Next Saturday, September 19 voters in Edo State would go to the poll to elect who governs the state in the next four years.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a total of 2,210,534 registered voters would decide the next governor of the South-South state.
The commission had also published a list of fourteen candidates for the election, but in the last few weeks several of them have stepped down to give their support to either the incumbent Governor and candidate of the People Democratic Party (PDP), Godwin Obaseki, or the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Osagie Andrew Ize-Iyamu.
Recall that similar situation took place in 2016; both had contested the gubernatorial election in which Obaseki emerged winner. However, four years later, the two candidates have swapped camps.
The election is expected to be keenly contested. In the last few weeks, Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu had been embroiled in bitter campaign that had pitched them against each other.
The two gladiators have been moving round the state with their supporters to sell their manifestos to the electorate in a bid to win votes and emerge victorious.
However, a look into their manifestos shows that both candidates have promised to place priority on job creation, education, health and infrastructural upgrade in the state.
Obaseki’s MEGA agenda is anchored on a 12-point action plan, which entails key developmental programmes in education, health care, critical infrastructure, agriculture and natural resources, peace and security, environment, public service, public finance and public revenue, art and culture, legal reforms, chieftaincy and religious affairs, transport, women, children, youth and sports.
While the APC candidate says his SIMPLE agenda is the tonic needed to turn the state around.
The SIMPLE Agenda is an acronym for Security, Infrastructural development, Manpower development, Public Private Partnership, Leadership and Employment creation.
The governorship candidate said recently that his agenda for the state as a ‘SMART’ document, means, it is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and of course, Time-bound.
For Ize-Iyamu, the thrust of his manifesto is to create employment in every sector of the state, head promised to create 70,500 jobs in four years in the areas of education, agriculture and rural development, housing, fire service, waste management system, and industrialisation, among others.
However, observers are anxious to see the outcome of the election. In 2016, when Obaseki who was the APC candidate, he won the election with 52percent of the vote, defeating the then PDP candidate, Ize-Iyamu, who polled 41percent.
Going by the record and performance of the two candidates in the 2016 election, the battle is expected to be intense this time around.
This is because so much has changed in Edo State and in the political life of the two candidates that would likely affect their fortunes and performance in the gubernatorial election.
In 2016, Obaseki had massive support from Oshiomhole his presumed political godfather who was then the governor of the state and leader of the party.
Oshiomhole who had the resources of the state at his disposal used it to work and campaign victoriously for his emergence as governor.
With the turn of events, political watchers say that with Obaseki now in the PDP, an opposition party in the country, it is not clear if he would be able to muster the required votes to win the election.
Since APC came to power in 2015, federal might has been a factor in winning elections in the country which may work in Ize-Iyamu’s favour.
The ‘federal might’ oftentimes translate to the undemocratic practice of using the military, police, and other federal agencies to influence election outcomes.
Analysts are of the opinion that recent elections in Nigeria have not been determined by voters. Events in the gubernatorial elections in Osun and Kogi States, in particular, attest to that fact.
The conduct of gubernatorial elections in both states fell below the acceptable norm and left much to be desired. The elections generated a lot of controversy, and the credibility was questioned.
The Kogi gubernatorial election was marred by violence and intimidation of voters. There were complaints that opposition party supporters were intimidated, beaten and even killed by supporters of the ruling party who in some instances were alleged to have the backing of security agencies, all in desperate attempt to undermine the will of the voters.
Just after the announcement by INEC that the candidate of APC, Governor Yahaya Bello had been re-elected for second term, suspected political thugs set ablaze Acheju Abuh, the women leader of PDP’s Wada/Aro campaign council while in her home.
Ahead of the Edo election, observers say that if the election is free and fair, Obaseki would carry the day.
However, there is the fear that the APC may deploy its federal might in desperate move to win at all cost.
“Personally, I think, the election would be a close one; Ize-Iyamu is not a push over; check his performance in 2016 election.
“However, I think Obaseki has an edge, being an incumbent governor and looking at his performance depending on how you see it. He may get sympathy votes too, based on what has happened between him and his godfather, Adams Oshiomhole. But don’t rule out federal might, watch out; anything can happen,” Wale Ogunade, an analyst, said.
Meanwhile, as the day of the election draws closer, what, is, however a major source of concern to the electorate is the feelers which indicate that the gubernatorial election may be marred by violence.
It is imperative that INEC and security agencies allow the will of the people to prevail.
Speaking in an interview with BDSUNDAY, Adelaja Adeoye, national publicity secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), warned that INEC must ensure that there is a level playing ground for all candidates in the forthcoming Edo election, stressing that, it must not be a do-or-die affair.
“There must not be room for rigging, because Nigerians already have a mind-set about stand alone elections like this, where instruments of the state are used to suppress the voters, against their wishes,” Adeoye said.
According to him, “INEC and those saddled with the conduct of the election must prove to Nigerians that, they are not complicit in election rigging.
“We are calling on the Federal Government, to work against those who may want to cause violence and disrupt the peaceful conduct of the election”.