APC, PDP Trade Blame over Shifting Edo Guber Election

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Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, INEC

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STAKEHOLDERS have continued to blame each other for the postponement of the governorship election, which was originally slated to hold on Saturday, September 10, and now shifted to September 28

By Olu Ojewale  |  Sep 19, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

MOST Nigerians did not see it coming. According to political observers, Edo is arguably the most peaceful state in the Niger Delta. But barely on Wednesday, September 7, 72 hours to the governorship poll slated for Saturday, September 10, in the state, the Nigeria Police and State Security Service, SSS, held a joint press conference in which they advised the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to postpone the election, citing security issues as reason. The agencies said, “that credible intelligence available to the agencies indicate plans by insurgents/extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets with high population during the forthcoming Sallah celebrations between September 12 and 13. Edo State is among the states being earmarked for these attacks.” It is on the basis of this “credible intelligence” that the INEC was advised to postpone the election.

Perhaps, irked by the security report which came barely 48 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari departed the state after attending the concluding rally of the All Progressives Congress in the state, it took the INEC hierarchy another 24 hours and possibly a lot of persuasion to agree to shift the election date by 18 days. The new date for the election is Wednesday, September 28.

That notwithstanding, it is apparent that not every stakeholder is happy with postponement. Hence, there has been a blame game over the merit and demerit of it. While welcoming the postponement, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, said he would have favoured a week’s postponement because of its clash with the coronation of Oba Benin on Monday, September 26.

In another breath, Oshiomhole accused Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State of deploying militants in Edo State to disrupt the governorship election. “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.”

He also alleged that the governors had raised N2billion for Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the Edo governorship election, to prosecute the campaign “at a time they cannot pay salaries in their states.”

Oshiomhole said he had raised the alarm about the decision of Okowa and Wike to make Edo ungovernable during the election and perpetrate violence by exporting militants from some of the South-South states.

“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 has 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 private residence. We want a peaceful environment to be able to get our people out to vote,” he said.

The governor who made the allegation when he received Waheed Odusile, president of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, in Benin on Friday, September 9, said that the APC was ready for a peaceful election and not violence.

At press time, both Okowa and Wike were yet to react to allegation. But the PDP, as a party, has declared the shift as illegal and a coup against the people.

In a statement by Chris Nehikiare, Edo State PDP publicity secretary, accused the INEC and state government of being behind the shift.

‘’For us, the move by the INEC to put off the election is shocking and unacceptable. We are taken aback by the rash security advice a day after the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, was present at the final campaign rally of the APC in Benin City, which was concluded without any security hitch.’’

The party pointed out that the INEC recently conducted a hitch-free senatorial bye-election in Borno State, a state which had remained a hotbed of terrorism and insurgency, yet the security agencies did not advise against the conduct of the election. ‘’We are, therefore, convinced that this phantom security advice is orchestrated in connivance with the APC in the face of imminent defeat in the governorship election,’’ the PDP added.

What perhaps, makes the case looks suspicious is, indeed, the fact that the deputy inspector general who represented the police at the stakeholders meeting in Benin City in which Mahmood Yakubu, chairman, INEC, was in attendance had assured everyone that the security arrangement for a successful election had been put in place.

Besides, 90 percent of the stakeholders in attendance voted for the election to continue, even when the security agencies in Abuja, were not in favour. Perhaps, this is why the INEC initially insisted on going ahead with the election.

Solomon Soyebi, national commissioner, education and publicity of the INEC, said the agency was ready and would go ahead. “We cannot shift the election on the basis of security report. We have weighed all the parameters and consequences of postponing the election. This commission will not mortgage its independence for the sustenance of democracy. We have made 99 percent preparation for the elections and we have also weighed the political atmosphere,” Soyebi said.

But later, the commission succumbed having realised that it could not go against security report.

Another concern is how the stakeholders will handle the new date which was carefully taken not to clash with the coronation of Eheneden Erediauwa, the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, as the Oba. The ceremony is slated for September 26.

Although the postponement has been touted to work in be in favour of the APC candidate, the reality on ground is that the election can go either way. More importantly, considering the political sagacity of Ize-Iyamu against Godwin Obaseki, the APC candidate, whose voice was muffled throughout the campaign rallies, allowing Oshiomhole to take the centre stage.

—  Sep 19, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT

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