As Edo decides on Saturday

THE general conduct of the main actors and their supporters in the buildup to the governorship election in Edo State coming up in about 48 hours from now leaves much to be desired. Virtually all the major stakeholders and gladiators exhibited disdain for standard behaviour and practice, undermining the laws and conventions governing civilised societies. Rather than comporting themselves properly, advocating for good governance and prioritising germane issues, the candidates and their chief promoters indulged in character assassination, hate speech, vulgarity and disrespect for the sanctity of life.

In sheer desperation, some players resorted to crude insults, elevated inanities over real issues, and replaced logic with sophistry. Some of the characters extended their verbal assaults to the judiciary and the media with a deluge of unsubstantiated allegations of conspiracy to manipulate the poll, whereas the realignments preceding the election indicated  the quest for power and nothing more. In effect, the elite deceitfully engaged in temporary allegiances and bitter wars of supremacy. The crude conduct created a climate of fear and anxiety that jolted and stampeded the traditional institution in the state and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) into issuing subtle threats to defuse the obvious time bomb ahead of the first major election to be conducted in the country amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.

All these distractions are indicative of the warped perception of the political class which sees election as war, and not a path to earning public trust, offering good governance and fixing the system for the overall benefit of the citizenry.  Most curious and worrisome, however, is the failure of law enforcement agencies to act decisively against such infractions in order to deter the unscrupulous elements behind the near breakdown of law and order during the campaign process. Pray, why should the country sacrifice the sanctity of life, peace and stability and security, societal values and norms to the ambition and ego of some politicians?

Admittedly, the strategic importance of the Edo election is that it is a precursor to the October 10 governorship poll in Ondo, as well as similar elections in Anambra and Osun states in 2022. These are among the seven states whose governorship elections no longer fall within the  period of the general election in the country. That the Edo election also signposts preparations for the 2023 general election is not in doubt. While we note all the promises made so far to gurantee a credible poll on Saturday, there are issues quite beyond the conduct of the exercise. The matter at hand goes far beyond the massive deployment of law enforcement agents. It has more to do with the psyche of stakeholders. Neither the peace accord signed by candidates nor the presence of stern-looking security agents can totally deter agents of violence. A paradigm shift in the psyche of politicians is needed to complement the institutionalised measures in Edo, and in other electoral battlegrounds.

To be sure, non-compliance with due process can only produce a government that lacks legitimacy, public confidence and trust. A government without those key virtues will be left bare and open to ridicule and scorn. The credibility of the Edo poll is certainly predicated on a display of diligence, professionalism, independence and neutrality of the security operatives and the electoral commission. Truth be told, the gains made by the commission during the 2015 general election have since been eroded. It therefore needs to clean up its act. The will of the people as expressed at the poll should prevail.

Finally, voters should be able to vote in an environment that is free and not shackled by the array and presence of security operatives. They should vote according to their conscience, knowing that it is their life  that is at stake after all. As they move to the polling units on Saturday, they should be fully conscious of the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic is still present in the country. As such, they should not lower their guard. They should keep safe while exercising their franchise, and afterwards.

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