By Hamilton Nwosa(Head, The New Diplomat’s Business and data tracking desk)
With just 30 days to the scheduled governorship primaries of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) for Edo and Ondo States, respectively, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Thursday explained that it would conduct the gubernatorial elections in both States and other subsisting elections during the existing pandemic based on designated COVID-19 protocols.
Under the existing timetable, both Edo and Ondo governorship polls are to hold on September 19 and 20 respectively. The electoral body maintained that though it won’t be an easy exercise given the fact that it has never conducted elections under emergency or crisis conditions as occasioned by the global pandemic as it remains an unchartered terrain, the commission is however committed to developing electoral management protocols that would place priority on public safety, containment ,and mitigation of health risks arising from the pandemic.
The INEC in a statement issued by its National coordinator responsible for Voter education and Information, Festus Okoye said “conducting elections in a pandemic such as covid-19 is yet an unchartered waters; only very few jurisdictions have any experience with this.”
He added; “That notwithstanding, the Commission is committed to conducting all elections that are due within the extant legal framework. However, in so doing, it will put a premium on public safety and mitigation of health risks from covid-19. Citizens must be assured that they will be safe while participating as voters, candidates and officials.”
Apart from Edo and Ondo States governorship elections, the electoral body said it is also preparing for elections to fill the following senatorial seats, namely Bayelsa Central senatorial zone, Bayelsa West Senatorial zone, Imo North Senatorial zone, Cross River North Senatorial zone, Plateau South Senatorial zone, among others.
According to Okoye, the electoral body would accordingly hold deliberations with Resident Electoral Commissioners (REC) on Saturday, May 30, and this would be followed by a similar meeting with leaders of political parties on June 1. The next meeting would take place on June 3 with leaders of the media and civil society groups.
Recall that the battle for the governorship positions in both Edo and Ondo states have been very fierce with key combatants throwing in their all in the fiery war for political dominance and victory.
In Edo, Governor Godwin Obaseki is facing a tough task with his estranged political mentor and predecessor in office, comrade Adams Oshiomhole who is opposed to his re-election. Similarly, in Ondo, the situation is equally unpredictable as sitting Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is facing stiff opposition from both within the APC and outside his party.