A group of independent observers at the just concluded Edo State Governorship election has described the Nigerian Army and other security operatives as “worthy partners of democracy” over the peaceful conduct of the exercise.
The Independent Election Monitoring Observers, consisting of civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations and the media said the presence of “professional” troops played a vital role in the entire success.
In what is adjudged as the most peaceful and transparent election, Governor Godwin Obaseki emerged victoriously despite contesting on the platform of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
Mr Obaseki clinched victory with 307,955 votes ahead of the All Progressives Congress’ Osagie Ize-Iyamu who garnered 223,619.
In its interim report signed by Head of Mission, Dr Abubakar Gana and released on Sunday after the poll, the team hailed the Army for thwarting ballot box snatching, political intimidation and vote-buying.
It said an election that was tipped to be marred by electoral violence was indeed peaceful as the various security agencies rose to the occasion.
“The team of observers indeed monitored the security arrangement in the various local government areas of the state and wishes to state that the various security agencies deployed to ensure law and order were indeed professional in their conduct,” the report reads in part.
“The conduct of the Nigerian Army was indeed exceptional as the troop’s deployed in Edo state maintained close contact with the civil police and other paramilitary agencies that had a direct interface with the electoral process.
“It was observed that there was a strong presence of Army personnel at strategic places in the state, especially areas considered as hotspots. This indeed ensured that incidences of ballot box snatching, political intimidation and vote-buying were not experienced.
“The situation throughout the elections was indeed very peaceful, but for a few areas where incidences of vote-buying and violence were experienced. However, the Nigerian Army personnel were able to respond to the issues in a timely fashion which indeed saved the day and prevented a further escalation of violence in these areas.
“The conduct of the gubernatorial elections in Edo State can be termed successful due to the efforts of the security agencies that ensured that activities of political thugs were adequately addressed.
“The Nigerian Army indeed proved to be worthy partners in our democratic experience by standing on the side of democracy by ensuring that it didn’t take sides with any political party or group throughout the period of the conduct of the elections.
“It is thus our considered opinion that whoever emerges winner or loser in the elections should extend their commendation to the Nigerian Army and other security agencies for its display of professionalism in the protection of the people and democracy in Nigeria and creating the enabling environment for the people to express their constitutional rights freely”.
The observers, however, urged the Federal Government to initiate policies that would empower the Nigerian Army to coordinate and supervise electoral processes in Nigeria.
It added that the “leadership of the Nigerian Army, as well as other security agencies, must continue to inculcate discipline and professionalism on its personnel deployed for special operations such as the preservation of law and order during elections across the country”.
The group also urged various political actors must see the security agencies as partners in progress and desist from attempting to offer any form of inducements that would undermine the electoral processes in Nigeria.