By Dipo Awojobi – Guidelines and timetable for the governorship election taking place in Edo State on September 10, 2016, have been released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
According to INEC, party primaries will begin from June 2 and end July 4, 2016; campaigns will kick off on Sunday, June 10, 2016, while the official register of voters for the election will be published on August 11, 2016, and the election proper will hold September 10.
Giving the guidelines for the poll, Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC in Edo State, Sam Olumekun, during a meeting with Governor Adams Oshiomhole at the Government House, Benin City, disclosed that the Commission is prepared to conduct a hitch-free election in the state.
He requested the support of the governor during the courtesy visit.
Olumekun said, “I am delighted to be here, and let me begin by congratulating you for the marvellous job you have done in Edo State over the years. As people say history will vindicate the just. Obviously, you have expended a lot of energy into the development of this State, and I pray that history will remember you very kindly.
“I want to through you assure the entire people of Edo State that we are here for a very serious business in Edo State.
“INEC plans, as you are aware that because of Schedule 25 of the Electoral Act, we are supposed to conduct an election not earlier than 150 days before the expiration of the term of an incumbent governor, and not later than 30 days before his tenure expires.
“So, later this year, INEC plans to conduct a governorship election in Edo State. I want to use this forum to assure the very good and sophisticated people of Edo State that we shall on our honour do a very thorough job and abide by the very core values of INEC, some of which include transparency, credibility, and fairness. We would be very just and we would create a very level playing ground for all and sundry.
“In due course, we will commence activities towards this end. Some of the activities we will embark upon will include the continuous voter registration exercise.
“You are aware that since the last election, many people would have attained the age of 18, and it is their legal right to vote and so, we will embark on the continuous voter registration exercise very shortly in Edo State.
“The details of this will be made known to the public in due course. In addition, I also want to use this medium to assure the good people of Edo State because, since the Supreme Court judgment, there is this misconception of the judgment of the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court did not at any time say that INEC should not use the smart card readers. Indeed, it has been described as novel. I want to use this forum to inform the good people of Edo State that we shall make use of the smart card readers for the governorship election.
“In addition, you are perhaps aware that in the recent re-run election that we have had, we have had the cause to amend slightly the process of voting. We now do accreditation and voting simultaneously.
“You would recall that before now, you would first accredit voters and then they will come back to vote. But as we find means of improving the delivery of our services, we want to henceforth do accreditation and allow citizens to vote simultaneously. It has been successful in the re-run elections that we have had, and we want to use it also in the conduct of Edo election.
“I want to fully seek your support in mobilizing the good people of Edo State to participate actively in all the activities of INEC. We will call on political parties to conduct their primaries as from 2nd June to the 4th of July, 2016.
“We will also expect that campaign will commence on Sunday 10th June 2016, while we will publish the official register of voters for the election on the 11th August 2016, while election proper will take place on the 10th of September.”
In his remarks, the Governor said, “allow me, on behalf of the government and the good people of Edo State, across all the party divide to welcome you to Edo State and to pray the God almighty to protect you as He has protected your predecessors, guide you, give you wisdom, courage and robust energy to superintend over the preparations and the conduct of the forthcoming election and beyond.
“I am a believer as some of your officers on ground may have briefed you. I am a believer and a preacher of one man one vote because for too long the promise of democracy was compromised in our country and my campaign matra was that you must fight election fraud, not because of me but because of our country. It was clear to me that unless you have an accountable government, poverty will remain endemic and society will remain unsafe.
“But I am happy that several years down the line, we have played our part and contributed our quota in the struggle to entrench real democracy and uphold one man one vote. And I am happy you said this: the people must take ownership of this process, not as distant miserable spectators, but as active drivers and participants of the democratic process of which INEC has an extremely critical role to play, like the role of a referee.
“So, your task will be to clean up even your INEC office, and we are going to be very frank about it. It’s good that you have pointed out what government should do, what the police should do, but I also need to suggest to you what you have to do so that those people who are still in your office who are corrupt, who aid electoral fraud that they are eliminated from the process.
“In line with my own tradition, there is no need to cover up what needs to be exposed because transparency is important if we are going to sustain a full-fledged democracy, I don’t think that we should continue with this primitive tradition.
“When you have criminals there, they need to be weeded out, with all due respect to you. So, it is more in your hand. You hold the knife and you also hold the yam, and even the banana and the coconut. So, how you play this instrument is what determines the outcome.
“I assure you whatever we can do to encourage the police and other security people to provide security, certainly we will do, but a lot, and I emphasize a lot rests with INEC.”