By Jethro Ibileke
Yiaga Africa, a citizen-led NGO has raised alarm that the two major parties participating in next Saturday’s governorship election, the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and their supporters are violating electoral guidelines and covid-19 protocols ahead.
Chairman of Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote 2020 Edo Election Observation Mission, Dr. Aisha Abdullahi, who disclosed this in a pre- election briefing in Benin, the state capital on Thursday accused the two parties of engaging in unhealthy electoral competition and inducement of the electorate with money and other gift items.
“The pre-election environment revealed violent campaign rhetoric and hate speech, excessive use of force by political parties, especially the APC and the PDP, and unhealthy electoral competition.
“All forms of brigandage and violence defined the pre-election context. Yiaga Africa reports show that the incidents of violence were prevalent in 13 of the 18 local government areas.
“In the run-up to the election, voters’ inducement has taken centre stage at the expense of issue-based politics. Since Yiaga Africa commenced the PREO in July, 2020, voter inducement has been a recurring decimal.
“Political parties, especially the APC and PDP, are investing in the distribution of money and gift items as a strategy to swing voters,” Abdullahi observed.
He also raised the alarm that cases of coronavius may spike in Edo state, after the governorship election over what he described as “reckless breach of covid-19 protocols by both political parties and members of the public.”
“During the pre-election period, Yiaga Africa received reports of non compliance to public health protocols during campaigns, as party supporters fluted the public health guidelines by not wearing face masks or maintaining social distancing.
“Party campaigns were sign-posted with poor crowd management and reckless breach of covid-19 safety protocols (wearing of face masks, social and physical distancing and hand washing.
“Yiaga Africa is concerned that Edo state may experience a spike in the number of covid-19 cases in the aftermath of the election, if healthy guidelines are not strictly enforced during the election,” Abdullahi warned.
Also speaking, Yiaga Africa’s Executive Director, Samson Itodo, implored the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to remain neutral in the conduct of the election.
He disclosed that over 500 of the NGOs trained observers will be deployed across the state to ensure that all results of the election declared by INEC at the 192 wards are monitored and posted to their database.
“Yiaga Africa is driven by data. Any attempts to rig the election by INEC will not only be detected and exposed,” Itodo warned.