Edo Poll and The Dasuki Option

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The postponement of the Edo State gubernatorial election brings echoes of the ugly past

The security scare that eventually necessitated the postponement of the gubernatorial election in Edo State by two weeks falls within an ugly pattern that was inaugurated by the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd). In February last year, Dasuki caused to be postponed the 2015 presidential election by four weeks. Yet, as it has now become very clear with recent revelations, the period of that ill-advised extension was devoted to things that had little to do with security of lives and property.

In the Edo gubernatorial election instance, the foolishness of the scare tactic by the police and the Directorate of State Security (DSS) lies in the fact that the entire national security apparatus is telling the world that it could not guarantee security in only one out of 36 states in the country. For sure, there must be some other unstated reasons why these agencies would ambush the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in such a cynical manner that raises a fundamental question about the professionalism of the leadership of our security establishment.

The sordid drama started on Wednesday when, citing security concerns, the DSS and the Nigeria Police publicly addressed a joint press conference where they “advised” INEC to shift the election to a future date. In a swift response, INEC said it had not been availed of any such security concerns and that it was going ahead with the election as scheduled. For emphasis, the INEC National Commissioner, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, said the cost of postponing an election that had attained 97 per cent preparation would be too high for the commission to bear. A few hours later, Soyebi was forced to recant. The election has now been rescheduled for September 28.

Whichever way one looks at it, what happened has further reduced our country in the eyes of the world. The security agencies had no business advertising their incompetence through a press conference. If they had credible intelligence on real security threats, their responsibility was to take pre-emptive action to deal with the problem. Moreover, an open press conference on a politically sensitive issue was more of a desperate partisan act than a specialised security measure. Even if the DSS and police had intelligence report, as they claimed, the ideal thing would have been to share such information with INEC. Taking to the podium cannot replace pre-emptive deterrence in matters of national security but evidently, the intention was to arm-twist INEC.

In the absence of police/security personnel to accompany the movement of sensitive election materials, man the polling booths and monitor the collation of results, there was no way INEC could have asserted its autonomy; so it could not have proceeded with the election under such circumstance. Yet, if all these critical agencies were working together, the election could have been postponed using a more plausible reason rather than the nebulous one that opens our country to ridicule.

We note particularly that thousands of students in Edo State scheduled to write their West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) yesterday had been in a quandary. Even when there were some arrangements that the affected students would be transported to neighbouring states to write the exams, nothing had been firmed up as at last week and there were threats of protests. Ordinarily, that would have made more sense as a reason to postpone the election but because the motive was not altruistic, a security excuse had to be invented to practically railroad INEC into submission.

If we look at the trends, elections under the current administration have come under substantial hitches even at state and small constituency levels. Some state re-run elections into the National Assembly and State Assemblies by INEC remain uncompleted after several months. In Kogi, the embers of a very untidy state governorship election are still smothering. That is why we believe that the postponement of the Edo State gubernatorial election signposts a dangerous omen as it deepens existing fears that future elections in Nigeria may be in danger.

We hope the authorities will work to ensure that when the rescheduled gubernatorial election in Edo eventually holds, it will not only be fair and credible, it would be seen to be so by all the contending parties.

QUOTE: Even if the DSS and police had intelligence report, as they claimed, the ideal thing would have been to share such information with INEC. Taking to the podium cannot replace pre-emptive deterrence in matters of national security but evidently, the intention was to arm-twist INEC