The groups in separate statements said this is despite reports of vote buying, intimidation of journalists and observers as well as disregard for COVID-19 safety protocols.
Saturday’s election witnessed the emergence of Governor Godwin Obaseki as winner for a second term of four years.
Mr Obaseki polled 307,955 votes to defeat his closest rival, Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who polled 223,619 votes.
While Yiaga Africa commended the people of Edo State for maintaining peace through the voting and counting and result collation process, it decried the intimidation and harassment of observers, voters and polling officials by party thugs, which led to violent disruption of the voting process in some polling units and likely disenfranchisement of voters in the affected locations.
The group also observed state-wide disregard of COVID-19 protocols at polling units.
Some critical incidents observed during the polls include violent disruption of the accreditation and voting process, intimidation and harassment of election observers, ballot snatching and compromising the secrecy of the ballot.
It however said the Edo election was an improvement on the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections.
Yiaga Africa also noted that INEC’s official results fall within its Watching the Vote estimated ranges and so governorship contestants, parties, and voters should have confidence that INEC’s official results for the 2020 Edo gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units.
Other infractions it noted include interference by party agents, vote buying and non-conclusion of elections.
The group therefore urged Mr Obaseki and his supporters to be magnanimous in victory.
“For those candidates who did not win, we urge them to accept the results because they reflect the votes cast. Yiaga Africa calls upon all candidates, all parties and all Nigerians to show political maturity and to maintain the peace.
“Given the significant rate of procedural infractions around counting of spoilt and counterfoil ballot paper, Yiaga Africa recommends better training for election day INEC ad-hoc officials. And INEC should address logistical challenges observed relating to late commencement of polls for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State,” the group said.
The group also urged the National Assembly to accelerate reforms to the Electoral Act to legalise electronic transmission of results as the INEC results viewing portal deployed for the election has demonstrated how citizens’ access to polling unit results increases the integrity of the electoral process and encourages acceptability of electoral outcomes.
In the same vein, CDD described the polls as relatively credible compared to other polls, despite the challenges and infractions, which dogged the process.
In its final report signed by CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, the group said the peaceful conduct of the election 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.
“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,” part of the statement read.
The CDD however warned that decline in voter turnout would threaten robust participation of the electorate, including marginalised groups and could be read as a steady loss of faith in the electoral process, as well the entire democratic system of governance.
The centre also 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 intraparty fissures that cast an ominous pall over the peaceful conduct of the election. Another process issue was the political culture of a zero-sum approach to the 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 a 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 warned against the combination of vote-buying and insidious influence campaigns an emerging trend and urged INEC to address the problem of malfunction of smart cards readers in future elections.
It, however, acknowledged that the overall performance was smooth across the state.
“Also most polling stations opened on time. We commend INEC for the introduction of the result viewing portal in improving transparency and accountability of the collation and declaration of results. This has enhanced citizens’ trust in the electoral process. Generally, the COVID-10 Protocols that INEC outlined in its guidelines for the elections, particularly social distancing were not complied with. This has far-reaching health implications for the state,” it said.
As part of its recommendations, the CDD emphasised the need for electoral reform which it said will strengthen electoral integrity and to more broadly promote sustainably good governance in the country.
“Importantly we task INEC to concentrate on the dual purpose of implementing her protocol on conducting elections during COVID 19 and improved voter education program. This broad task that must be implemented ahead of the forthcoming Ondo governorship elections.”
It also called for open, transparent, inclusive, and democratic elections of party leadership and nomination processes for elective public political offices. This measure, it said, would ensure that political parties pay more attention to the nomination of women and youths as candidates and have equal access to leadership opportunities within party organisations.
On the problem of extreme poverty and unemployment, which it noted was responsible for buying and selling of votes, CDD called on the government and citizens to push to encourage compliance with Chapter II of the Nigerian Constitution and achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to curb poverty in the country.