A Poll Shift And The Undue Demarketing Of Edo | Independent Newspapers Limited
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A Poll Shift And The Undue Demarketing Of Edo

INEC, APC, PDP, Adamawa; Edo guber poll
Posted: Sep 14, 2016 at 8:45 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

 

 

My call-log indicated I had missed the call of Shina Loremikan and I promptly rang up this journalist and social activist, who is National Coordinator of Campaign against Impunity and a member of the Campaign for the Defence of Human Rights.

“Shinono!”

“Felixo!”

“Longest time.” I rushed him with courtesy queries: “How body? How Madam? How children? How work? How life?”

“Fine! Fine!” he shot back. “All of us kuku dey.”

 “Wetin dey happen? Abi you APC guys don help me get political appointment for Alausa or Abuja?”

“Which appointment?” his retort came. “Will you be going to Edo?” Edo is my native State. Shina comes from Osun State.

“No,” I reported. “I have not been too involved in Edo politics. Are you going?” “Not sure yet –I just wanted to know whether the picture is clear now.”

I knew what he meant. All that day had been laced with confusion on the September 10 governorship election that had taken stakeholders a minimum of 12 months, to rehearse for. Suddenly, barely 48 hours to D-Day, social media went abuzz with info that security agencies had demanded a postponement, in deference to supposed uncertainty over security in Edo State.

“Our people (on the surface he meant election observers) want me to come and join in monitoring the polls. But since we are not sure it will hold on Saturday, I cannot make travelling arrangements just yet. I felt you might have solid information.”

I supplied him with the nuggets of information at my disposal: “Well, it looks like things have been resolved and the election will hold on Saturday, going by what I have read online: INEC says no going back. The election will be peaceful and I think security people are unduly overreacting. Edo no get wahala now!

“Na true you talk, my brother.”

“So when will you likely travel?”

“It is already too late to move today, perhaps tomorrow.”

Loremikan and I spoke at about 5.07pm. Before the end of that day, however, our bubble of optimism burst. Evening news bulletins reported the shifting of the September 10 election to September 28, INEC having yielded to advice over the adverse “security” atmosphere.

Of all the excuses available for a postponement, authorities zeroed in on security: Not on an earthquake. Not on adverse weather reports in the magnitude of a Tsunami. Not a Zika epidemic that had failed to stop the Rio Olympics in Brazil. Not even the poor distribution of PVCs to voters. Not a state-wide breakdown of law and order or a riot. Not a clash of the electoral timetable with the examination timetable of secondary school leavers. No. Of all the alibis available in the world, authorities could only lean on the fickle crutch of insecurity! They insinuated that should the Edo Gubernatorial Election hold on September 10, the heavens would fall!

It left me wondering: Security concerns in Edo keh! Which Edo? Is it not the same Edo where there has been no single reported case of militancy or insurgency, unlike its five fellow states in the Niger-Delta? Is it not the same Edo where just four days to the D-Day the President and his Vice had confidently taken selfies and joined their Governor to dance kokoma music? Is it not the same Edo where just a few days earlier the 4th Brigade of the Nigerian Army had embarked on a road-work as hundreds of battle-ready soldiers poured into the streets in an intimidating show-of-strength for the polls? Is it not the same Edo where the police had deployed 25,000 cops and 550 operational vehicles in ADDITION to those on ground through the 18 local governments? Is it not the same Edo where 10,000 Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), thousands of DSS, NMI, NDLEA and other paramilitary services were swarming like bees on a beehive! That is not to mention the retinue of thousands of volunteers who came to observe things and ensure free, fair and peaceful elections through the 2,627 polling units earmarked to serve 1.7 million voters.

If these same security agencies had permitted the President some four days earlier to campaign in Edo, then there could not have been any real danger. So there must have been another motive for the postponement. Someone was playing games. Perhaps Governor Adams Oshiomhole has some explaining to do. Not only is he the Executive Governor of the 3.3 million-strong state, he is its chief security officer. Definitely, he is an interested party in the polls. He and his party have a candidate they would want to succeed him. But publicly, at least, Oshiomhole has washed his hands off the postponement. That leaves the President.

Impunity is at work and this Edo affair singularly puts a question mark on our entire electoral process, the electoral body and the sanctity of elections in this country.

In the past, Edo State only experienced insignificant incidents of electoral violence. There had been tiffs and toughs, lone hoodlums snatching ballot boxes amidst sporadic shooting, too inconsequential to scar the overall electoral credibility. And security had never been an issue.

This time around, the movement was the other way round. Aso Rock (by reason of the police, the DSS and other security agencies being part of the Executive portfolio of the President and Commander-in-Chief) ordered a postponement.   This is improper. Both the Electoral Act and the Constitution saddle INEC exclusively with autonomy to operate independently, free from external control and influence.

Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act reads: “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct an election as a result of natural disaster or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area or areas concerned appoint another day for the holding of the postponed election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.” Also, Sections 78 and 118 of the 1999 Constitution say: The registration of voters and the conduct of elections shall be subject to the direction and supervision of Independent National Electoral Commission.”

The postponement does gross disservice to Edolites. It undersells and demarkets the state. What foreign investors or tourists will come to a place where security is so lax that it disfigured the electoral timetable and caused a postponement of a major election? No. Opposite to this negative picture, Edo State is at peace. Its people simply want to go to the polls and pick their next Governor in the most civilised manner. Both INEC and the voters were ready to do just that. But they were helplessly short-changed.

During his maiden visit to Africa as US President in July 2009, Barack Obama said in Ghana: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions…. With strong institutions and a strong will, I know that Africans can live their dreams in Nairobi and Lagos….”

INEC is our foremost democratic institution. In the postponed Edo polls, strong men in the corridors of power blatantly arm-twisted the commission into kow-towing to their script. Not only does the orchestrated postponement rubbish the constitutionally-guaranteed independence of INEC, it represents a gross disservice to the reputation and image of Edo people, who really are peace-loving and democratic. In reality, Edo State no get wahala at all, at all.

By FELIX OBOAGWINA

Oboagwina, journalist and author, writes from Lagos