the election to drag beyond the traditional 3pm time into the evening.As soon as the earlier hiccup of late arrival of materials was succumbed, the election went on peacefully in many parts of the council.

There were, however, pockets of violence in some places. On that day, not less than 25 people, some of them with guns, were arrested in Uromi and some other communities by police.

A group of journalists were also attacked by some youths, including a councilorship candidate, who seized the camera of one of them.

However, the EDSIEC, sitting in Benin, announced results of the election at about 7:45pm that same day. Its chairman, Mr Solomon Ogor, credited the APC candidate, Hon Sam Oboh, with a total of 12,672 votes as against PDP's John Yakubu, who was adjudged to have polled 3,314 votes. He, however, said results of the councilorship would be announced later.In nullifying the October 20 election, chairman of the three-man panel that sat on the petition filled by the PDP and its candidate, Hon John Yakubu, Justice Alero Eruaga, held that the evidence provided by the petitioners witnesses proved that there was no collation of results at the local government collation centre.

She said it was a shame that the sixth respondent (the election presiding officer) absconded, pointing out that election battle was at the peak and not the base.”The 6th respondent is a vital witness. He would have been called. There was no collation of result.

The issue of announcement does not arise. There has to be a collation before announcement. The result announced by EDSIEC is null and void, more so when announcement of results role was not placed on EDSIEC. Results are announced at the polling stations and collation centre. EDSIEC is hereby ordered to conduct a rerun election accordingly. Parties are to bear the cost,” the court ruled.

The PDP is however dissatisfied with the verdict of the tribunal. The Edo State chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, said the verdict fell short of the party's expectations as its candidate should have been declared winner if justice had been served. He said in declaring Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as duly elected governor of Edo State, the tribunal that was constituted to look into the 2007 governorship election in Edo State and the Court of Appeal, separated valid votes from the invalid ones, asking why the Justice Eruaga tribunal could not simply declare the winner based on the results from the ward returning officers which showed clearly that the PDP candidate John Yakubu won.

He said, “It is shocking that the tribunal was able to sort out the winners and losers in the councilorship election but could not do the same for the chairmanship election. We are talking about elections conducted on the same day.”The tribunal also stated that there was no collation of results and that the chairman of EDSIEC had no business announcing the results of the election since he his not the local government returning officer.

This simply means that the tribunal understood in clear terms that the EDSIEC chairman erred in announcing the results. Are you saying that Mr Solomon Ogor does not know that it was not his responsibility to announce the result? The tribunal should not have stopped at condemning Ogor; it should have recommended him for arrest & prosecution. Instead the tribunal is asking the same Man who shamelessly abused his office by declaring false result to supervise the conduct of another election involving same parties and interest. “Of course we know exactly what happened.

We know that the original plot was for the tribunal to declare the APC candidate winner of the election but that failed due to the good work of our team of lawyers and the witnesses we called on. They were confronted by a deluge of evidence we presented including EDSEIC Ward Returning Officers who attested to the fact that PDP won the elections.”To say the least, we are disappointed with the Edo APC government and their principal actor, Adams Oshiomole, in this unfolding drama. I want to say that they have successfully taken us back in terms of conducting free and fair election. This is indeed shameful, especially at this time when Mr President is seriously pursuing the development of democratic institutions through the conduct of free and fair election.

However, in his reaction, Edo State Publicity Secretary of the APC, Godwin Erhahon, said such allegation was expected from a drowning party such as the PDP to justify its inadequacies.The plot to bribe or influence judges is not something that will be done in the market. APC did not bribe anybody before it won all the 18 local government councils and the 192 wards in the governorship elections.”Since the governor whose performances earned us such victory and he is still performing, we thanked the people of Esan North- East for voting for the APC. So, the PDP should be allowed to cry and grumble and lament since this is the situation they have found themselves. They should be allowed to cry,” he said

Aluko lives in Benin