Postponement Of Edo Election Not A Good Advertisement For Nigeria – Odinkalu | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Postponement Of Edo Election Not A Good Advertisement For Nigeria – Odinkalu

Edo election
Posted: Sep 15, 2016 at 7:23 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, a former Chairman National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was a guest on Channelstv where he spoke on the postponement of the Edo governorship election. TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI monitored the interview brings the excerpts:

How did the news of the postponement of the Edo governorship election come to you?

It came to me by the mass media precisely the way it came to most other Nigerians.  I believe that the response by and large, was somewhere between surprise and astonishment. I don’t think that many Nigerians will be forgiven for thinking that this is far from edifying; it is not exactly the best advertisement for our country at this particular time.

Some have said security reasons were also adduced for the postponement of the 2015 general election and that this latest development is nothing strange. Is it the capacity of the security agencies that should be called to question or is it something we should just accept like that?

I think it is very important that we look at the sequence of things.  First of all, at the beginning of the week, the president campaigned in Edo state. The day after, the police read the riot act to BringBackOurGirls protesters in Abuja and a day after that, the Nigerian Police Force and the DSS are running scared from Edo state. When you tell Nigerians ‘trust us’, Nigerians  have also got to be rational and if there is one thing you cannot play politics with, it is safety and security.  Now, the release of the assessment so-called by the security agencies would have been more compelling if it had drawn existing patterns of operations and established a relationship to the safety of the exercise of the franchise in Edo state.  Boko Haram has not run any operations in Edo state, there is no bombing incident in Edo state since this administration has been in existence.  Edo state has never been a major theatre of operations of any attacks. The second thing is that this administration has actually made safety and security the fulcrum of its programme and you’ve got to give the administration credit that the one area where it has made significant progress is in the area of safety and security with reference to the Northeast.  So, the proposition that Nigerians are invited to trust the security agencies on is that an administration which has made progress in addressing safety and security in the most difficult parts of Nigeria in the North East  has got to run scared from election in Edo state where  there is no recent history of any operations of the insurgents since the inception of this administration and at a time when the same security agencies are flexing their muscles for citizens doing perfectly lawful things in  Abuja. That with all due respect, actually tasks credulity.  And at a time when the citizens need to trusts these security agencies, this is difficult.

INEC said as at 6pm, the police had not gotten to it concerning the postponement of the election, who do you think should first know about election postponement?

To begin with, there is a mechanism of coordination between INEC intelligence mechanisms of coordination in relation to election security which is hosted by the office of the National Security Adviser.  It has been a standing practice for a long time. If there was credible intel that the franchise in Edo was at risk because of matters related to safety and security,  all that had to have been done was to trigger an existing inter-agency process of monitoring for security assessments.  That was not done. The conclusion therefore that most people will reach is that this decision was taken outside the ambit of INEC, outside the ambit of channels existing for the coordination of this particular matter and in a manner that interferes with the independence of INEC. INEC did its best  to try and resist this, but in the end, it (INEC) had to kow-tow precisely because the official agencies declined to cooperate with it in delivering elections in Edo state, they declined to assist in distributions of sensitive materials , storage of sensitive materials, protection of sensitive materials  and INEC could not deliver on its mandate.  Honestly, this is very disturbing. Nigerians have got to ask questions. The invitation by the newly confirmed Inspector-General of Police that Nigerians should trust him beggars belief.  If this is his performance in his first week of work, Nigerians are entitled to have difficulties in believing him and he’s got to do a lot more  to earn the trust of Nigerians.

Again another issue that comes to the fore is that some election observers have said that what happened is interference on the role of INEC by the executive. Do you see it as so?

I have tried to give you the sequence of facts as they are.  We are not dealing with rocket science here. We are Nigerians, we live in Nigeria and we’ve got to deal with the facts as we see them.  If we are aying that in a theatre in which there are no active insurgent operations that we know  and in a theatre in which there has been no improvised explosive incident in the last two years, all of a sudden, on the eve of an election in which the ruling party does have crisis of retaining its position,  the security services all of a sudden discover  reasons for deferring the franchise  without any rational explanation, citizens should believe that you’ve got to rise to the level of credibility that  this particular release does not rise to.  That is the plain fact.  Now, some people said the same issue happened in 2015. In 2015, we had metrics for trying to reach a conclusion.  Everybody did agree that the National Security Adviser in 2015 was out of line to have gone to London and told Nigerians what to happen in our elections; that was entirely out of order but it was also the case that ahead of the 2015 general elections, on St. Valentines Day of 2015, we had metrics. There were figures on collection of PVCs which showed disparity, which showed that you could actually draw a correlation, if not a causation between the insurgency in some parts of Nigeria and levels of collection or non-collection of PVCs. And on the basis of that, you could reach some conclusions as to whether or not, as a matter of fact, some parts of Nigeria were affected adversely in the exercise of their franchise. That was not the case here.  But let’s even grant that everything that happened in 2015 was wrong, this current administration was elected on a mandate of change and it has made progress with safety and security, if the best argument that can be put forward is that ‘we are doing just as badly as our predecessors in government did’, that is  a terrible indictment on where we are and I don’t think anybody should raise that at all.