Shift of Edo Poll: Who is Being Fooled?

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The headline of this week’s offering is an adaptation of the title of an article on the Back Page of The Nation newspaper of Thursday, September 8, 2016-“Militancy: Who is Being Fooled?”. It was an incisive article on the Niger Delta situation written by environmentalist Ken King. In the article, King identified three categories of people-the traditional chiefs who abused their influence as the interface for their people in the demand for developmental projects, the government officials from the area who colluded with multinationals and MDAs to get mere fractions of the funds that would have developed their communities and the militants who got cash handouts under the amnesty programme and spent a portion of the funds in acquiring more sophisticated arms- all of whom he said had helped to drag the Niger Delta down. Concluding, King asked the question-“who is being fooled by the present agitation in the Niger Delta region, if the criminality or militancy can be so qualified?” He said the Niger Delta people must therefore be realistic enough to accept that some people had misled them and that militancy remains a self-inflicted malady.

The inspiration for this piece, which is on the shift of today’s Edo governorship poll, emerged from that critical question King asked in his article-“Who is Being Fooled?” This piece, therefore, has been appropriately titled- Shift of Edo Poll: Who is Being Fooled? After initially refusing to bow to pressure, the Independent National Electoral Commission eventually postponed Edo governorship election, originally scheduled for Saturday, September 10, to Wednesday September 28. The postponement followed a security advice (unsolicited as it were) from the Police and Department of State Security Service to the electoral body. The two agencies had called for a shift of the election, saying credible intelligence available to them indicated that there were plans by insurgent and extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets around September 12 and 13 during the Eid-el-Kabir celebration. The advice was not sent directly to INEC. It was unfolded at a news conference addressed by Force Spokesman, Deputy Commissioner of Police Don Awunah, on Wednesday in Abuja and INEC was initially left in a quandary about it.

It could be dangerous to not heed a security report, any security report at that, but the extant security advice seems suspect. How? Only on Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari led APC leaders and governors to the mega campaign rally of the party for the same governorship election in Benin. The rally was well attended and there was nothing to suggest any likely breach of security in the state. The parties -APC, PDP and others- have been having their campaigns without any hitch or threat of security. At that time eleventh hour of the poll, the police did not suspect there could be any breach of security for the election. The Inspector-General of Police Idris Ibrahim had even disclosed that he was deploying additional 25,000 policemen for the poll.

Then, there was a sudden press conference by the police and DSS. The reason for the election postponement seems contrived in my view. And this is so for two reasons. One, the security agencies were too eager to admit a likely security breach in communities and soft targets across 13 states including Edo when President Buhari would say the fight against the Boko Haram terror group has virtually been won. Do they realise the disservice this will do to the seemingly -successful battle against the Boko Haram insurgents? Again, the signal that Nigeria is not safe is coming from government agencies, not from foreign governments or their agencies or media organisations!

Two, Governor Adams Oshiomhole alleged that governors of neighbouring Delta, Bayelsa and River States were preparing to bring militants into Edo to perpetrate violence during the election. For the life of me, did the governor know, perhaps more than the Police and DSS themselves, why the poll had to be postponed? Oshiomhole was very vociferous in the demand for a shift of the poll. Speaking during a meeting with leaders and stakeholders of APC in the state at the Government House in Benin last Thursday, the governor said it was regrettable that in spite of the security report urging INEC to postpone the election, the electoral body still remained adamant. He said INEC should be ready to take responsibility for any action if it decides to conduct the election against security advice.

After the postponement, both APC and PDP leaders have been trading accusations. But the route to the election shift is all too familiar. It’s an old and worn-out tactic. We have neither learnt new tricks nor forgotten old ones as they say. Recall that the military top brass had on the eve of the 2015 general elections during President Goodluck Jonathan’s time presented a report that they could not guarantee the security of the electoral officers in some parts of the North, particularly the North-east, if the 2015 election were held as scheduled. The elections were then to begin with the presidential poll in February 2015. Former INEC Chairman Attahiru Jega initially insisted on INEC’s independence and its mandate to fix the dates for election.

He said the commission was ready to proceed with the election as originally scheduled. But Jega was presented with a fait accompli: proceed with the election and damn the consequence! The Professor of Political Science caved in. The elections were later shifted by six weeks. The security threat for the postponement was blamed on the Boko Haram insurgency in the North. It later emerged that the polls, particularly the presidential election, were shifted in order to buy more time for President Jonathan. President Jonathan still lost the poll eventually.

I sympathise with the new INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmud Yakubu who had been assailed with criticisms that he had been organising inconclusive elections and who like his predecessor wanted to assert the commission’s independence. After the security advice, the commission consulted with its stakeholders -the political parties, their candidates and Civil Society Organisations-. They were said to be overwhelming in support of going ahead with the election as scheduled. The commission had to give in following persistent pressure on it. But sooner than later the real reason for this postponement will also emerge. Was it also to buy time? Time will tell.

• Rahman, former Editor, Thisday on Sunday, is Managing Editor of Western Post. Follow him on Twitter @tunderahmanu

RIGHT OF REPLY

Enough of Phantom Corruption Allegation, Demonization of Atiku
It was difficult figuring out how to complete the cuboids of the headline as published in Saturday, August 27 edition of Thisday Newspaper. It is understandable that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in the throes of intra-party squabbles and it is also not objectionable that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is in a quandary as he struggles to lay his hands on the control levers of the erstwhile ruling party.

But, what doesn’t fit into the mix is the attempt to bridge former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to Sheriff’s travails. It may seem as though to pep every political exclusive story, it must be laden with an Atiku dimension. Until recently, the impression out there was that Atiku was indeed the puppeteer of Sheriff’s shenanigan in PDP’s power tussle, and now the same Atiku Abubakar is being purportedly fingered as the ventriloquist behind his travails. The puzzle is now how to figure out, which narrative to believe. A story built on falsehood will surely collapse like a pack of cards.

But as unwieldy as the article in the Thisday newspaper is, it portrays the narrative that has trailed the Atiku persona and his political career in the last ten years or thereabouts, which is that Atiku can never become a president of Nigeria because of the corruption perception against him – need we remind ourselves that this same man (Atiku) has neither been tried nor convicted by any court of justice here in the country or overseas.

Since the defeat of Obasanjo’s third term bid in the National Assembly, Atiku’s political opponents have repeatedly devised a conspiracy to blackmail the Turaki Adamawa on the notion of corruption. It was a conspiracy that was initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, which is continuously being sustained by political opposing minds to vilify Atiku before the electorate.

Of course, corruption is enough reason to reject any presidential hopeful. But that is when there is iota of evidence to back up such claim. In the Atiku situation, nobody has been able to establish any case of corruption against him or an evidence of his corruptibility. After almost ten years of his being out of government, and with different administrations in succession, nobody has pinned Atiku to any case of corruption, nor has any anti-corruption agency made a claim of investigation or culpability against Atiku.

I suspect that we have been victims of elite conspiracy bug and until we diffuse our minds of that bug, we may never be able to make a wholesome appreciation of the electoral choices that we may make in future election circle. I should reason that Mr. Tunde Rahman, the writer of the article in Thisday, or any such writer on Atiku should be more scientific in their frantic efforts to brush Atiku with corruption tar. Provide a clear case against him or forever keep quiet and respect the intelligence of your discerning readers.

The media has helped a lot in propagating the smear campaign against Atiku since 2006 when the third term bid was defeated. This is 2016 and it is obvious Atiku has moved on from answering questions on phantom corruption allegations. He has busied himself trying to reconstruct the national dialogue along the line of restructuring, helping out-of-school children get back to classrooms for learning, providing employment opportunities that create jobs and creating jobs as well for the adults and young and also mentoring young entrepreneurs to help create more jobs.

The distribution of seedlings to farmers in the North-Eastern region to help them get back to farming after the destruction of their means of livelihood by the Boko Haram insurgents is just a thing amongst numerous tasks he has engaged himself in. These are the ideals that the decade demands and these are ideals that the elite of this country must key into.

With the Buhari administration barely midway into the course of its term, it is incredulous that some political merchants are already out behind masks with daggers drawn thinking of 2019 and, for them, the best way to make themselves relevant, is by doing the usual: demonize Atiku. Nigeria as a nation; should move beyond this level of pettiness. Atiku gets that and, it is high time his traducers understood that fact too!

•By Atiku Media Office