Why Edo matters
We have passed through this route before. Col. Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser under President Goodluck Jonathan, had “advised” Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman, during the presidential election in February last year to postpone the election. He did so by four weeks. The postponement was accompanied by an uproar but it was a fait accompli. John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State, wrote a letter to the Federal Government expressing the displeasure of the American Government. He said: “The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone the election. Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.”
As it was with the PDP last year under President Jonathan so it is with the APC under President Muhammadu Buhari this year. Even with the change of faces at the political and security posts nothing has changed. The strategy remains the same because Nigerian security is largely for regime maintenance.
The choice of a press conference as the forum for conveying the advice to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is strange and was perhaps intended as an arm twisting strategy. A private communication to the INEC Director General would have been more appropriate, discreet and decent and would not have put the election manager in a situation where it is seen by the public as taking orders from the security organisations on how to do its job. But let’s face it, INEC is not an independent organisation despite its name. In Nigeria’s setting it cannot be independent for four reasons (a) its appointment procedure (b) its revenue source (c) its dependence on security for the successful conduct of elections and (d) its dependence on ad hoc staff from the NYSC over whom it has no control. In fact, as soon as the security agencies gave their view on the security situation the NYSC authorities weighed in with the view that it will not allow its youth corps members to participate in the election without a guarantee of their safety. That weakened INEC’s resistance.
Security organisations often exercise a disproportionately large amount of power in Nigeria’s polity because no one can verify whether the information they claim to have is true or false. In that case, it is often safer to give them the benefit of the doubt so that if there is an error that error should be made on the side of safety. The world has become a very dangerous place today so it is safer to believe them than not to believe them. However, we can raise a few questions on this matter. If the security organisations had this “credible intelligence” why didn’t they do everything in their power to block the terrorists so that the election could go on as planned? At what point did they get this “credible intelligence,” was it before President Buhari went for the campaign in Benin or after it? If they learn of another “credible intelligence” before September 28 will they, again, advise INEC to postpone the election? Isn’t the acquisition of “credible intelligence” by security agencies meant to help them to ensure that the society continues to function without the disruption of its activities?
Security organisations are run by human beings. They can be wrong; they can have ulterior motives; they can be mischievous for political, ethnic or financial benefits. They can also be patriotic. But we must not assume that everything they say is the gospel truth. We must always weigh what they say on the scale of reason based on available information. In October 1986, security officials accused Dele Giwa, Editor in Chief of Newswatch, of importing arms for the purpose of starting a socialist revolution. Did they produce any arms? No. With whom was Dele going to start this so called socialist revolution? Nobody. Anybody who knew him knew that he was not a socialist, ideologically or practically. He was a purveyor of an affluent lifestyle and a pacifist to boot. But the security apparatchik needed to come up with this big lie as an excuse to assassinate him.
In 2014, security men grounded the operation of about a dozen newspapers and magazines in Nigeria for several days. They captured their delivery vans carrying printed newspapers and magazines to various parts of the country and seized the parcels meant for sale. What did they say was the matter? They had “credible information” that the newspaper proprietors were carrying bombs, arms and ammunition in their vans, they claimed. After all of that drama they found no bomb, no arms, no ammunition in any of the vans after several days of rigorous search on various delivery routes. They only succeeded in defaming the proprietors, inflicting losses in revenue and public goodwill on them in the name of security. Although President Jonathan apologised to them and paid compensation the Buhari government took back the money paid to the proprietors. For the proprietors, it was double jeopardy.
The September 28 elections in Edo State is basically a two-horse race between APC’s Godwin Obaseki and PDP’s Osagie Ize-Iyamu. Edo State is the home of the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun as well as that of the incumbent Governor, Adams Oshiomhole. The two men and their candidate have to prove that Edo is truly an APC State. Besides, the APC chairman had lamented some time ago that all the oil rich states, except Imo and Edo, belong to the PDP. However, with Lagos joining the oil club the APC now has three oil producing states while the PDP has seven (Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Abia and Ondo). The strength of these 10 states will impact a great deal on the calculations of each of the parties for 2019.
The Edo State Governorship election is the first to be held since the Federal Government declared that Nigeria is in a recession. Governor Oshiomhole seems to have performed well in various aspects of development. He even raised the minimum wage for his workers and has been paying them regularly. However, coming at a time of immense suffering occasioned by the recession how will that affect the fortune of the APC in the state? Or will Oshiomhole’s good performance rub off on his candidate, Obaseki or will the splintered PDP manage to find a winning formula for its candidate, Ize-Iyamu? And which of the two candidates is likely to benefit from the shift in the election date? It is uncertain. However, the current controversy surrounding the change of election date shows one thing: Edo matters.