The Independent National Electoral Commission on Sunday declared the incumbent Governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, as the winner of Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
The Returning Officer for the election, Prof Akpofure Rim-Ruke, who announced the result, said Obaseki polled 307,955 votes to beat his closest rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, who scored 223,619 votes.
Rim-Ruke, who is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, stated that Obaseki, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, met all the criteria needed for him to be returned as governor.
There was wild jubilation in the state immediately Obaseki became victorious, but the state chapter of the APC dismissed the victory, alleging that the election was marked by falsification of results.
Obaseki had, in June defected to the PDP following his failure to clinch the APC governorship ticket, which was won by Ize-Iyamu, who defected to the later a few months before its governorship primary.
The governorship electioneering was tension-soaked in the state as a result of the intractable crisis between the governor and his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole.
The immediate past APC national chairman supported Obaseki to emerge as the state governor in 2016, but they parted ways after the 2019 elections.
During the electioneering, both parties mobilised their leaders to Benin as part of efforts to win the state. While the APC team was led by the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike, headed the PDP team.
Also the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in a video released on the week of the election, urged the Edo electorate to reject Obaseki, but the PDP said Edo State was different from Lagos State, where it said Tinubu called the shots.
But at 2.45pm
on Sunday, the electoral race was won and lost when the returning officer, Rim-Ruke, announced Obaseki as the winner.
He said, “I, Akpofure Rim-Ruke, hereby certify, as the returning officer for the Edo State governorship election held on the 19th day of September, 2020, that the election was duly conducted.
The PDP candidate, having got the 25 per cent in two/thirds of the local government areas in the state and having a margin of lead higher than the cancelled votes, is hereby declared the winner and returned elected.”
Obaseki, in defeating his main opponent, Ize-Iyamu, won 13 out of the 18 local government areas.
But Oshiomhole pulled his weight in his local government, Etsako West, where the APC won 26,140 while the PDP polled 17,959 votes.
According to the returning officer, 557, 443 voters were accredited for the election, while 537, 407 people voted. He said 12, 835 votes were rejected out of a total of 550,242 votes that were cast.
Leading with a gap of 84,336 votes, Obaseki emerged victorious in the central and southern parts of the state, while Ize-Iyamu won in five – Etsako West, Akoko Edo, Etsako East, Etsako Central and Owan East – out of the six local government areas in the northern part.
However, while the PDP agent and his counterparts from other political parties were present at the state collation centre, no agent from the APC was present to sign and receive a copy of the election result.
But the delay in declaring Obaseki the winner had caused tension among PDP big wigs as some of them became apprehensive and began to make frantic calls to party agents and other members at the collation centre.
The PDP agent, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, had drawn the attention of the returning officer to the sudden disappearance of the collation officer for Orhionmwon, Segun Samuel, after he (collation officer) was called to present his LGA result.
Rim-Ruke had immediately called for a break in the collation of the remaining two local government results, including that of Ovia South West, pending the time the collation officer would come.
It was, however, a relief to journalists, observers and other occupants of the hall when the Orhionmwon collation officer resurfaced an hour later and was called upon to present his results at about.
Before then, an angry Chairman of the PDP Edo 2020 Campaign Council, Chief Dan Orbih, called on leaders of the party to move to the INEC office to express their grievances.
He warned that people of the state would not tolerate any manipulation of the election through the delay in declaring the PDP candidate the winner.
He said, “We are aware that the collation officers for these LGAs are in the INEC with the result sheets, copies of which are with our agents. Edo people will not tolerate any manipulation which INEC and its staff appear to be planning.”
The tension inside the collation centre, however, disappeared when the returning officer eventually declared Obaseki the winner of the election.
Wild jubilation in Benin City
At the collation centre, the PDP members screamed in joy and hugged one another after the declaration by Rim-Ruke.
Outside the hall, the party supporters defied the heavy presence of policemen manning the INEC office at Ikpoba Hill, where they gathered to celebrate the victory of the governor.
The atmosphere on most of the roads including Airport and Ring roads was like a carnival.
Jubilant youths were seen with colourful umbrellas with the PDP logo singing solidarity songs following Obaseki’s victory.
Chants of Onagbane (meaning, It is complete) and 4+4 rented the air in places such as Ikpoba Hill, Adesuwa, Sapele, Airport, Akpakpava and Ring roads.
One of the youths, who identified himself as Odion, told one of our correspondents, that Obaseki’s victory meant goodbye to godfatherism in Edo State.
One INEC official shot, another sustains machete cut injury
Meanwhile, one of the collation officers in the election disclosed that a group of suspected thugs unleashed violence in Ekpe ward in Etsako Central, leaving two INEC officials seriously injured.