The Independent National Electoral Commission, on Thursday, declared the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Godwin Obaseki, the winner of the Wednesday, September 28 Governorship Election in Edo State.
A short but heavy rain momentarily dispersed a crowd that had started gathering at the popular Ring Road in the state capital.
The APC supporters later regrouped to celebrate the victory in the keenly contested election, where Obaseki defeated the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
The APC candidate polled 319,483 votes to defeat Ize-Iyamu of the PDP, who scored 253,173 votes in the election.
Soremekun said Obaseki “having satisfied the requirement of the law, scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected.”
The announcement of the results was, however, not without a drama.
Soremekun fought off stiff resistance from the PDP’s State Agent, Mr. Chris Agbonwanegbe, who refused to sign the final result sheet.
Agbonwanegbe had, during the collation of results, demanded the cancellation of the election.
When called to sign the final results, he protested that the results were “rehearsed and produced.”
The submission jolted Soremekun, who could not hide his shock.
Agbonwanegbe said, “Mr. Chairman, please don’t disagree with me; let us say it the way it is.
“The theatre has been on for some time, it has now been finally produced. I can’t endorse it (final result). I want it to be on record that I refused to endorse it. I can’t sign this document.
“I made a request that you should look at the collation of Etsako West and other local governments, you said I should go to court instead of looking at it. Even when some of your officers said they were threatened with guns. I can’t endorse the result”
While the collation of the results from the local governments was going on, angry supporters of the PDP stormed the INEC’s office in Benin.
The protesters alleged that INEC connived with the APC to manipulate the results of the governorship poll.
They sang solidarity songs to protest alleged cancellation of results of some poling units and manipulation of result sheets by INEC officials.
They brandished placards with inscriptions such as “Oshiomhole must go”, “Ize-Iyamu won the poll”, “Peace not war, INEC,” and “Poll results unacceptable to us.”
Riot policemen, stationed in front of the INEC office, tried to pacify the protesters to no avail while a police helicopter hovered in the sky to monitor the situation.
One of the PDP leaders, who led the protesters was the Senator representing Edo South Senatorial District, Matthew Urhoghide.
Addressing journalists at the INEC’s office, Urhoghide said, “I came here to tell the Resident Electoral Commissioner about my disgust about the results that the commission has been announcing. I voted at Ward 2, Unit 9, Oredo Local Government Area.
“The exercise was very peaceful there and there was no record of violence. I was, however, surprised to hear INEC say that results of two units in the ward were cancelled owing to electoral violence. I felt highly dehumanised and disenfranchised.
“The figures they are brandishing now do not correspond with the large turnout of voters yesterday. We hereby demand that the result of the cancelled units should be announced.”
As of 11.am, the protesters had increased in number, and were becoming more aggressive.
After results had been announced for nine of the 18 local government areas in the state, the INEC officials announced a break. This further aggravated the supporters.
The police deployed in the area fired canisters to disperse the angry protesters. Many residents, who were observing the exercise, scampered for safety.
On resumption, the Collation Officer for the Etsako West Local Government Area, Prof. Adewole Atere, while defending the cancellation of 10,158 votes in some polling units, alleged that Obaseki’s running mate, Philip Shuaibu, threatened to attack INEC officials at collation centre.
He said this while reacting to an allegation by the APC State Agent, Samson Abu, that he (Atere) mutilated the result sheet for the area during the announcement of local government results at the state headquarters of the commission.
Abu had protested the cancellation of results in Wards 5, 7, 11 and 12, where he said his party’s candidate was popular.
He stated, “The collation officer, from the record before me from our agents, the result sheet was mutilated by you, if you can produce it and sample it for everybody here to see. For example, in Ward 5, three units (were) cancelled. In Ward 11, units 1, 5, 6, 12, 15, 16 cancelled. In Ward 12, two units cancelled. In Ward 7, one unit cancelled.
“The excuse you gave our agent was that as a result of error in calculation committed by you. You know, in these areas, I suspect foul play, although I’m not from that place, because the running mate to the APC governorship candidate is from there and is very popular.
“All the areas that you cancelled the votes for one reason or the other are the areas that harbour the family of the running mate to the APC governorship candidate.”
But Atere said, “I thought we would just allow the sleeping dog to snore. It was the same candidate of yours who accosted the CO in Unit 11 with about six guns and drove him (CO) to the corner of the collation centre, forcing him to mutilate. I did not mutilate any paper; my papers are here.
“Number two, this same candidate went to the office of INEC to repeat the same thing on the electoral officer and later came to the collation centre, where I served with 10 gun-toting men, threatening to kill all of us.
“I want to say that this same candidate several times told the man, who handled that Ward 11, that he was a dead man. He repeated it three times and that was why we managed to put him (electoral officer) on the security vehicle to get him to Benin City here.”
When asked by the Action Alliance candidate, Ishaka Paul, if he reported the incident to the police, Atere said, “For the case of the man who handled Ward 11, all the security men deserted him. For the EO, he was locked up in his room. In our own case, we were rescued by the men of the quick intervention force, who drove the Auchi vigilante people out of the place. They were actually coming for me, when the men of quick intervention came in. So, the police are aware of it.”
Meanwhile, the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP said that its agents were currently collating results of the governorship election.
Spokesperson for the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led committee, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said the committee would react to the result by INEC on Friday.
Adeyeye added, “We are collating the results of the election as obtained by our agents.
“When we finish doing that, we shall react to the release of the result by INEC tomorrow (today). For now, we have no reaction.”
Also, the factional National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, said he had not accepted the result of the election, adding that his reaction might not be different from the general position adopted by the majority members of the PDP.
He stated this in a statement by his media aide, Inuwa Bwala.
“We have had situations in the past where results were released via the media only for the official results to turn out otherwise,” Sheriff stated.
Ize-Iyamu, rejects results, cite irregularities
Also, Ize-Iyamu rejected the result of the governorship election, describing it as predetermined.
The PDP candidate said the result of the election, held across the 18 local government areas, did not reflect what was collated by agents of the party and independent observers.
He also alleged that there were irregularities during the exercise, adding that a plot was orchestrated to ensure that the PDP lost the election.
According to him, before the earlier scheduled date of the election, serial numbers of result sheets were allegedly released to parties on September 8, adding that that information was used to write fake results.
Ize-Iyamu was flanked by the state Chairman of the PDP, Chief Dan Orbih, who declared that the results announced by the presiding officers at different polling units revealed that the PDP was ahead of the ruling APC by a minimum of 30,000.
Orbih further alleged that in areas, where the PDP was declared winner, the party’s votes were removed on the excuse of faulty card readers, a plot he said the party had alerted Nigerians and other relevant stakeholders on.
Ize-Iyamu, a former Secretary to the State Government in Edo State, also alleged that between N3bn and N4bn was spent by the state government to induce voters in the presence of security agents on Election Day.
Ize-Iyamu explained, “The delay in announcing the official result by INEC was clearly predetermined and designed to announce fabricated results that are completely at variance with what happened at the units.
“To show that the result was predetermined, if you look at the result, it does not even reflect the huge turnout they (APC) even attested to. Even their national chairman commended the huge turnout.
“The result was written without taking into cognizance the huge turnout. We have told our agents to bring out their results; we do not want to rely on the messages sent to us.
“In the next three or four days, we shall have the complete record of the results. I can, however, tell you that from our findings, a lot of manipulation took place.”