There is palpable anxiety over the conduct of the much awaited gubernatorial election in Edo state scheduled for this weekend.
Top officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), heads of security agents and a representative of the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps had earlier in the morning of Wednesday at a stakeholders’ meeting, assured of their preparedness conduct a smooth, free, fair and conclusive election.
There was however rumour in the afternoon of Wednesday that plans to shift the election, over security concerns.
National Chairman of INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, who addressed journalists in the evening of Wednesday in Benin, said the Commission was yet to come out with a decision on whether the election was to hold or not, as it was still consulting with security agents.
Reacting to the alleged plan to postpone the election, members of civil society groups in the state said the alleged security threat does not warrant any postponement of the much anticipated gubernatorial election.
Secretary to the state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), Osaro Idah, said any postponement should not take too long before it is conducted.
On his part, the State Chairman of Peoples Democratic Congress (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih, said democracy is under threat in the state.
The PDP continued in reaction to calls for the postponement of the election in a statement by Prince Dayo Adeyeye the PDP national publicity secretary.
“Our attention has been drawn to the shocking breaking news of the advise by the DSS and the Police to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the Saturday, September 10, 2016 Gubernatorial Election in Edo state on excuse of insurgency alert.
We are taken aback on this advise coming 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 Mega Rally of its Party, the APC in Benin City which was concluded without any hitch.
“It is on record that INEC recently conducted a ‘hitch free’ Senatorial By-Election in Borno State which is a high-point of insurgency in the Country but the Security Agencies saw no reason to call-off the Election.
It is therefore lamentable to hear from these same security agencies that the Election cannot be held in a State where in less than 24 hours, the President and all the APC leaders and members had an uninterrupted Rally”.
“We are calling on the President, Muhammadu Buhari to caution the security agencies and direct them to provide full security, and also to desist doing anything that will jeopardize this forthcoming Gubernatorial Election in Edo State.
We are equally counting on INEC not to succumb to this false alarm by acting independently and holding election as scheduled.
“We hope that this advice from the security agencies are not in concert with the APC of having seen the indices of loosing the Edo state Gubernatorial Election to the PDP.
“Finally, the Party leadership led by Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, CON, call on our members, teeming supporters, other Edo voters and the international community to remain law-abiding while staying alert on this calculated attempt at scuttling our hard earned democracy.”
It would be recalled that thousands of candidates for this year’s General Certificate of Education examination conducted by the West African Examination Council (WAEC), had on Monday staged a protest calling for a shift of the gubernatorial election due to its clash with their mathematics examination which was to hold on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed on Wednesday that it is prepared to conduct the Edo State gubernatorial election slated for Saturday, September 10.
The commission’s willingness to go ahead with the poll undermines requests by the police and Department of State Security (DSS) to postpone the election.
The two security agencies had on Wednesday morning threatened that “insurgents” and “extremists” would provoke violence during the election. This was disclosed in a security report issued jointly by the police and DSS. INEC officials told SaharaReporters that they heard of the “Security Report” while at a stakeholders meeting Benin City with the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations in attendance.
The source further claimed INEC was 99% ready and had already distributed non-sensitive election materials across the state when the devastating report hit its officers and ad-hoc staff.
Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomole, who was campaigning outside of Benin City, urged INEC to avoid delaying the election for too long, saying that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was going to “bury” the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the contest.
Edo State PDP Chairman Dan Orbih opposed the postponement, saying such an action would put “democracy on trial.”
INEC sources speaking to SaharaReporters confirmed that neither the DSS nor the Nigeria Police Force consulted with the commission before advising it to postpone the election.
INEC, however, was aware of the security report issued by the two agencies.
Saturday’s election between Godwin Obaseki (APC) and Osagie Ize-Iyamu (PDP) is expected to be tightly contested, with both camps engaging in last-minute efforts to secure victory.
President Muhammadu Buhari visited Benin City on Tuesday to address a rally in support of the APC candidate.
In anticipation of the rally, the APC reportedly paid each Local Government coordinator N5 million to “mobilize” a crowd for the president Buhari.
Sahara Reporters reports that though the attendance was impressive, it yielded poor support for APC’s candidate regardless.
Meanwhile, PDP governors have been pumping funds into local government areas surrounding Benin City, claiming that the party has made progress that would defeat the APC on Saturday.
At the time of reporting, INEC has yet to make a statement officially postponing the election, although a source at the agency admitted that the security report has psychologically demobilized its workforce.
However, its officials, including the chairperson and four national commissioners, plan to remain in Benin City until a final decision is made.
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