Protest, voter apathy and late arrival of materials were some of the challenges that marred Saturday’s council election polls in Edo State.
Despite assurances from the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission, Saturday’s exercise showed that the commission got its logistics wrong as voters waited for hours in several polling units to cast their votes while others were not lucky as polling officers refused to show up.
At the Oredo local government distribution office on Sapele Roads, materials were yet to be distributed as of 10 a.m. with polling officers complaining of shortage of result sheets and stamps.
One of the voters, Faith Are, told The PUNCH that the polling officers had not arrived as at 11 p.m. in Ozigbo and Konkord roads.
She said, “I am in my shop but I am yet to see polling officers that will attend to voters on Ozigbo and Konkord street. There was no election here, even at Garrick where there are several polling units.”
It was the same story at the Adesua Girls Grammar School where voters waited for election officer to arrive with materials in vain but they never did. Niyi Kupoluyi said that he and some other voters left the venue at about 3pm after the polling officers failed to show up.
In Egor Ward II (Egor Primary School), materials were available but movement into the school was restricted as only those loyal to the ruling party in the state where allowed in. It was where the chairman of the Edo State chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, Odion Olaye, voted.
At Emokpai Primary School, where Governor Godwin Obaseki voted at about 2pm, voters did not turn up in large number as most only waited to see the governor cast his vote.
In parts of Edo North like Akoko-Edo local government area, election materials arrived early in most polling units and voting started in some areas as early as 8am and the exercise went smoothly without hitches.
However, members of the Labour Party were at the premises of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Benin to protest and register their displeasure over the conduct of the election.
The LP chairmanship candidate for Oredo Local Government, Daniel-Ero Onaghise, called for the cancellation of the exercise.
Onaghise said, “I want to express my displeasure on this exercise. We had series of stakeholders’ meetings where they said BIVAs and card readers will be used but towards the election they jettisoned that idea. They said there would be restriction of movements but two days to the election the governor announced that there will not be restriction of movement so at that point, we started suspecting foul play but EDSIEC assured that everything would be fine.
“Today, it took more than six hours for materials to arrive, EDSIEC staff were not seen. I am the LP chairmanship candidate for Oredo but as I speak to you, I can’t vote because there are no materials. People have been at the polling unit since 7am. I call for the cancellation of the exercise that is fraught with irregularities.
Governor Godwin Obaseki who voted in his polling unit at Emokpae Primary School praised the exercise and said he believed the Peoples Democratic Party would carry the day because “the PDP fully mobilised in most part of the state.”
Speaking shortly after he voted, Obaseki said, “The turnout was very impressive in spite of the rain. There was quite considerable turnout and it showed the interest in the local government election. This means that the political parties did well by going round sensitising and mobilising the electorate and the people.
“The process has been smooth and peaceful as a lot of people are still hanging around to see the end of voting. I am very impressed by what has happened as the organisation by EDSIEC has gone fairly well. You have so many people still here at almost the closing of the poll, which shows that we have a fairly decent turnout.
“I have been getting updates from across the State and this seems to be the trend all over. I have not received any report of violence yet and pray everything goes smoothly.”
On complaints that materials did not arrive on time in some areas, the governor said, “I believe that voting time will be extended by ESIEC beyond the 2.30pm closing time to allow more people cast their votes.
On expected outcome, he said, “I think EDSIEC has done well, I will expect that popular candidates will win but don’t forget that the PDP went all out to campaign for this election. I don’t know how much the other parties mobilised but I know that PDP fully mobilised in most parts of the state.
“I expect that you will find some opposition here and there but I know went all out to mobilise for this election and I don’t know of other political parties,” he noted.
The state chairman of the APC, Col. David Imuse (retd.), who spoke from Ekpoma, said, “This election is a scam. It is a charade. They brought insufficient ballot papers but no single result sheets how can you conduct an election when there is no result sheet?
“It is happening right in the entire Edo Central senatorial district. I am calling from Ekpoma. The same thing is happening in Esan North East, Esan West and I don’t see how an election can take place without result sheets”, he added.