Secondary School students have called for a shift in date of the gubernatorial election in Edo State scheduled to hold on Saturday, September 10 as it clashed with their Mathematics examination also scheduled by the West African Examination Council for the same day.
The students, who stormed the Government House, Benin City, with placards with various inscriptions said holding the examination and the poll same day would disenfranchise them.
The students also said they would kick against any plan to be moved to other states for the Mathematics examination as planned by WAEC, adding that this would not only disorganise them but also put them at a disadvantage.
Spokesman for the students, Iko Emmanuel Moses said “our position about the General Certificate Examination (GCE) in Edo State, the scheduled governorship election on the 10th of September, with a deep sense of regret and pains, we wish to express and oppose the disturbing circumstances surrounding the above examination of this year and its effect on our expected performance in the examination.
“The plan to relocate us out of Edo State, our state to other regions to sit for the examination because of the September 10 election in Edo State as scheduled by INEC is an ill wind which will affect our chance to perform well in the examination. We have found this situation very disturbing, discouraging and we cannot take the risk.”
He continued, “Remember this that the conduciveness of an environment has a great impact on the performance and outcome of examinations for students. We enrolled for this examination in Edo State and we have prepared for the examination in Edo State environment. We are used to the environment for safety, comfort, accessibility of examination centres and psychology.
“You will agree with me that a threat to the above is a threat to us, and even the outcome of the examination. We want to humbly say that as the election is important to the nation, so is our exam important to us, and even more important to us because, without a good education, we cannot grow up to participate in the Nigerian democracy.”
He said, “This examination is about our future, and therefore, we will not take or accept the risk. We call on INEC to do something about this situation. We call on all the political parties concerned to do something to save our future. The examination has already started in Edo State and it will be dangerous to now move us out of the terrain we are already used to and compel us to write the most important ones outside the state.
President Muhammadu Buhari should come to our aid. The Comrade Governor should also come to our aid. Our future must not be sacrificed for election.”
Another candidate Aliu Samson, for the election, said “Saturday will be the day I will be writing mathematics, I am more than 18 years old and I’m a Nigerian. It is my basic duty to exercise on Saturday by voting. Due to the security situation in the country, it will not be ideal for me to travel outside my terrain to write my examination.
“I am therefore calling on the relevant authorities to come to our aid so we can write our examination in this state. So it is either the election is postponed or they do something about our examination.”
One of the parents who joined the students in the protest said “what I want you to know, your Excellency, is that there’s going to be a strong financial commitment to the parents, taking the children to other states will involve accommodation, feeding and it will bite deep into our already lean purse. So I want to appeal to you that this should be reconsidered. We are quite aware that WAEC is a regional examination and so it cannot be shifted, we are also thinking of how the election itself is shifted so that we will have time for our children and also for them to vote.”
In his response, Governor Adams Oshiomhole said he would pass their protest letter to the President, saying the election was fixed by INEC which is an independent body.
Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo says the responsibility for fixing the governorship election in the State rests on the Independent National Electoral Commission, explaining that he was not consulted when the election for September 10 was scheduled.
He said, there are two examinations that are due, one for the people of Edo to write exams on whom they want to be their governor, and you yourselves to write exams which will constitute the foundation of your future. But let me first tell you the whole truth because when I listened to you and you were appealing to me, I am touched. But I get the impression that you probably think that I am responsible for this decision. I am not.
Let me tell you the truth about it. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a few months back, I think it is about two months now or three months, they announced that they will conduct the governorship election in Edo State on the 10th of September. That decision was taken by INEC. By law, INEC has the power to make those decisions. The law doesn’t oblige them to consult with me or to seek my approval. So, I have no input in the decision of INEC to fix September 10 for the election. And in fairness to the other political parties, I don’t believe that they too had any input. I also know that the PDP for example or the Labour Party or the APGA, none of them had any input in the decision of INEC to fix 10th. That power is solely the power of INEC.”
He continued, “When they fixed that date, all we were expected to do as political parties is to work and prepare our candidate to be ready for the election. We have been talking of September 10 because that is the date INEC decided we should have it, and it is within their power to do so.
“Two weeks ago, I received a letter from WAEC informing me as the Governor of Edo State that they will be conducting WAEC examinations on the 10th of September, and they wanted us to grant exemption to those who are going to write the exams to be able to go to the various centres to write because the standard law, rule, and regulation is the that on election day, you are only allowed to go to your polling booth, and unfortunately, some of the polling centres where you are expected to write exams, they are also the same centres that are meant for voting. Some of the schools are premises for voting. Even if it was within my power, I don’t see how you can be in a room writing exams, and outside you have thousands of people making noise trying to vote.”
According to Oshiomhole, “The request by WAEC to me, first, it was beyond my power because the decision to restrict movement is taken by INEC, and they did it in good faith. So, I replied to WAEC that I don’t have the power to waive the restriction order because that one is imposed by INEC in consultation with the national security chiefs because it is the security chiefs, that is, the army, the police and the SSS.
“Between them, they meet and agree that on election day movement is restricted. I think you know that is the standard. It is not only for this election. In every election, it has been like that. They will not allow people to travel into or out of Edo that day from a certain hour of the day untill the end of the election.”
He said, “I fully understand your complaints. I understand your concerns, and one of you made the point. Even for you to participate as good citizens in our democracy in the future, you must be educated. If we say the youths are the leaders of tomorrow, for you to claim leadership role, your upward mobility must not be compromised. I fully understand.
“So, I fully understand, but unfortunately, I am not in a position to say, yes I have agreed, yes I don’t agree because the matters are beyond me. They are beyond Edo State Government, but I understand fully.”
The Governor assured them, “What is not beyond me is to convey this letter that you have addressed to our president, President Muhammadu Buhari. I promise you, as fast as I can, I will forward it even if it is by email to ensure that it gets to the President to the Villa today. That I can do. And I know that the President is concerned about the future of our children.”