Sunday 30th April, 2017
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The Edo political conundrum

The Edo political conundrum

How Police, DSS, INEC connived to scuttle the election Oshiomhole, PDP trade word
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Thursday made a U-turn and postponed the Edo 2016 governorship election. EZEOCHA NZEH, OGIDAN SAMUEL, OSITA DURU, ADELOLA AMIHERE AND OGIEVA OYEMWENOSA write on the political conundrum in the state.
Inline image 2Nigeria’s democratic process was once again treated like an endangered species, when the electoral umpire, the Independent Na­tional Electoral Commission (INEC) swallowed its own words, making 180 degree de­tour, announcing a postpone­ment of today’s governorship election in Edo State. It was like a thunderbolt; an action Nigerians believed has been confined to the refuse bin of history. But, they were disap­pointed. Nigerians lived in a fools’ paradise. Announce­ment of the postponement was made even more anach­ronistic and extremely derog­atory because it was foisted by the very security agencies which were supposed to pro­tect lives and property. Hiding under the terribly-abused two letter word: “security report”, they foisted a fait accompli on the Edo State electorate.
And the entire drama started in the usual abraca­dabra: speak; retract; speak; retract and then, the final word – from the electoral um­pire - the election has been postponed.
Unfortunately, the an­nouncement was made few hours after President Mu­hammadu Buhari inaugurated the National Re-Orientation Campaign tagged: “Change Begins With Me” at the State House in Abuja. In his address Buhari asserted that change is not about economic or social progress, but the attitude and mentality of Nigerians. He said that the new campaign is to re-instil core values, dis­cipline and awaken national consciousness in Nigerians, adding that for his change mantra to take a firm root, Nigerians must first change their attitude by abhorring corruption and other social vices.
“The result of this derail­ment in our value system is being felt in the social, po­litical and economic sphere. It is the reason that some youths will take to cultism and brigandage instead of studying hard or engaging in decent living; it is the rea­son that some elements will break pipelines and other oil facilities, thus robbing the nation of the much-needed resources.
“It is the reason that money belonging to our commonwealth will be bra­zenly stolen by the same public officials to whom they were entrusted; it is the reason why motorists drive through red traffic lights; it is the reason that many will engage in thuggery and vote-stealing during elections; it is part of what has driven our economy into deep prob­lems out of which we are now working hard to extri­cate ourselves,” Buhari la­mented.
The President further stressed that, “the campaign will not be a sprint but a marathon that will run the course of our tenure. We are under no illusion that the changes we seek will hap­pen overnight, but we have no doubt that the campaign will help restore our value system and rekindle our na­tionalistic fervour”. He ex­pressed optimism that with the launch of the campaign which is centered on the change agenda of the present administration, “a change from the old order of things will give way to a greater and better society.”
The President however advised that caution must be taken not to return the country back to the same vices that once plunged the country into anarchy and normlessness. He said: “Let us all resolve to pitch in and work hard and look after, not only ourselves but one another; what the cur-rent problem has taught us is that we cannot have a thriv­ing army of rent seekers and vested interests, while the majority suffers.
“I am therefore appealing to all Nigerians to be part of this campaign. Our citizens must realise that the change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms are not theo­retic exercises,” he said.
Nigerians are asking, was this a case of follow my lip, don’t follow my action? From every indication, what INEC, the police and DSS – top-brass executive agencies did – were clearly a slap on the entire re-launch; a big dent on the nation’s demo­cratic process.
Whiff that the entire ‘dra­ma’ had reached a crescen­do became obvious because prior to the announcement which jolted Nigerians and the international commu­nity, the police and Depart­ment of State Security (DSS) had in a joint press confer­ence Wednesday in Abuja, called on the INEC to post­pone the Edo governorship election, citing security chal­lenges. The security agen­cies had alleged that a secu­rity report had shown that insurgents operating in the country’s South South re­gion have concluded plans to attack Edo State using the window of the election, even as they noted that they could not guarantee security dur­ing the exercise. Could that be an admission of failure or they raised false alarm?
To show there were more to the entire saga than meets the eye, INEC had earlier mentioned how it convinced an examination body to take its candidates to nearby states instead of disrupting an election it claimed it had put in place all logistics for, before the order from police and DSS.
And of course, because DSS and the police did not carry out their home work well, their suggestion initial­ly threw both the INEC and Edo State voters into confu­sion because of so many fac­tors. While the commission explained that it was about 95 percent ready for the elec­tion, the Edo voters on their part insisted they were ready to exercise their franchise in determining who will lead them in the next four years.
There are serious fears that the alleged threat to at­tack the state by militants on the election day, were all a ploy that did not take into consideration the change agenda of the present ad­ministration and the Nation­al Re-orientation Relaunch.
The conflicting declara­tion by the police also drew the attention of so many stakeholders in the country. Coming on a day the Na­tional Council of State rati­fied the appointments of the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Ibrahim Kpotu Idris and the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yaku­bu, the Police therefore re­ceived serious bashing. Members of the public had accused them and the DSS of lacking in coordination and synergy, especially on issues concerning such important security matter.
While the Deputy In­spector-General of Police (Operations), Hoshak Ha­bila argued that the police were ready for the election, his principal in Abuja was is­suing security threats which forced INEC to suspend the election, citing non-guaran­tee of security for its person­nel and the voters.
Force spokesman, DCP Don Awunah told journal­ists in Abuja that credible in­telligence available to secu­rity agencies had revealed undisclosed plans by insur­gents and extremist elements to attack vulnerable commu­nities and soft targets. Awu­nah said Edo is one of the states marked for such pre­sumed attacks. He noted that while the election is impor­tant, the security agencies cannot allow the peace in the country to be disrupted.
“We will continue to be vigilant and ensure con­solidation of the successes gained in the current insur­gency fight. It is on this re­gard that we are appealing to INEC which has the legal duty to regulate elections in the country to consider the need for possible postpone­ment of the date of the elec­tion. “While the Police and DSS remain mindful of the inconveniences this request may cause stakeholders, it is our strong resolve that se­curity agencies need not be distracted from ensuring a peaceful Nigeria”.
But this statement how­ever attracted severe nega­tive comments from stake­holders who have not only queried the double speak of the Police, but suspect a po­litical attachment to the en­tire statement and subse­quent capitulation by INEC.
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In his reaction, Ezenwa Nwangwu, leader of one of the prominent Civil Socie­ty groups whose monitors are already in Benin to ob­serve the election, described both the security statement and INEC action as “a dis­heartening move to derail the country’s democracy”.
Also in a quick reaction to the call for postponement, the Peoples’ Democratic Par­ty (PDP) described what happened as “a ploy by the ruling All Progressive Con­gress (APC) to avert defeat at the poll today”. PDP which described the action as “bi­zarre, shocking and con­fusing” noted however that “the Police and DSS have just postponed the dooms day for the APC in Edo state”.
The PDP in a statement issued by its spokesman, Chief Dayo Adeyeye said: “We are taken aback by this advice coming a day after the President and Commander-in- Chief of the Armed Forc­es of the Federal Republic, Mohammadu Buhari was present at the mega rally of his party, the APC, which was concluded in Benin City without any hitch.
“It is therefore lamen­table to hear from these same security agencies that the election cannot be con­ducted in a state where in less than 24 hours after the president and APC leaders and members had an unin­terrupted rally. We hope that this piece of advice from se­curity agencies is not in con­cert with the APC of having seen the indices of losing the Edo State governorship election to the PDP. We are counting on INEC not to succumb to this false alarm by acting independently and holding election as sched­uled,” the party said.
On his part, the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Osagie Ize-Iyamu described the entire saga as “a plot by the APC and Gov­ernor Adams Oshiomhole to postpone a day of reckoning. They tried to postpone the election using flimsy securi­ty challenge excuses. It was arranged by the state gov­ernment with some polit­ical cabal to postpone the day of reckoning,” the can­didate alleged.
Earlier before it capit­ulated to the security forc­es, INEC regretted that the advise came when it had al­ready moved all sensitive materials to the state and in particular, the polling loca­tions, even as it noted that the commission has re­ceived assurances from the same security agencies at the final stakeholders meet­ing which ended few muni­ties before the said security report came in.
An officials of the com­mission who pleaded an­onymity stated that INEC was in a confused state since the reports came from Abu­ja, adding that all the Res­ident Electoral Commis­sioners (REC) working in the South-South geo-polit­ical zone have been meet­ing with the national com­missioners to deliberate on the so-called security report.
“The funny thing is that we are all in Benin city where we have concluded a final Stakeholders Forum where the Deputy Inspector-Gen­eral of Police, Joshak Habila even gave his word that eve­rything was ready, that the Police were ready and that they were going to deploy about 25,000 men for Satur­day’s governorship election in Edo state.
“He gave the assurances about adequate security for the election, only for us to hear of news filtering in that security agencies addressed a press conference in Abu­ja, saying that they cannot guarantee security for the election. As I speak, we are planning to meet with the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other stakehold­ers to determine how we are going to respond to it.
“But as regards the posi­tion of the Police and State Security Agencies, we would like to say that we were not informed and therefore, not part of that decisions tak­en in Abuja. Nobody told us anything. The INEC Chair­man was here along with all the national commissioners and we were not informed about it. We just heard the news like every other per­son. The commission had al­ready deployed its sensitive materials to locations. This is highly regrettable,” he stated.
But rising from a meet­ing with all the stakeholders which included members of the Inter-agency Consul­tative Committee on Elec­tion Security, INEC’s depu­ty director on Media, Nick Dazang and the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chair­man, Rotimi Lawrence Oye­kanmi, at a joint press had told the world what the IN­EC’s position was on the dra­ma: “We have just finished another round of stakehold­ers meeting, it was agreed that INEC will now consult further with the DSS and other security agencies and then take a decision. That is the position for now but it is with a caveat that INEC in­dependence will not be com­promised. We are the organ under the constitution that is empowered to fix a date for election and we assure the people that in whatev­er decision we are going to take, our integrity and inde­pendence will not be com­promised.
“We need to consult the security agencies and find out exactly what informed the agitation for the post­ponement of the election, and that consultation and decision will not be earlier than tomorrow (today), but that is the position as at this evening,” they stated.
Their statements were added fillip by the INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Chief Adede­ji Solomon Shoyebi who told journalist on Thursday after­noon in Benin that the com­mission will go ahead with the election as planned, add­ing that INEC would remain a neutral body that would not allow itself to be tele-guided by and individual or group.
Soyebi, who expressed the determination of the INEC to go ahead with the election, disclosed that the commission had reached 97 percent level of prepared­ness for the conduct of the election. The INEC commis­sioner insisted that the Com­mission would maintain its neutrality in electoral mat­ters, adding that it would strive to guide against any­thing that would mortgage Nigeria’s democracy.
As Soyebi spoke, little did he know that his boss, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu had ca­pitulated and announced the postponement of the election for two weeks. Even the two weeks, is not certain as people insinuated that it was a date earlier fixed for the coronation of the new Oba of Benin and so, ought
 
 not conflict with a national assignment such as an elec­tion.
While tongues are wag­ging, the Edo State Gover­nor, Comrade Adams Os­hiomhole, added his own controversy to the entire saga as he accused the duo of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike and his Del­ta State counterpart, Ifeanyi Okowa of sponsoring mili­tants in Edo State to disrupt the governorship election. Although he could not pro­vide any tangible proof to support his claims, analysts see the statement as provid­ing evidence that the entire postponement saga were or­chestrated to gain time and see if the APC could im­prove on its rating.
Oshimhole accuse the PDP Governors of churn­ing out a whooping N2 bil­lion for the PDP candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu and so, the candidate would likely use the money to buy over the electorates “at a time they were unable to pay their state workers’ salary
According to Oshim­hole, “As we speak, both Governors have raised N2 billion to give to Ize-Iyamu when they could not pay salaries in their states. They mobilised militants to Edo to register, preparatory to use them for violence in this election. We have eliminat­ed violence in our elections here but in my election, in 2007 PDP members killed three people at Oba Primary School and brutalised hun­dreds of others. But there af­ter, we have ensured free and fair election in Edo State.
“But we have asked our people to be on the watch out, during the continu­ous voters registration ex­ercise, many of them came into town and to my shock, INEC registered many of them. But at least, we were able to apprehend 13 and we handed them over to the police. During the same period in Etsako Central, they carried Data Captur­ing Machines and turned private residences to Regis­tration Centers. We did not take laws into our hand, we reported to the police. The guy whose house was be­ing used, we reported to the police. We insisted that the police should charge them to court and after they did that they were granted them bail. And all these are PDP players.
“In the course of distrib­uting the PVCs last week at Igueben, Some PDP thugs came to forcibly hijack PVCs from the officer that was dis­tributing them at a school in Igueben and he ran into the residence of the PDP lead­er. Those PVC cards were re­covered by the DSS.
“As we speak many mil­itants have been imported into Edo state and the secu­rity agents are aware of this. For us, we are ready for the election but we know that PDP had perfected plans to unleash violence. If you watch their public pro­nouncements, Ize-Iyamu has talked about cancellation and inconclusive elections.
“As we speak I do not know what has been done about the EO that made the Data Capturing Machine available for illegal registra­tion in a private residence. We want a peaceful envi­ronment to be able to get our people out to vote,” he said.
On their part, the PDP rejected the postponement of the election insisting there was no tangible reason(s)/evident to tamper with the election.
In a statement by Prince Adeyeye PDP said: “the postponement of the elec­tion by top hierarchy of the security agencies pred­icated on alleged securi­ty threat was a less than in­genious attempt to buy time for the APC which is clearly heading for a major elector­al catastrophe on Saturday. It is shameful and indeed a major constitutional breach for the security agencies to act in concert with the APC to truncate an Elec­tion that had been planned for months. Nigerians were not deceived by the obvi­ous concoctions of the se­curity agencies whose per­formances during elections have been less than aver­age since the advent of the Buhari Administration. In­deed they have become in­struments in the hands of the Ruling Party to harass, intimidate and punish op­ponents.”
“The postponement of the Election by INEC is ille­gal, unconstitutional and a breach of the peoples’ trust in the Commission and the security agencies. It is a coup against the people of Edo State in particular and Nigerians in general. Since APC assumed power, virtu­ally all elections conducted by INEC have either been inconclusive or truncated. Saturday’s Election in Edo State must be an exemption. We will not accept any­thing less than free, fair and transparent election con­ducted and concluded the same day. INEC must rise to the occasion to restore the confidence of Nigeri­ans in its operations. Edo is a test case. With the way INEC is performing, how are we sure that it would be able to handle the 2019 national elections. Our de­mocracy is under a serious threat from the APC and its Gestapo security agencies”.
Nigerians are asking: if INEC and the nation’s se­curity agencies successful­ly conducted election in the North East and North Cen­tral zones in the last general election inspite of the obvi­ous security threat; if INEC and the security agencies conducted run-off elec­tions in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States at a time insurgency activities were at its peak, why do they think Nigerians would fall at the security report option on a state that is even land locked?

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