*Says postponement counterproductive, unaware of advice to put off contest
*How Ize-Iyamu predicted a shift in date
By Olawale Olaleye
A few minutes after the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Nigerian police advised the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the September 10, 2016 gubernatorial election in Edo State, the commission’s leadership has come out to deny knowledge of any such development and advised that the election should be allowed to continue as earlier scheduled.
With this development, however, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Saturday election, Mr. Osagie Ize-Iyamu, may have been vindicated as he had, some weeks ago, alleged plans to postpone the election and tie its reasons to the Muslim Sallah.
The DSS and the police had come out after a closed-door meeting earlier today at the behest of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris and his DSS counterpart, Mr. Lawal Musa Daura in Abuja to advise INEC to postpone the election over alleged terror threat.
A joint statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer (PRO), DCP Don Awunah, and Mr. Garba Abdullahi of the DSS, informed the general public that credible intelligence availed the agencies indicated plans by insurgent/extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets with high population during the forthcoming Sallah celebrations between 12th and 13th of September, 2016, adding that Edo State was amongst the States earmarked for attacks by the extremists.
But the INEC leadership, which has since been on the ground in Edo State and also holding meetings ahead of the election, said it was shocked that it was not even contacted or consulted on a matter that directly concerns it before the police and the DSS took such a weighty decision.
A senior INEC official, who pleaded anonymity said, not only was INEC ready for the election with materials and other logistics on the ground, important members of its leadership have also been on the ground to see that the election turns out well and a clear departure from previous experiences.
Some of the INEC leadership already on the ground in Edo State include the national chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, Amina Zakari, Muhammed Leky Ambassador Lawrence Nwuruku, Soyebi Adedeji, representatives of the police and DSS and the 19 candidates contesting in the election.
The source said INEC found the development both embarrassing and undermining to its leadership, more so that the commission was likely to take the fall for such a poorly conceived initiative without proper consultation.
The source therefore advised the security agencies to partner INEC and ensure that the election goes ahead on Saturday as scheduled because “we have gone too far to go back at this moment. We are already on the ground and with our logistics well laid out. A postponement at this time is counterproductive and INEC will not be responsible for the aftermath because we already have this under control,” the source said.
Meanwhile, PDP’s candidate, Ize-Iyamu had said a few weeks ago that there were plans to postpone the election, although he cited the Muslim Sallah as the probable reason, he further alluded to the fact that it was a ploy by the APC to destabilize things and put the PDP at a disadvantage.
Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who hinted at this during an interactive session with journalists in Benin, the Edo State capital, said the possibility of a postponement was almost inevitable if the facts before him were correct.
He said the information which had been deliberately concealed by the ruling party for strategic reasons was however leaked to him by some members of the other camp (APC), who believed in his ambition and had pretended to be unaware of it too, albeit for strategic reasons.
According to him, the main reason the possibility of a shift in date was being kept secret by the ruling party was because they wanted the PDP and its candidate to outspend themselves before the announcement, by which time raising more money ahead of the new date would have been a bit difficult.
“There is the possibility that INEC may postpone the election from September 10. Although this is not official, we have it on good authority that the date may coincide with this year’s Muslim Salah and if that is true, the postponement might be inevitable. But no one has mentioned or communicated this to us yet.
“But we have it on good authority that the other side already knows about the development and are trying as much as possible to conceal it from us, so that by the time the postponement is announced, we would have outspent ourselves and you know what that means,” he said.
According to him, “I worry about the nature of inconclusive polls,” arguing that it was not convenient for any candidate, who had put in so much for an election, only to have such an exercise declared inconclusive with another date fixed for the concluding part, saying such a decision weighs heavily on the logistics of the parties and their candidates.