Re-elected Edo state governor, Adams Oshiomhole on Sunday dedicated his victory to the people of the state, who he said yearned for change and development.
He however challenged the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Attahiru Jega, to accept the blame for the hiccups experienced during the exercise.
Mr. Oshiomhole was on Sunday declared winner in the Saturday governorship election after he won in all the 18 Local Government Areas of the state, polling a total of 477,478 votes, or 73.72 per cent of the total 647,698 votes cast.
He defeated his closest rival, Charles Airhiarvbere, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 144,235 votes, or 22.27 per cent of the total votes cast.
However, no fewer than 17,282 voters in eight local government areas, particularly in Oredo and Edo South, were denied the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights for various reasons bordering on breaches of the Electoral Act.
But the governor, who said the problem centred on long delays in distributing electoral materials to designated polling centres as well as deliberate manipulation of the voters register to create confusion, urged the INEC boss to take personal responsibility for the problems that resulted in the cancellation of some results and the denial of others the opportunity of voting.
”Some of the officials posted to the state to supervise the elections were not fit to handle such responsibilities, particularly those that do not have the capacity to handle assignments that require uprightness, trust and integrity,” Mr Oshiomhole said.
“I believe Professor Jega made a mistake and error of judgment in deploying an officer like Ishmael Igbani (INEC National Commissioner in charge of Monitoring and Enforcement responsible for South-South), who has a reputation for presiding over several rigged elections in the region, including Edo State in 2007,” the governor said. “I hold Jega personally responsible, because he cannot claim ignorance of that fact. He should have resisted the temptation of asking him (Igbani) to supervise the election in Edo State.
“I have said it in the past. Let me say again about all those who have presided over elections that have been nullified by the courts. There is no moral basis to continue to keep such people in INEC. As long as we continue to have those elements in INEC, we are going to have the kind of problems we had on Saturday.”
He accused Mr Igbani for being instrumental to the problems, saying he connived with some INEC officials and the leadership of one of the political parties in the state to manipulate the voters register, which was used as reason to cancel the election results in most voting centres.
According to the governor, Mr. Igbani was also responsible for the deliberate delay of the distribution of electoral materials to polling centres, particularly in Oredo and Edo South Local Government Areas that account for over 260,000 voters and about 55 per cent of the total registered voters in the state respectively.
“Igbani, with some elements in INEC and one of the political parties in Edo state, connived to deliberately delay the delivery of election materials to these places to deny the majority of the people from the area the opportunity to vote.
“I call on Professor Jega to encourage Igbani to resign from his office in the interest of the Nigerian nation. To deploy him to go and manipulate another election will not be in the national interest. I want to plead with Jega to save his own name by not deploying such officials to conduct elections, no matter where the pressure is coming from,” Mr. Oshiomhole said.
He commended President Goodluck Jonathan for keeping his promise to ensure the peaceful and safe atmosphere the election was held, saying his election has confirmed that democracy is possible once the people are assured of adequate security to exercise their democratic rights.
Saying he used his first term to rebuild existing bridges to unite Edo people, the governor asked his former opponents to join hands with him to develop the state, urging them to see his election as the popular wish of Edo people.
“I have been elected not to govern only the people who voted for me. But I have been elected to provide good governance for the entire people of Edo state, regardless of their party affiliations, or the candidates they voted for. We will govern for the benefit of our people without any form of discrimination,” he assured.
Surprisingly, he paid glowing tributes to Anthony Anenih, the leader of the PDP in the state, who many see as his political enemy, describing him as “an elder of the state, who deserves respect from all, despite our differences in political ideology.”
Warning politicians to change their mentality about elections, the governor urged those who want to remain in politics to henceforth understand that winning elections is not based on one’s capacity to undermine the electoral wishes of the people, but the extent to which one can connect with the people.
He commiserated with the families of the four officials, including three police officers and an INEC ad hoc staff, who lost their lives in a boat mishap as they were conveying electoral materials to Ologbo, a riverine area of the state, and pledged to support them financially and in other ways to enable them cope with the pain of losing their loves ones in the course of the election.