THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), a pro-democracy advocate, has rated the conduct and outcome of the just-concluded September 19 governorship election in Edo State as relatively credible, despite the challenges and infractions, which dogged the process.
The Centre noted that from reports it gathered from 250 of its observers whom it deployed to monitor the polls, the election was relatively peaceful when compared to other polls recently conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It commended a vast array of stakeholders involved in the process, which it praised for working tirelessly to ensure the tense atmosphere in the build-up to the election did not result in violence on a large scale as envisaged.
Idayat Hassan, Country Director of CDD and Adele Jinadu, Head, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), said in a statement jointly issued in Abuja on Monday that the general peaceful conduct of the election was a refreshing development.
“It (the peaceful conduct) points the way away from the “degeneration” that has historically been the country’s sad experience with electoral outcomes, and towards outcomes that significantly reflect the mandate of the electorate,” it said.
“In this respect the election potentially augurs well for the future of democracy and development in the country, particularly in view of the determination shown by the electorate to protect their mandate and ensure that it counted in the critical penultimate months to the election day.”
The Centre further noted that the credible outcome of the election was due to the activities of various strategic stakeholders, particularly the INEC, and the peace-keeping efforts the Oba of Benin and the Abdulsalam Abubakar led National Peace Committee, who worked and intervened firmly under a very dire pre-election context that portended violent election conflicts which helped to turn electoral “swords” into “plowshares.”
However, CDD warned that there remained certain anomalies in the process, which if left unaddressed could turn the current euphoria into a mirage that could lead to a reversal to the status quo ante of the country’s experience of seriously flawed electoral outcomes.
It pointed out the decline in voters’ turnout as a trend which would not augur well for robust participation of the electorate including marginalized groups.
Backing its assertions with figures, the CDD noted that in 2003, voters’ turnout stood at 78 percent of 1,432,891 registered voters.
In 2020 however, only 25.2 per cent of voters turned out to cast their ballot out of a registered number of 2,210,534, it said.
The CDD figures also showed a consistent decline in voters’ turnout from 78 per cent in 2003 to 40.5per cent in 2012, and further down to 32.3 per cent in 2016.
It expressed worries that the further decline in voters’ turnout in 2020, which came down to a low of 25.2 per cent could be read as a steady loss of faith in the electoral process, as well the entire democratic system of governance.
Speaking on other critical issues in the electoral process, the Centre identified the controversial modality used for selecting the governorship candidates of the two major political parties as a major cause of tension during the electioneering.
“The acrimony that resulted from it created serious intra-party fissures that cast an ominous pall over the peaceful conduct of the election,” it said.
“Another process issue was the political culture of a zero-sum approach to a competitive electoral process that tends to precipitate violent electoral conflict and to encourage the abuse of the power of incumbency for partisan party political advantage.
“A third factor was the general poverty in the state and the high unemployment rate, particularly among the youth, that provided a pool from which political parties and their candidates drew to corrupt the electoral process and to steal the people’s mandate.
A fourth issue is the competent and effective administration and management of the election by INEC to generate trust in the conduct of the election. A final issue is the conduct of the election during the COVID-19 pandemic, in view of the conduct implications for public health.”
It also drew attention to the use of unethical non-conventional campaign strategies, which it noted helped to shape perception, de-legitimise the process and actors.