The Chairman of the All Progressives Congress in Edo State, Col David Imuse (retd.), tells ADEYINKA ADEDIPE the party’s grievances about the local government election held in the state last week
How would you describe the conduct of the LG election?
What was purported to be an election or selection process turned out to be nothing more than a sham, leaving Edo State citizens severely disillusioned and questioning the integrity of the Edo State Independent Electoral Commission. EDSIEC officials refused to perform their duties and were conspicuously absent at majority of the polling units. And in those places where they made an appearance, ballot papers were inadequate, like 100 ballot papers per unit irrespective of the number of registered voters in those units, and there were no result sheets.
How true is your party’s claim that there were no collation centres?
It is very true; voters were equally alarmed by the absence of EDSIEC officials at the so-called result collation centers, which renders any possibility of legitimate result tabulation null and void. The deliberate absence of EDSIEC officials was at the instance of the Governor Godwin Obaseki regime, which was terrified by the mass turnout of voters across the state. His plan all along was to read prepared results with his handpicked candidates as winners, which he eventually did. The scene everywhere cast serious doubts on the credibility and transparency of the election, further reinforcing the allegations of fraudulent practices by the Obaseki government.
Are you implying that this has taken the state backward?
This sad event serves as an unfortunate yet undeniable testament to the deteriorating state of governance in our state, where the EDSIEC, entrusted with the democratic process, appeared to be complicit in undermining it. It is distressing to witness such blatant disregard for the principles of democracy and the rights of Edo citizens. Citizens of Edo State have a right to legitimate representation and government that upholds their democratic values. The events that unfolded during that sham of a local government election once again demonstrated a critical need for immediate intervention, accountability, and a thorough investigation into the conduct of EDSIEC and the Edo State government.
You said ballot papers were not enough, can you expatiate on this?
If in a particular local government, for example Esan Central, where you have 117 polling units and let us assume each of the units got 100 ballot papers, it means the total number of votes to be cast there would be 11,170. But they declared themselves winners with 98,000 votes. They were not even intelligent enough to know how to rig an election. They were crude because they knew they were not on the ground.
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But some people have said your party lost because you did not campaign as vigorously as the governing Peoples Democratic Party did. What would you say to that?
Where did they campaign? That Obaseki went to one or two places cannot be termed as campaign. Everywhere they dropped their 100 ballot papers and refused to collate results, the election was won by the APC. People voted and there was no one to collate the results. Why did they run away from collating results? The results were supposed to have been announced at the polling units but they came to Benin, the state capital, to announce results when the election was still ongoing. That was the height of electoral malpractice, deception and fraud.
The PDP has said it took its loss in the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections in good faith and it wondered why your party couldn’t accept defeat this time round.
What happened then and now are not the same. EDSIEC should not even be called a commission. At least, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared results in the polling units and wards before it got to the state level. There was no collation or announcement of results at polling units or wards in this local government election. Instead, they ran to the Government House in Benin to announce results. Was that what the law said? Was that an election?
Will the APC go to the tribunal to challenge the results?
There was no election in the first place so there is nothing to contest at the tribunal. If the so-called EDSIEC did not collate an election the way it was supposed to, which tribunal are they setting up to deliberate on which issue? It is still the same Edo that lawmakers that were not sworn in took the case to court and nothing came out of it after the case went through eight courts. This Obaseki-led government has made Edo State a laughing stock. I sympathise with the governor’s spokespersons who defend the governor’s actions but in their hearts, I’m sure they know better.
Do you embrace the call by the PDP that other parties should join hands with the government to make Edo better?
Our wish as a party is to promote democracy, rule of law and transparency in electoral processes. Unfortunately, we have a governor who operates more like an emperor. APC has engaged in constructive criticism based on facts and figures, how can we join forces with a government that lacks focus and destroys the legacy of the state? The central hospital has been destroyed to erect a museum while the specialist hospital which the governor condemned earlier has now been given to a consultant that is not a specialist in health care to manage, while the citizens cannot afford to go there due to the high cost. The move by the government to pull down a library to build a mall in its place is condemnable. The APC is hereby urging all concerned stakeholders, civil society organisations and the general public to take note of this grave travesty and join us in demanding justice and fairness for the people of Edo State. ,
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