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Edo Sends Violence Jitters

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With two factions of the Edo State House of Assembly under two leaderships claiming legitimacy, and loud voices threatening fire and brimstone, Edo seems set for the violence path ahead of the governorship election scheduled for September 19. Loud drums of violence have been beating in the State since the split between Adams Oshiomhole, former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his handpicked successor as governor of the State, Godwin Obaseki. Obaseki, who is now the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the State, was elected on the platform of the APC in 2016, defeating then candidate of the PDP, Osagie, Ize-Iyamu in a controversial governorship election. Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu are again the leading contestants in the 2020 governorship election but this time, reversing their political parties. The campaigns of the two main parties, the PDP and APC have been full of violent rhetorics -the APC accusing the now PDP government in the State of tearing down their campaign posters and the PDP accusing the APC of stockpiling weapons of violence ahead of the elections.

The atmosphere in Edo State has been charged with a few incidents that have stirred pandemonium. After the 2019 general elections, Edo State governor, Obaseki had in a very widely criticised action, surreptitiously inaugurated the State House of Assembly to the exclusion of majority of members of the Assembly who are loyalists of his estranged godfather, Adams Oshiomhole. With his cross-carpeting from the APC to the PDP, the excluded members swore themselves in as members of the Assembly , purportedly impeached the Speaker of the House and  elected a new Speaker and leadership for the House. Meanwhile, this happened as the Police and personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) invaded and took over the Assembly complex on Thursday, August 6. This incident was said to have been a fall out from the impeachment of the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Yekini Idaiye the previous day, for expressing support for the APC governorship candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Idaiye was impeached on the grounds of “gross misconduct and divulging of official secrets.” Also, it will be recalled that in July 2020, a clash ensued between supporters of the APC and the PDP, following the visit of Governor Obaseki and leaders of his party to the Palace of the Oba of Benin. The incident left several persons injured and vehicles destroyed.

The exchange of threats of violence and inciting statements by political parties and their supporters prompted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to address the issue in an emergency meeting of its Electoral Management Board on Thursday, August 6. INEC stated its resolve to enforce relevant rules and regulations in the elections in Edo and Ondo States, and  sanction offenders.

Observers worry that the conduct of political actors in the State constitutes a recipe for election violence. The United States and the United Kingdom governments have expressed concern over the indications of  violence and the interference of security agencies in political affairs in Edo State, and called on stakeholders to commit to a peaceful and credible election. In all of this, very little attention is being paid to salient issues and the subject of issue-based campaign is mute.