By Richard Elesho/ Benin-City
A group of men with few women numbering about 30 were seated in a bar located in an uncompleted building that is supposed to be a community town hall for Iguovibiobo village. They had enough beer to drink and some for take away. As the party got underway one issue dominated their respective minds- the Edo State Governorship election.
The election is to hold less than 48 hours from now, precisely on Saturday 19th September, 2020. From all appearances, the coming election is in the front burner of all activities in the State. In fact, wherever two or three are gathered in the State, the election is not only likely to come up for discussion but to dominate it.
In bars, restaurants and commercial vehicles people may discuss about the election in guided tones. But other evidences of a State in the grip of election fever are too visible to be ignored.
Only three days ago all the stakeholders had participated in a peace accord witnessed by prominent persons like former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Rev. Fr. Mathew Hassan Kukah. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the security units and Civil Society Groups also witnessed the peace pact.
Right from the entry point into the State at Lanpese, billboards of various political parties and their candidates in multiple sizes and glamour dot the landscape. In virtually all villages and communities the more than enough billboards and posters assault the eyes.
In addition to this, branded vehicles in different stages of deterioration are everywhere. Some of them have high decibel loud speakers or public address systems burdened on them. They constantly noise the public space with their campaign broadcasts. While some of the vehicles are still good and glamorous, others are ramshackle.
That is not all. In the last few days, the State has experienced rapid deployment and presence of security agencies. The police alone has deployed some 31,000 personnel for the exercise.
Similarly, other sister agencies notably the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC among others have deployed men for the election. There is therefore very active presence of the security personnel on ground. They can be seen patrolling major streets and roads in the State.
Although more than ten political parties are jostling for the number one office in Edo State, only few of them count as sturdy. In fact, analysts believe the race is between incumbent Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who is seeking re-election and his main challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Both Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu have a long history of political rivalry and chicanery between them. Their contention which dates back to the last Edo gubernatorial election in 2016, has witnessed a classical reversal of roles sort of.
In the last election, Obaseki was the APC candidate and he had narrowly snatched victory from Ize-Iyamu who was the flag bearer of the PDP. Just four years down the line and the two antagonists have swapped positions. Each now embraced the same group he once loathed with rage.
For the Edo people, the election is a straight choice between two parties and candidates with blurred boundaries. Something similar to the choice between six and half a dozen. But until the choice is finally made, the fever must continue.