TRIBUNAL VERDICT: As Edo waits with bated breath

Tribunal verdict: As Edo waits with bated breath

Edo, home of the ancient Benin kingdom is never short on suspense and high-pitch drama.

The gubernatorial election of 2016 that saw the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Godwin Obaseki, announced winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was one such drama.

Its import still reverberates.

This time, Edo State is in the throes of anxiety occasioned by the impending announcement of who, indeed, is the bonafide winner of the 2016 poll after the Election Petition Tribunal discounts irregularities that allegedly took place during the exercise.

Observers are not ruling out even more drama.

By Friday, it would have taken nearly 180 days since the Tribunal began its sittings. No seer is needed to tell that the heart beat of the frontline gladiators, Obaseki of APC and Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), would skip a bit.

Edo waits with bated breath, and understandably so. The much awaited tribunal judgment would be in fulfillment of a key element of the electoral law which stipulates that all outstanding issues relating to an election petition must be thrashed within 180 days of any such petition.

While the exact date for the judgment has not been made known, the question on the lips of many is, ‘Who wins?’ Will it be Obaseki who hid under the umbrella of former governor Adams Oshiomhole to stroll to government house or Ize-Iyamu who many still believe has a charismatic hold on the larger Edo populace?

Which ever way the pendulum swings, Nigerians would not forget in a hurry the ugly tales leading up to the poll, the suspense-filled campaigns and the melodrama that attended the final results.

A major doubt had been cast on the credibility and integrity of the election soon after INEC, apparently kowtowing to a plot by the Buhari-led APC government, succumbed to blackmail by the Nigerian state and shifted the poll by more than two weeks. The act was considered reprehensible by most, especially Civil Society Organizations led by the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG).

Till date, the Federal Government has woefully failed to provide transparent answers to why it called out the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) and the Department of State Security Services (DSS) to declare Edo State as insecure less than 48 hours to the contest. The electoral umpire, on its part, is yet to also fully account for its action having bowed to apparent intimidation not to organize the poll, some 12 hours after insisting it would.

Read also: Analysis… EDO: Is Ize-Iyamu fighting a lost battle?

Shouldn’t the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, have resigned over the Edo embarrassment? How and why did his courage fail him in the face of glaring attempt to truncate the electoral process? These questions remain largely unanswered.

However, the real puzzle in the 2016 Edo election remains the driving motive behind the hurried security alarm triggered by agents of the state even when no such concerns were reported at the broad committee level of all stakeholders that comprised INEC, the Police, DSS, Civil Society Organizations, amongst others.

While reports of high level interference remain an indelible stigma on the Edo poll, the Appeal Tribunal has a rare chance to redeem the image of a near rubbished poll plagued by allegations of a covert attempt by the ruling party to covet the state to itself.

It is the wish of many that from the ashes of the Edo election should arise a more transparent electoral process that is defined by strict adherence to the rules of the game.

And, while it will be fool hardy to preempt eventual outcomes, Nigerians expect a judgment not tainted by sentiments but by facts of the case. They want to experience a judiciary that now appears to have found its voice, and is desirous to assert its independence.

For the candidate of PDP, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the decision to approach the courts must be seen as a bold initiative coming from an honest stakeholder intent on deepening the structures of our nascent democracy.

He must be congratulated for giving a good fight and riding on the crest of time to want to effect a positive change in the lives of the people of Edo State.

Indeed, whatever the outcomes, the people of Edo have the next few days to hope and pray that the fortune of good leadership smiles on them.

By Sam Ibemere

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