Shifting Times In Edo State

A few days before President Buhari showed up in Edo state to campaign for his party’s governorship candidate in the election that was originally slated for Saturday 10th September 2016, I was in a telephone conversation with a new buddy of mine in Benin. She informed me that in her neighbourhood, they have had electricity supply for four straight days. She was excited.

I immediately linked the steady supply of electricity in that area to the upcoming governorship election. I explained to my friend that it is not beyond the capacity of the Nigerian politician to cynically divert all the electricity generated in neighbouring states to Edo to present a false picture of things just to win an election. My friend wasn’t convinced, so I let the matter drop.

However, I could only chuckle when she rang me first thing in the morning a few days ago to express her shock that the election has been officially postponed. The news came the usually way news emanate from the government when they want to do something unsavoury. About a couple of weeks before, there were urgings from some quarters of our security agencies that the election be postponed because it coincided with the Sallah holidays. Sallah is Monday 12 and Tuesday 13. The governorship election was planned for Saturday 10th. Then another reason was floated for a needed delay: students will be sitting for the West African Examination Council’s (WAEC) exams the same day.

So when by the beginning of last week, we read that the DSS and the Police (of all agencies!) were directing the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the election, it became only a matter of time. Initially, INEC demurred, said the election would go ahead as scheduled. Then the Police did what it does best: blackmail. They refused to escort electoral materials and personnel, so INEC buckled.

That, is how things get done in Nigeria!

The official line was that there were security threat to holding the election on Saturday the 10th; Boko Haram might attack and what not. But Edo state is one of the most peaceful and one of the safest states in Nigeria. When was the last time you heard of Boko Haram in Edo? IPOB protesters? Niger Delta Avengers? Marauding armed Herdsmen? No you haven’t. The only things mildly threatening in Edo state are protesting retired civil servants asking for their pension and Patrick Obahiagbon’s verbal bullets.

If there was indeed security threat to the election and our security agencies truly had information about it, why didn’t they deal with it? Or is that not their jobs? In the heydays of Boko Haram, elections held in the entire Northeast of Nigeria and in fact that zone recorded higher turnouts than some zones considered more safe.

So nobody is buying this smoke screen because we have seen this script before. No one is fooled by this inelegant move by the ruling party to buy time in the hope that it can do ‘something,’ in the intervening period. This is nothing but borrowing a desperate page from the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) book of election manoeuvring when the polls are not too favourable. It is a complete red-herring that merely unleashed talking heads on TV chasing their tails.

Now, the governorship election got postponed ostensibly for safety reasons; however, thousands of young people went out and wrote their WAEC exams on the same 10th of September. I guess the government and the Police are not too bothered about those people’s safety and security.

Everything in Nigeria appears to revolve around politicians and their wishes. The people and institutions of state are distant afterthoughts. The current government has been in office for about 15 months, what exactly has it done about electoral reforms as we roll from one ‘inconclusive’ election to another? The Uwais Report is already there as a guiding framework. INEC itself is not even fully constituted yet in terms of Commissioners and management. All of our organs of state are still wholly dependent on directives from politicians.

Many studies, globally, have shown that delays in elections reduce voters’ participation. When safety or threat of violence is given as reason for the delay, then even more voters stay away. So it would appear that the All Progressives Congress knows what it is doing.

I don’t even know why we are here again. I suppose, for the ruling party, it is desirable to maintain some presence in the South-south and Edo state is as good as any. However, whilst brother Oshiomhole did reasonably well (by Nigerian standards) in his first coming, his second term seemed to have been largely taken up by politicking, amassing wealth, the spectre of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and, a beautiful young bride. All of that will sap any man and so the shine has been taken off. You could perhaps see why a bit of nervousness has crept-in in Benin.

The opposition party in the state, the PDP has been crying foul, but I have no sympathy them at all. In fact, the PDP would be better off not saying pim. They introduced this perfidious template of shifting an election when it looks like the ruling party is going to lose. So they are being served a dose of their own concoction.

By the way, who sef is the current boss of INEC? Does anyone know?