By Rotimi Fasan
SOMETHING doesn’t look right about the decision to postpone the Edo State governorship election slated for last week. This is regardless of whatever reason or reasons informed the decision for the postponement by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. But even on this there is nothing to fix the decision on. Conflicting reasons have been adduced for the postponement and the fact that no consensus can be reached on this apparently simple matter only raises suspicion about INEC’s motive for tinkering with the electoral calendar.
Although the All Progressives Congress, APC, party in the State has denied any part in the decision but the State’s governor, Adams Oshiomole, was quoted as saying that the election was postponed by INEC because the date conflicted with the date for a West African Examinations Council’s exam slated for the same day. But it appears now that the fear that the election would be marred by violence, the reason given by the Police and the Department of State Security, is the main reason for the postponement.
A quick look at each of these conflicting reasons would show why they amount to be mere excuses that do not justify the waste of human and material resources that went into preparations for the election. For a start, there is no reason why an election should be postponed or cancelled simply because it coincides with a public examination. The only reason this should look like and in fact is considered a problem at all is just because elections are like war operations in our parts of the world. To attend events leading to an election including campaigns is like accepting an invitation to a war.
Not only is violence on full display but even the state itself shuts down public spaces and the entire country experiences a lock-down. Combat police personnel and the military are mobilised and states and the country’s borders are closed until the conclusion of the exercise. So what does this say about us and our country? We are a long way from democracy is what this tells me. This is not the way things are in other parts of the world where people could stop to vote in an election on their way to or from work. Many don’t even have to show their face at the polling booth as they could vote electronically.
But here, it is a different story. Elections are a demonstration of madness exemplified by violence. It is therefore not surprising that intelligence report that the election would be violent was the initial reason given by INEC for the election. The campaign to replace the outgoing governor of Edo State has been intense. The election is being closely fought by the leading parties particularly the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the APC whose respective candidates are Ize-Iyamu and Godwin Obaseki. There have been accusations and counter accusations and abuses of all kinds among the candidates and their supporters.
Depending on what side of the contest one stands, the election is expected to swing either way of these two parties. Supporters of both parties are not limited to those within the state. They extend beyond it and those people outside the state may well define the outcome of the election either in terms of how violent it gets or who eventually wins. Already, there are talks of thugs and militants acting as mercenaries imported into Edo State. The election is more or less a two horse race between the PDP and the APC whose supporters are bent on ensuring victory for their respective parties. In a sense, therefore, this election is a battle for the control of Edo State and by projection Nigeria between the two leading parties in the country today.
It was the accretion of small victories from across the states and local governments in the country that ultimately transformed into national victory for the APC in its battles against the PDP in the 2015 elections. The PDP has learned from this, taken a leaf or two from its opponent and is no longer content to remain on the sideline. It is ready to take the battle to the APC that has the onerous task of ensuring security both nationally and in Edo State. This cannot be easy on the ruling party because irrespective of wherever it turns, the APC will be gored.
Be it last Saturday or whenever the election is rescheduled to, any breakdown in law and order would be blamed on the APC. It would not matter whether it is responsible for such breakdown or not. As the ruling party it is responsible for security of life and property. If the last Rivers State election is any guide then there may be need for caution. But the PDP like the APC in 2015 knows it does not have to be too worried, at least not as much as the APC, about the potentially violent outcome of last Saturday’s election. It was in support of the election going ahead and has not been silent since INEC buckled, contrary to its initial bluff to carry on with the election irrespective of the warning from the police and the DSS.
Thus, the PDP has been vociferous in criticising the postponement of the election. The party suspects fraud in the postponement. And you cannot blame that party if you’re familiar with its own record of election postponement. It contrived a postponement in the 2015 presidential election when all indices indicated that the election would be close but that the PDP might lose.
The writing on the wall was too clear for even the blind not to see. It was in these circumstances that the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, advised against the presidential election going ahead as originally planned. He took his campaign abroad apparently to prepare the international community for the bombshell and to protect itself against any backlash from the decision.
Dasuki cited security reasons for his infamous advice even when the blind knew that the party wanted to buy time to enable it make better preparations to win the election by both foul and fair means. From February 14 the election was postponed to April. But this could still not save the PDP that was beyond redemption in spite of its massive deployment of funds to bribe voters and traditional rulers.
Given what Nigerians knew the PDP wanted to achieve by postponing the 2015 presidential election, it makes sense for them to worry that what looks like that is again happening under the APC. It is by no means certain that the APC wanted to influence the Edo State governorship election when INEC decided to postpone it. But there is now a large room for suspicion which makes the decision to postpone stink