The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last night in Benin, postponed the conduct of Edo State governorship election to Wednesday, September 28. The exercise was to hold tomorrow.
The National Commissioner in charge of Voters’ Education and Publicity, Prince Solomon Soyebi, announced this while briefing journalists.
The shift came 24 hours following the warning by the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Police that terrorists might target Edo and other states during Sallah. Prominent Nigerians and parties reacted to the shift.
“At about 6 pm today (Thursday), the commission received official communication from the Police and DSS drawing its attention to the need to postpone the Edo governorship election. Such a postponement, the communication indicates, is necessary in view of threats of terrorists activities in Edo and other states of the federation during the election and over the Sallah period. The deployment of security personnel countrywide to secure lives and property would overstretch their capacity to at the same time provide adequqte security for the electios.
“Consequently, the commission notes the request of the security agencies and, considering the security implications of proceeding with the election, the safety the safety of eligible voters, electoral officials, including ad-hoc staff, and other stakeholders, has decided to reschedule the Governorship election to Wednesday, September 28, 2016.
“The commission enjoins all eligible voters in Edo State, political parties, candidates and other stakeholders to be peaceful and law abiding”, he said.
Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole had kicked against postponement of the governorship election for two weeks or more, saying that the election could be postponed for one week because of the planned coronation of the Oba of Benin which was fixed for September 26.
The governor who spoke on a television programme last night in Benin, said the coronation is a big event which every Edo man celebrates and has a role to play.
“We have a big event in Edo on September 26 which is the Oba’s coronation. Before that day, there are other events that must be done. It will not be proper to hold election during that period, why not postpone the election for one week?,” he asked rhetorically
He denied claims that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was afraid of defeat, saying that the party defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 16 local government in the last election held in the state.
Oshiomhole, while stressing that his party was ready for the election and that Edo is not a war zone, said, “we will win the election. The PDP has no credibility in this state”.
Reacting to the shift yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as said it was illegal and a breach of public trust.
In a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the party described the postponement as a coup against the people of Edo, noting that it was a ploy to confer an undue advantage to the All Progressives Congress(APC).
The PDP insisted that the election must go on as scheduled as there are no tangible reasons to shift the poll, especially as INEC had assured earlier in the day that there was no going back on the September 10 date.
The statement reads in part: “The postponement of the election by INEC is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the people’s 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 assured 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.
“The call for 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 (tomorrow).
“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 time may be ripe now for President Buhari and the National Assembly to conduct a non-partisan holistic review and investigation of the national security apparatus to save our fledging democracy.
We call on all stakeholders – The Media, civil society organizations, all political parties and indeed all Nigerians and the international community to rise to defend our hard earned democracy from the assault being unleashed on it by the APC Government.
But a PDP chieftain and member of the House of Representatives, representing EgorIkpoba Okha federal constituency, , Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma, said INEC did the right thing by postponing the election. He said security is not a thing to be toiled with.
According to him, it is foolhardy for anyone to be as king for the election to go on as scheduled when security agencies had advised against it.
The lawmaker had earlier in the day expressed misgiving over the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to go ahead with the Edo govenorship election in spite of advice by security agencies that the election be postponed.
“If INEC is now charge of security, we leave everything to them. If INEC has refused to do the needful because they said it is too expensive to demobilise than to mobilise, INEC should be responsible for its actions for disobeying security advice. Since INEC has decided to play the role electoral umpire and law enforcement agents. The end shall tell.
“I am praying for a peaceful election. We do not want a single soul lost. Whether the life of an INEC staff, media or citizen of Edo State, no life should be lost.
“I am praying to God to help the state hold a peaceful gubernatorial election. I am also appealing to President Buharinot to abandon us at this critical time,” stated.
Reacting, the state chapter of the PDP said last night that the phantom security advice given by INEC was orchestrated in connivance with the Oshiomhole-led APC in the face of imminent defeat in the election.
The party, in statement signed by Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chris Nehikhare, stated this while responding to the decision by INEC to put off the gubernatorial election, relying on the purported security advice.
According the PDP, “for us, the move by Independent National Electoral Commission (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 said that it was on record that 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 saw no reason to advise against the conduct of the election.
Describing the INEC’s action as ‘’lamentable, inexcusable and shameful’’, PDP said it was sad to hear from these same security agencies that the Edo governorship election could not be held in a state without a history of security threat and where in less than 24 hours, the President and all the APC leaders across the country had converged to hold their rally without security concerns.
“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.
‘’It will be recalled that a few weeks ago, I alerted the good people of Edo State and the entire country that there were devious and evil plans to postpone the election, and I alluded to the fact that it was a ploy by the APC to destabilize the electoral process having sensed that the Edo people were fully prepared to vote them out in the governorship election.’’
The party reminded all security agencies and INEC of their sacred duty and civic responsibility to uphold the due process of law by refraining from partisanship in all elections including the Edo governorship, emphasizing that the people of Edo State are fully prepared to resist any evil plot to manipulate the governorship election in favour of the APC.
“Finally, we wish to declare that sovereignty remains with the people of Edo State, and only they, and no one else, shall choose who their next governor becomes.’’
Also commenting, a constitution lawyer, Fred Agbaje said: “It is a welcome development, INEC and Edo State Government took the wisest decision. The postponement is like saving ourselves from inconclusive election because there is no guarantee that if INEC conducted the election tomorrow, it won’t be conclusive.
“The future our youths that are going to sit for exam tomorrow are paramount than the election. There is no need to be in haste for the election, we don’t need to mortgage the future of our youths in the name of election, the exam has priority than the election. Even, if the election is conducted today, malpractice cannot guaranteed by INEC,” he said.
Also, National Chairman, All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Victor Oye, yesterday said the purported security reasons were suspicious.
Oye said it was strange that security agencies filed their report barely 72 hours to the election, when virtually all the logistics had been deployed in the field including security personnel.
He said the law was explicit on the condition for postponing an election of this magnitude; saying that such action must be based on empirical facts and not just flimsy assumptions.