The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has warned that the current tone of political engagements in Edo State poses a great threat to a smooth electoral process in the state.
By Samson Adenekan
Edo will elect a new governor on September 19 in the first of two off-season governorship polls scheduled for this year in Nigeria. Nigeria’s two dominant parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are the main rivals in the poll.
The civil society group blamed their activities for the threat to the peaceful conduct of the election.
CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, in a statement on Wednesday, cited the destruction of campaign billboards, exchange of verbal abuses by supporters of rival partisan camps in the state as some of the pre-election activities that could trigger violence over the poll.
The group said its observations arose from on-ground monitoring of events connected to the elections in the state.
“CDD observers also reported that foot soldiers of politicians across the state, especially in rural communities, have engaged in the exchange of verbal abuses, hate songs and chants, capable of provoking violent confrontation at a localised level,” the group said.
Asides the violence that erupted at the King Square in Benin, the state capital, late July, the CDD report also cited other instances of near-violent incidents where firearms were displayed by rival parties during campaigns in the state.
“In one campaign rally in Okpella town in Etsako East Local Government Area, an open display of arms was documented,” the report noted.
CDD berated the non-compliance of the parties to INEC’s policy on COVID-19 prevention protocols during their campaigns. It said the disregard for the preventive guidelines buttressed the notion that “the lives and electoral objectives of politicians are more important than the health and well being of the citizen voters.”
The group, therefore, called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “intensify its efforts in the area of training of ad-hoc staff to understand the new measures for COVID-19 prevention, and how to implement those measures at the polling unit level.”
On the challenge of fake news, CDD urged INEC, political parties, the media, CSOs and community groups to engage the electorate in conversations which will highlight the problem of disinformation.