The grandstanding, muscle flexing and batted anxiety that characterised the preparations for the governorship election in Edo State ended on a note of anti-climax on Thursday with the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the election had been postponed. 

Announcing the shift in election date, the National Commissioner, Voter Education and Publicity of INEC, Prince Solomon Soyebi, said the postponement was based on security concerns, adding that the commission’s earlier decision to insist on the September 10 date was impelled by the fact that no official communication was received from the security agencies.

Soyebi said that INEC only received official communication from security agencies at about 6 pm on Thursday, drawing the attention of the commission to the need to postpone the election on account of terrorists’ activities in Edo and other states. He said: “The communication indicates that deployment of security personnel across the country to secure lives and property would over-stretch their capacity while at the same time providing adequate security for the election. 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 officers including ad hoc staff and other stakeholders, has decided to reschedule the Edo governorship election to Wednesday, September 28.”

Prior to Soyebi’s announcement, the story in town was that a postponement of the election was being considered because it coincided with the West African Schools Certificate Examination (WASCE) while movement would be prohibited for the period the election would last. It turned out, however, that militants backed and funded by two governors from the Niger Delta had invaded Edo through the Delta end of its boundaries in readiness for the election, and that was the real reason the election had to be shifted. One of the governors was said to have specifically boasted that APC supporters should prepare their will as the militants would give anyone who stood in the way of the PDP during the election “the Rivers treatment.”

It will be recalled that in 2015, both the presidential and governorship elections in Rivers State witnessed killings and large scale destruction condemned by both local and international observers. During the elections, the state was turned into a war zone. In the history of electioneering in the country, the violence and killings were perhaps next to what was witnessed in the defunct Western Region in 1964. The perpetrators of the dastardly acts in Rivers are in high places today calling the shots in positions of power and authority, a sad commentary on election and the unbridled quest for power in Nigeria.

It was to forestall a repeat of the Rivers experience that the Nigeria Police Force addressed a joint press conference with the Department of State Services (DSS) on Wednesday, appealing to INEC to postpone the election. Force spokesman, Don Awunah, a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), who addressed the media in Abuja, had said that credible intelligence reports available to the security agencies indicated plans by insurgents and extremist elements to attack vulnerable communities and soft targets in Edo as one of the states marked for attacks by extremists between September 12 and 13. “It is in this regard that we are appealing to INEC, which has the legal duty to regulate elections in the country, to consider the need for possible postponement of the date of the election,” Awunah submitted.

While INEC, police or DSS did not give details of the threats for which the election was shifted, The Nation reliably gathered that the militants in question had mobilised their arsenal of war, including speed boats, arms, ammunition and even explosives, with which they would storm election venues at the point of voting, collation of results and hijack ballot boxes. A security source said the hired militants had invaded Edo state from Delta state through land and waterways and were going to strike in communities in the two Ovia local government areas, Orhionwon, Uhunmode, Igueben, Esan East and even in parts of Benin City.

Nigerians who had complained that the manner the nation’s judiciary handled the genocide that passed for elections in Rivers State last year will heave sighs of vindication at the current turn of events. There had been an uproar against the judgment of the Supreme Court declaring PDP the winner of the state’s governorship election in spite of obvious cases of intimidation of voters, snatching of ballot boxes and brazen assassination of voters as well as hapless electoral officials. But in spite of the overwhelming evidence of electoral violence, the Supreme Court overruled the decisions of the lower courts that a rerun of the governorship election be conducted, declaring the PDP candidate winner of what many regarded as a bizarre exercise.

...As Excerpted From The Nation Newspaper

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