There was no clear winner as at press time as counting of votes at the collation centre continued into the early hours of today.
The election which held across the three Senatorial districts of the state was adjudged by observers to be generally peaceful, with accreditation and voting commencing simultaneously at most of the voting centres visited, with materials arriving early as 8am
Security was equally beefed up in and around most of the voting centres and units with huge turnout of eligible voters.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole hailed the improved electoral process introduced by INEC, whereby accreditation and voting are done at the same time.
Speaking shortly after casting his vote at Unit 1, Ward, Iyamho Primary School, Etsako West Local Government Area at 11:13am, Oshiomhole who also said he was impressed with the large turn-out of voters, however said there were some incidents in some parts of the state which the security agencies and INEC ought to look into.
On the improved electoral process, Oshiomhole said: “I have always wondered why INEC want people to accredit and wait and you start later. For the middle class, that was not something many of them could cope with. For the poor people, they have had to carry the burden of our democracy by waiting the whole day. So, I believe that INEC has made a sensible improvement.
“You get accreditation, you vote and you go home. It doesn’t have to cost you a whole day. I think this is a very civilised way of doing it. If every other thing goes perfect, this is good. This is more of a victory for the middle class who cannot stand under the sun and under the rain.”
The governor also commended voters at his polling unit for their orderly conduct.
“But I have received a report just now from the Onojie of Opoji that PDP thugs went and removed the card reader in order to prevent the people of Opoji from voting. So, we are dealing with that because the people have a right to vote. That right cannot be compromised, and INEC has a duty, a non-negotiable duty to ensure that the people of Opoji have a right to vote.
“I don’t know how that happened because they are supposed to have enough security in every polling unit, and if you have security in every polling unit, and some rascals and hoodlums can still come and carry the card reader, then that raises a number of issues both on the part of INEC and the security people detailed to protect the INEC, the materials and the voters in Opoji. That doesn’t mean this is happening everywhere, but that is where I have a report now,” he said.
He continued, “I have got reports of gunshots at Okpella. I am not surprised about that because we have told the security more than three weeks ago.
“I have also received reports that the former member of the House of Assembly at Emu in Esan South East, this morning, noticing that the people are not voting for PDP, opened fire and was shooting sporadically. I have drawn the attention of the police to ensure that gunmen, whether local or imported are not allowed to disrupt an exercise that will otherwise be a celebration of democracy. But as I said, we are monitoring and every report that I get, I will pass it on to the security agencies to see what they can do about it. So, we are monitoring.”
Meanwhile, supporters of the various political parties, in a bid to outdo each other, engaged in blatant sharing of money in exchange for votes during the election.
At unit 28, ward 7 in Ikpoba Okha local government, a female officer was caught by agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC), while allegedly collecting money from a chieftain of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and handed over to the police.
The female officer was reportedly locked up at Ugbeku Police station after her action caused a little tension in the polling booth.
An observer, Yusuf Shamsudeen, Senior Programme Officer at the Centre for Democracy and Development, who told journalists that he monitored the election at Esan North, Esan West, Etsako West and Etsako North, among others, said he witnessed some of the incidents of money sharing.
According to him, at one particular polling unit in Esan West, he overhead a supporter of the APC saying “vote for APC and collect N2,000.”
“Similar cases happened in some other polling units in which you’ll see somebody who will be called ‘Chairman’ and immediately people vote they’ll be moving around with the chairman and they will just go to a particular corner. You can see politicians playing a major role in terms of influencing the voting pattern in most of these local governments that I visited today,” Shamsudeen said.
Wife of the PDP candidate in the election, Mrs Idia Ize-Iyamu, who voted at Ward 2, Unit 2, accused the APC of inducing voters.
At Oredo local government area, ward 2, unit 1, the national chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun lost to PDP, polling 69 votes against PDP’s 78.
The candidate, Godwin Obaseki, also won in his ward 4, unit 19 polling unit with 160 votes against PDP’s 77.
Earlier, Oyegun had, in an interview, expressed optimism at the turnout of voters for the election even as he dismissed allegation of inducement of voters.
He said, “I’m pleasantly surprised because this is the best turnout I have ever experienced and I hope it presumes that something good is about to happen and that people are keen to express their democratic option. It has been peaceful so far.”
On allegation of sharing money, he said: “I don’t know how you can give somebody money. How do you know how somebody would vote? Because it is open secret, and nobody is going to know who you thumb-printed for.”
In Esan North local government area, former chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, said shortly after voting that there was the need for the people to maintain peace during and after the poll “for the state to have the full benefit of democracy.”
The PDP chieftain expressed satisfaction with the timely arrival of electoral officials and materials as well as the peaceful conduct of the exercise in the area.
On security the arrangement, the former minister of works said, “As I said, it is too early to make a general statement.”
The deputy governorship candidate of the PDP, Mr John Yakubu, described the simultaneous accreditation and voting in the process as a perfect arrangement.
“Rather than doing accreditation and coming back later to cast your vote, you do everything at the same time and this is very good.
“I am all right with the whole process so far and I hope it continues that way, although I hear that there are pockets of violence in few areas around the senatorial district,” he said.