Edo 2024: Will My Vote Count?

by iNigerian.com
edo state

By Eben Enasco

As the 2024 governorship elections approach in Edo State, citizens are wondering if they will be able to exercise their fundamental right to vote without fear of intimidation, manipulation, or coercion. Some believe that the election will be won through “Federal Might’. Others also believe in the power of incumbency in the state where elections will be held.

These two indicators are the perpetual fears likely to hinder genuine votes cast. But when the will of the people is ignored, it’s no longer a democratic victory. The right to vote is a fundamental human right, and it’s essential to ensure that every eligible voter can exercise this right without hindrance and that their vote counts. Nigeria has witnessed cases of electoral malpractice, including voter suppression, vote buying, and violence. In most cases, the majority is not the people but a few politicians seeking to hold office. They control the voters, the election flow and the electoral umpire.

Despite efforts by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to introduce reforms and enhance the electoral process, concerns about electoral malpractice persist. Some political parties and candidates may attempt to manipulate the process through vote buying, propaganda and violence.

In Edo State, there are concerns about political godfathers, vote-buying, and security threats. Citizens worry that their votes may not count or that they may face reprisals for voting for the “wrong” candidate. They also feel unsafe because some interests believe there could be external support to rig the election in their favor. This is not the first time Nigerians have witnessed such external influence where results are manipulated openly. Recall the case of Imo State: on 14 January 2020, the Supreme Court of Nigeria declared Hope Uzodimma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, winner of the 2019 governorship poll in Imo State, nullifying the election of the then-incumbent governor Emeka Ihedioha.

The Apex Court declared Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state. In the unanimous judgment of the seven-member panel, read by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the Apex Court agreed that results in 388 polling units were unlawfully excluded during the collation of the final governorship election result in Imo State. Justice Kekere-Ekun said with the results from the 388 polling units added, Uzodinma polled a majority of the lawful votes and ought to have been declared the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The Judge did not provide the details of the new votes scored by each of the candidates after the addition of the results from the 388 polling units. Consequently, she voided and set aside the declaration of Ihedioha as the winner of the 2019 governorship election in the South-East state. This judgment certainly raised dust and questions about the political, and judiciary systems in Nigeria. Similarly, the 2007 Edo State gubernatorial election held on 14 April 2007 was the 4th gubernatorial election of Edo State. The Peoples Democratic Party nominee Oserheimen Osunbor was said to have won the election with 329,740 votes, defeating Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria with 197,472 votes.

Meanwhile, in a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin declared Comrade Adams Aliu Oshiomhole elected governor of Edo State. The court upheld the earlier ruling of the Edo Governorship Election Tribunal, dismissing the appeal filed by Professor Oserheimen Osunbor of the People’s Democratic Party. Justice Umaru Farouk Abdullahi, president of the Appeal Court, delivered the judgment, which lasted over two and a half hours. The court held that Oshiomhole scored the highest number of votes in the April 14, 2007 governorship poll, meeting the constitutional requirements. The Edo Election Petition Tribunal had earlier declared Oshiomhole the winner of the election, with 166,577 votes against Osunbor’s 129,117.

The tribunal identified irregularities in ten local governments and canceled elections in two others. Oshiomhole welcomed the tribunal’s ruling, praising the judiciary for its transparent and thorough analysis. However, Osunbor and his party alleged a “voodoo judgment” and appealed to the Appeal Court. The Appeal Court’s decision put an end to the political tension in Edo State, with Oshiomhole set to receive his certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC. The judgment became a significant milestone in the state’s political history, demonstrating the judiciary’s commitment to upholding the rule of law and democratic principles.”

That said however, after these phases in politics, the integrity of the judiciary began to seem to wane, and is now being seen by many citizens as the loophole in the road to governance. Many fear the systems in the judiciary as if there present exist a system where the highest likely gets judgment. Since then, nothing much has changed as Nigerians continue to live by what these few elements put before them.

However though, there are reasons to be optimistic about the Edo 2024 election. To ensure that every citizen can cast their vote freely, it is essential to educate voters about their rights and responsibilities, encourage peaceful and issue-based campaigning, support INEC’s efforts to improve the electoral process and citizens must report any cases of electoral malpractice when and where they occur.

The importance of free, fair and credible elections cannot be overstated. It’s the cornerstone of democracy, allowing citizens to choose their leaders and hold them accountable. Therefore, political parties must unite to reject the use of federal might and other anti-democratic precedents to secure the people’s votes.

Enasco writes from Benin city

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