Conflicting stance on Edo governorship election postponement

Godwin Obaseki and Osagie Ize-Iyamu

Godwin Obaseki and Osagie Ize-Iyamu

Differing opinions yesterday continue to trail the postponement of the Edo State governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as the British Council and European Union (EU) sued for the conduct of peaceful Governorship election in Edo.

But the Director of Publicity of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Campaign Council, Senator Domingo Obende, said the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was angry over the postponement of the election because they will not be able to perpetrate their violence anymore.

According to him: “I think we have two feelings and reactions, first and foremost we have prepared so hard and we believe and we know that the voters are behind us and we are going to win. Secondly, we are also happy because Edo has not been known to be a state where violence is the order of the day.

“So if actually for security reasons as stated by both the police and the DSS, this shift is realised, then I think I am happy for it, it means any time they decide to fix it, elections will be peaceful. That is why I said I have mixed feelings.

“PDP is saying rubbish because they have imported thugs, again because they brought aliens to come and register in Edo State. What is more is that our strength are the voters and we have them behind us, they are not going to die, they are not going to shift. For us, anytime any day we are ready for the elections.”

Meanwhile the National Association for Peaceful Elections in Nigeria (NAPEN) and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) in collaboration with the Conference of Edo State Non-Governmental Organizations (CONGOS) have faulted the call by the Department of State Security (DSS) and the Police for the postponement of the governorship election.

Addressing a press conference yesterday in Benin City, the Edo State Capital, Chairperson, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Dr. Abiola Akioyede-Afolabi said: “INEC appears not to have been taken into confidence before the security agencies came out in full glare of the public to announce its preference for a postponement.”

Akioyede-Afolabi said the advice was poorly timed and wrongly presented as INEC and the security agencies have meeting forums and channels of communication to address any issues that concerns the forthcoming election.

“We recall that similar concerns was raised during the 2015 general elections in the North East zone and INEC was able to conduct elections in the Boko-Haram ravaged region. It is our opinion that there are undercurrents in the security apparatus who are trying to suppress the electoral process.” Akioyede-Afolabi stated.

He urged all stakeholders to work to prevent the various infractions, which have marred previous elections including the most serious critical incidents like ballot box nnatching/stuffing, intimidation and harassment of voters, polling officials, observers and political party poll agents.

Meanwhile, the APC governorship candidate, Godwin Obaseki, has raised the alarm over the shooting of some of his supporters by hired thugs allegedly recruited by the opposition party, in Okpella.

Obaseki said some of his supporters have been injured after being shot at by hired thugs allegedly recruited by the PDP in Okpella, Etsako East Local Council of Edo. He said the shooting, which started late Thursday night, saw several of his supporters scampering to safety, while those injured have been taken to hospital for medical attention.

“The evidence is now coming up, this is what we were talking about. In Okpella last night there were gunshots throughout the night because people who have been mobilised had arrived town, not realising that the election was postponed.

Ben James, Political Counsel at the British High Commission and Mr Richard Young, Deputy Head of Delegation, EU, both made the call after meeting with the candidate of the APC. The foreign observers also called for increase in communication between the political actors, security agencies and the INEC.

“Our concern is that the elections on the 28th of September are peaceful, conclusive and credible.

“And that all the institutions, the parties, INEC, the police and other security agencies do everything they can to make sure the people of Edo can decide who the next governor would be.

“We members of the international community are very keen and sure that September 28 should be peaceful, free and fair and should be supported. I think the important thing is that the institutions prepare themselves for the new date and tensions are coming, there are some tension, we have seen them ourselves.”

On his part, Young said: “It is important that the people respect leadership and the leadership preaches peace. Peace is very important that people realise that we build up to 28th, with peace in mind and the election is held in a peaceful environment. We came here to discuss the postponement of the governorship election and to make a number of appeals for increased contact with the political parties and INEC and the police and the security agencies.

“They should ensure that a careful ground is laid for the election to take place smoothly and calmly in a democratic and credible way.

“So for them and me (The EU and British Council), we are on the same page that whatever is required to have a peaceful election is what we ensure and insist on,” he stated.

Speaking on the postponement of the poll, he said: “It is not convenient, we have spent so much of time, people have travelled in to come and vote. It is not convenient, but that is where we have found ourselves, we are okay with it if that is going to protect lives and property. We have to live with that no matter the inconvenience.”

The Edo Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) also said it regretted the postponement of the state Governorship election.

Anselm Ojezua, the state chairman of the party, stated this in a press conference in Benin yesterday.

Ojezua who bemoaned the failure to consult critical stakeholders before the announcement of the postponement, regretted the time and resources that have been expended on electioneering campaign these past weeks.

It would be recalled that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on Thursday night yielded to security agencies’ call for the poll postponement over security threats.

The chairman, however, said infiltration into Edo of militants he alleged have been recruited by the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), calls for serious concern.

“First, the shift in the date for the election was announced without due consultation with the critical stakeholders which includes the All Progressives Congress (APC).

“We believe that the timing and mode of communication by the security agencies could have been better handled having regards to the very hard work and huge resources deployed towards the election by all concerned.

“On our part, we have traversed the nooks and crannies of the State in the course of our electioneering campaigns and we have been able to effectively market our candidates and our manifesto.

“In that same process our members have been fully sensitized and mobilized in readiness for the election culminating in our final campaign at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium on September 6, which recorded the highest level of mobilization ever witnessed in that facility.

“It will, therefore, be fair to admit that the decision has adversely affected us somewhat.

“However, having regards for the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral act, we are obliged to defer to the decision of INEC particularly when ”security threats” have been cited as the reason for the postponement.

“Although we do not have the details from the security agencies, we have, in the past, drawn attention to the influx of militants into Edo from neighboring States during the Continuous Voters Registration exercise,” he said.

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