Pre-election Press Statement on the 2020 Edo Governorship Election

It gives us great pleasure to welcome you to the Yiaga Africa Watching The Vote (WTV) Pre-Election Press Briefing on the 2020 governorship election in Edo State. This press briefing is one in a series of press conferences hosted by Yiaga Africa WTV during the 2020 Edo Governorship election.

The 2020 Edo Governorship Election will be the first state-wide election to be conducted by INEC amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The election will be regulated by new sets of guidelines and policies developed by the Commission following the Coronavirus outbreak. With the state ranking fifth (as at September 16, 2020) amongst states with the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, INEC and other stakeholders face a huge challenge of safeguarding public health while not compromising on electoral integrity. In line with the new norm of social or physical distancing, INEC introduced online submission of party candidates’ list and online accreditation of observers and media organizations. These technologically driven solutions minimized physical contact remarkably. Also, an election result viewing portal was introduced by INEC to facilitate public access to polling unit results to enhance the transparency of election results management.

Clearly, the stakes are high in the September 19 governorship election as typified by the spate of pre-election violence and the level of desperation on the part of political actors to not only delegitimize the process but ensure they secure political power at all cost. According to INEC, fourteen parties are on the ballot having fulfilled all conditions for candidates’ nomination. Yiaga Africa noted in its first pre-election observation, that the electoral campaigns had been dominated by two parties – the All Progressive Congress (APC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Sadly, the competition was reduced to a contest between personalities instead of a competition of ideas, issues, and proposals for sustainable growth and development. Two-thirds of LGAs in the state were classified as hotspots and flashpoints of violence by Yiaga Africa due to the frequency of violence, arms proliferation, and a spike in cult groups’ activities in those LGAs. The violence rhetoric and strongarm tactics employed by the two major parties for campaigns created a tense atmosphere and a climate of fear.  This informed peace talks initiated by the Oba of Benin, His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II and the signing of the Peace Accord convened by the National Peace Committee. Yiaga Africa commends the peacebuilding initiatives led by the Oba of Benin, Oba Ewuare II, and the National Peace Committee, headed by the former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

As one of Nigeria’s largest non-partisan and independent movements of citizens observers committed to promoting electoral integrity, Yiaga Africa WTV will be providing systematic, accurate, and timely information on the election day process. Specifically, Yiaga Africa will provide accurate information on the quality of the election day process and ascertain if the official results announced by INEC reflects the total votes cast. If the announced results have been manipulated and do not match the polling units’ results, Yiaga Africa will expose it. If the official result announced reflects the polling unit’s votes, Yiaga Africa would confirm it.

Yiaga Africa Watching the Vote is “Driven by Data – For All Nigerians – Beholden to None!”

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#WatchingTheVote is a citizen led election observation initiative aimed at enhancing the integrity of elections in Nigeria using technological tools like sms and evidence-based research methodology tools for election observation.

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