The Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday postponed the Edo State 2016 Governorship Election to Wednesday, September 28.
The decision was announced to journalists on Thursday night, about eight hours after the commission had insisted that the election would hold as scheduled on Saturday, September 10, despite warnings from security agencies.
But the leadership of the main opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party, led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, has reiterated its earlier position that the Saturday, September 10, election date should remain sacrosanct.
Spokesperson for the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, who stated this in a statement in Abuja on Thursday, said the postponement of the election was illegal and a coup against Nigerians
As a prelude to the announcement of the postponement of the Saturday poll, the police beefed up security around the commission’s headquarters in Benin with riot policemen frisking visitors.
INEC’s decision to postpone the election followed a security report written to the commission by the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Alhaji Lawal Daura.
The National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, who broke the news to journalists in Benin, however, refused to take questions.
Reading a prepared text, Soyebi, who was with the Edo Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Sam Olumekun, said the commission had successfully implemented 12 of the 14 activities on the Election Timeline.
The National Commissioner added, “The commission has deployed over 18,000 electoral staff, secured and deployed all materials required for the election and mobilised over 1.9 million voters to exercise their civic responsibilities.
“However, at about 6pm today (Thursday), the commission received official communication from the Police and the DSS, drawing its (INEC) attention to the need to postpone the Edo Governorship Elections.
“Such a postponement, the communication indicates, is necessary in view of threats of terrorist activities in Edo and other states of the federation during the election and over the Sallah period.”
Soyebi revealed that the letter from the security agencies indicated that holding the election on that day would overstretch the police personnel.
“Consequently, the commission notes the request of the security agencies and, considering the security implications of proceeding with the election, the safety of eligible voters, electoral officials, including ad hoc staff, and other stakeholders, has decided to reschedule the Edo Governorship Election to Wednesday, September 28, 2016.”
But Adeyeye noted that under the current INEC, all elections conducted had either been inconclusive or truncated, saying the Edo election should be different.
The PDP spokesman added, “The postponement of the election by INEC is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the peoples’ trust in the commission and the security agencies.
“It is a coup against the people of Edo State in particular and Nigerians in general. Since APC assumed power, virtually all elections conducted by INEC have either been inconclusive or truncated.
“Saturday’s election in Edo State must be an exemption. We will not accept anything
less than free, fair and transparent election conducted and concluded the same day. INEC must rise to the occasion to restore the confidence of Nigerians in its operations.
“Edo is a test case. With the way INEC is performing, how are we sure that it would be able to handle the 2019 general elections. Our democracy is under a serious threat from the APC and its Gestapo security agencies.
“It is shameful and indeed a major constitutional breach for the security agencies to act in concert with the APC to truncate an election that had been planned for months.”
But the ruling party, the APC, refused to comment on INEC’s decision to postpone the Edo State governorship election till September 28.
Attempts to get an official reaction from the party’s National Secretariat, in Abuja, on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Repeated calls to the mobile of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, were not returned.
A response to a text message sent to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
Similarly, the mobile phone of the party’s National Secretary, Mai Mala Buni, indicated that it was switched off when The PUNCH called the line.
Our submission purely advisory –Police
Meanwhile, the police on Thursday said their submission to INEC on the Edo State governorship election was purely advisory, stressing that the commission was not bound to accept its suggestion to postpone the poll.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Donald Awunah, said INEC, as the body in charge of conducting elections, could not be compelled to postpone the poll.
He explained that the police had deployed 25,000 personnel in the state for the exercise.
Awunah said, “The security advisory to INEC was just an advice and the postponement of the poll was strictly its decision and responsibility. The police had put everything in place to ensure a successful poll, but the Force and the DSS found it necessary to draw the commission’s attention to the credible intelligence we received, to ensure that the conduct of the poll was smooth and hitch-free.”
But a legal practitioner, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, blamed President Muhammadu Buhari for the postponement of the governorship election.
He said, “The postponement of the governorship election in Edo State is a loud testimony to the unpreparedness of the General Buhari regime for leadership. The government is simply overwhelmed with the challenges of governing modern day Nigeria.”
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, berated the DSS and the police for the postponement of the Edo governorship election.
He said, “It’s clear INEC was ready to hold this election but it bowed to the security bogey because it does not have its own force. What the security forces have done on the altar of political shenanigans is to expose Nigeria as an insecure place where elections cannot hold in one state.”
In Edo State, the PDP and the APC, two principal parties in the rescheduled poll, differed in their reactions to the postponement of the election.
The state PDP described the postponement as a plot arranged by Governor Adams Oshiomhole, INEC and the security agencies.
The state Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, said, “For us, the move by INEC to put off the election is shocking and unacceptable.
“We are taken aback by the rash security advice a day after the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, was present at the final campaign rally of the APC in Benin City, which was concluded without any security hitch.”
It said it was sad and shameful to hear from “these same security agencies” that the Edo governorship election cannot be held in a state “without a history of security threat”.
The PDP added, “We are therefore convinced that this phantom security advice is orchestrated in connivance with the APC in the face of an imminent defeat in the governorship election.”
The APC, however, dismissed the allegation, describing it as falsehood peddled by the party with “no future”.
The state Chairman of the party, Anselm Ojezua, said, “PDP has been lying through its teeth right from the beginning of this exercise. PDP hardly exists in this state anymore.
“PDP has nothing to show Edo people; it has no future. So, why would we be threatened?”