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.
Nigeria’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.
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?