The key stakeholders – INEC, security agencies, political parties and citizens – played their roles largely in accordance with the law and regulations. The 2020 Edo governorship election is therefore another important step in the consolidation of Nigeria’s electoral democracy… Peaceful and credible elections are possible and must become the norm in Nigeria.


Last Saturday’s governorship election in Edo State was a positive development for electoral democracy in Nigeria. This is despite the fact that in the build-up to the election, there was a lot of desperation displayed by politicians engaged in “do or die” politics, inflammatory campaigns and pre-election violence. There was palpable fear that the atmosphere would degenerate into systematic disregard for the rules and procedures of the electoral process set out in law and regulations, thereby affecting the outcome. The conduct of the campaign was bad tempered, with outlandish claims by the leading parties that they would deliver massive majority outcomes, and threats of violence. This created a climate of fear that might have kept voters away from the polls.

There was also a problem of widespread circulation of fake news and misinformation being used to create tension and fear about plots to mess up the electoral outcomes. A toxic atmosphere was therefore created. The intervention of the National Peace Committee in securing a “Peace Accord” and the stern warning of the Oba of Benin to all politicians to avoid violence played a role in calming the atmosphere and creating a milieu that enabled voters to go out to vote. The president also made a formal commitment that he would guarantee a free and fair election. Finally, the security agencies were neutral and non-partisan in their interventions, thereby keeping violence to a bare minimum. One of the most important elements was that Edo citizens also considered the stakes in the election very high and were determined to come out to exercise their mandate. In the end, the election was largely violence-free and credible. The outcome was a winner whose victory has not been contested.

It is interesting that at the beginning of the story of the election, it was all about an individual who was not even on the ballot. Adams Oshiomhole made it about himself. We should recall April 2011 when as governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole visited Oba Erediauwa of Benin to brief his Royal Highness that the godfather of Edo politics, Chief Tony Anenih, had been defeated and sent into political retirement. Oshiomhole returned to the theme of godfatherism on September 28, 2016, when he formally announced the complete termination of godfatherism in the State. The occasion was the defeat of Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by his own imposed candidate, Godwin Obaseki. He formally declared that he had eliminated all the remaining godfathers in the State, naming specifically Tom Ikimi, Gabriel Igbinedion and Raymond Dokpesi as the last eliminated godfathers, after the earlier ouster of Tony Anenih. “We have humbled Chief Tom Ikimi even in the local government he claimed to have created. We defeated Chief Raymond Dokpesi in his polling unit, his ward and his local government,” he said.

Nonetheless, our observers from the Centre for Democracy and Development noted with concern the high level of the illegal commerce of votes. A number of tactics were used by political actors on both sides of the partisan divide to procure votes. Party officials were seen openly giving voters gifts such as Ankara fabrics, spaghetti packs and other food items.


One person in the audience, newly elected Governor Obaseki did not understand the message. He thought the announcement was about the end of godfatherism. He was to find out soon enough that what was said was not what was meant. The message was that Adams was the new godfather. When the godfather gave instructions to godson Obaseki, who naively thought he was governor, the crisis that ended with his disqualification for a second term began. Only a godfather can stop a sitting governor from getting a second term ticket. As I have said before, on the scale of godfatherism, Adams Oshiomhole scores high because of his three core competences – street fighting, transaction politics and taking no prisoners. Like all godfathers, Adams met his conqueror at the last election and joined the list of those he had overthrown previously. The people turned out to vote and they chose the sitting governor over the candidate Adams had imposed on the ballot for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The verdict was accepted by all parties, as the election was credible.

Nonetheless, our observers from the Centre for Democracy and Development noted with concern the high level of the illegal commerce of votes. A number of tactics were used by political actors on both sides of the partisan divide to procure votes. Party officials were seen openly giving voters gifts such as Ankara fabrics, spaghetti packs and other food items. There was also the direct purchase of votes and observers reported cases where tickets were given in lieu of cash, for voters to vote and then return with the ticket for the collection of cash. The amounts paid to votes ranged between N1,000 and N5,000. The scale of vote buying and the brazenness with which it was carried out in the open tainted the credibility of the entire election.

The fundamental question, which arises from the brazen manner in which vote buying was done in the Edo election, is whose responsibility is it to enforce the extant electoral laws of Nigeria, which has criminalised vote buying? I pose this question because law enforcement officials largely looked the other way while vote buying was going on. No efforts whatsoever were made to bring the perpetrators of these acts, which corrupt the electoral process, to book. The consolidation of democracy requires that this process of the commercialisation of the people’s mandate must be stopped.

One commendable innovation that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) introduced in the Edo election was the result viewing portal, which improved transparency and accountability of the collation and declaration of results. Moving forward, this can only enhance citizens’ trust in the electoral process.


Deepening our democracy also requires that candidate selection needs to be carried out democratically as set out in the Electoral Act. The blockage of candidates from a level playing ground in party primaries, resulting in defections from each of the major political parties, intra-party fractionalisation, and disputes over which faction is in control of party secretariats at the state and local government levels must end. Our politics have also become too much of a zero-sum game, in which contestants are ready to destroy political parties and society, if that would lead them to power. It is in this context that the political culture of the abuse of the power of incumbency has become edified.

One commendable innovation that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) introduced in the Edo election was the result viewing portal, which improved transparency and accountability of the collation and declaration of results. Moving forward, this can only enhance citizens’ trust in the electoral process. There was a lot of fear that the Edo election would be conducted under high levels of violence by thugs.

However, there was widespread relief that the level of violence was actually minimal and most citizens who wanted to vote were able to do so. The key stakeholders – INEC, security agencies, political parties and citizens – played their roles largely in accordance with the law and regulations. The 2020 Edo governorship election is therefore another important step in the consolidation of Nigeria’s electoral democracy. The determination shown by the electorate to protect their mandate is a significant takeaway. Peaceful and credible elections are possible and must become the norm in Nigeria.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.