THE Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has warned against likely electoral violence, vote-buying and spread of fake news ahead of the September 19 Edo gubernatorial election.
The organisation made this known during a press conference on pre-election analysis report on Thursday in Abuja.
According to CDD, trends of claims and counterclaims of victory, deliver your polling unit directive given to political party agents are the recipe for violence which is likely to cause partisan clashes during the election.
“CDD notes with concern the recalcitrance of political actors and their surrogates who continue to instruct their die-hard supporters to ensure 100 per cent victory at all cost in their respective polling units. Observers report that party thugs are being deployed to local governments to “deliver” votes and there is a likelihood of a breakdown of the peace,” said Adele Jinadu, the Chair, CDD Election Analysis Centre.
Jinadu added that if the claims are not countered to disabuse the minds of the electorate, especially at the grassroots, it could become the basis to incite supporters to engage in conduct inimical to public peace.
“The hotspots of possible violence identified by CDD include Etsako West, Etsako East, Etsako Central, Owan West and Akoko-Edo in Edo North Senatorial district. In Edo South, Oredo, Orhionmwon, Egor, Ovia North East, and Ikpoba-Okha LGAs have shown such early warning signs. While in Edo Central Senatorial district, Esan Central, Esan North East and Esan West,” Jinadu stated.
Idayat Hassan, the CDD director said another observation by the organisation is the spread of fake news on social media pertaining to the election.
“Both the APC and PDP in Edo state have dedicated media teams with clearly defined structures designed to maximise their online presence. While the PDP is using targeted and sponsored messages on both Instagram and Twitter, the APC is supporting a structured team of up to 300 canvassers spread across Facebook, Twitter, Nairaland and WhatsApp groups,” Hassan noted.
CDD also stated that there may be a need for the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the voting hours for as long as possible in respect to adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
“CDD will like to point out that given the extra health precautions and social distancing policy to be adopted during polling, voting may take longer than normal. We hereby call on the Commission to prepare to provide for extended polling hours,” the organisation said.
On security, the CDD stated that its observation revealed that there has been an increase in deployment of security personnel into the state ahead of the election.
“CDD observers report an increase in the deployment of security operatives across Edo State. The role of security in the election remains to deter trouble makers, protect election materials and ensure the space is safe for poll officials, voters and election observers.
“CDD calls on the security operatives deployed in Edo State not to engage in any acts, which would intimidate or scare voters away from exercising their democratic right to vote. CDD similarly calls on the officers of the police and sister security agencies deployed to the State to ensure they do not descend into the arena of partisanship,” the organisation explained.
However, CDD noted that its observation has revealed that vote-buying may determine the outcome of the election according to interviews with some voters in the state.
“CDD observers reported an emerging trend in the pattern of vote-buying wherein it is the voters who are now searching for the highest bidder among the political camps to sell their vote to. A number of voters interviewed insisted that the only thing, which would make them vote, is if a contestant agrees to pay an amount for the vote.
“Beyond individual voters searching for willing buyers to sell their votes to, it is similarly disturbing, as confirmed by our observers that barely three days to the Edo State governorship election, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) under the Minister of State for Labour and Employment decided to empower 2,000 women in the State,” CDD noted
Concerning the turnout of voters during the election, CDD said it believes the Edo Election presents a real opportunity to prevent some of the unacceptable fallouts from previous elections, wherein there were clear attempts to taint the vote through inflation of voter turnout.
“This was the case in the last governorship election wherein turn out increased by over 200 per cent in LGAs like Okene in Kogi state, from where the incumbent hails.
“In the 2015 governorship election, 35,143 voters (30 per cent turnout) were accredited for the election compared to 114,001 (86.9 per cent) in 2019. In Edo, INEC should be able to anticipate such magnitude of electoral fraud, so it does not become a rubber stamp for a fraudulent process,” CDD said.