Sunday, September 25, 2016

Governorship Elections: Edo Must Not Burn

With only three days to go, it can be said with some level of confidence that at last, the Edo governorship election is here as all roads lead to the voting centres on Wednesday September 28, 2016. Perhaps our people still need to pray for security agencies to give clearance for the event to hold. Of course no one should be in a hurry to forget that the previous date was shelved because of what was said to be weighty security challenges.

We can only hope that all will be well because with the saying that a problem known is half solved, those who were smart enough to be able to count a total of 8000 militants waiting in the wings to cause havoc during voting must have since provided the lead to the solution.

Our security agencies must this time around acquit themselves creditably. It will not be enough for them to drive off whatever number of militants, they must also bring to an end the subsisting phenomenon in which the more the number of security operatives at an election venue, the more the number of malpractices. It happened in the rerun Delta governorship election of 2010 where in the presence of 25,000 operatives, the snatching of ballot boxes still occurred.

In November 2013, the Anambra governorship election took the same pattern although the figure moved up to 28,000 operatives with a Deputy Inspector General of Police leading the operation. Till date the trend is yet to change.

Efforts by security agencies to gain public confidence through personnel deployment have yielded no fruits. Indeed, the strategy of redeploying the Commissioner of Police in a state where an election is holding tends to confirm that the Police authorities themselves suspect their commissioners.

In any case, the strategy has changed nothing. The deployment of the military to election venues is even worse. Many professionals including former Military President Ibrahim Babangida counseled in vain against it.

The argument that it is only the military that can deal with political thugs who are armed to the teeth misses the point because an election is meant to usher in a democratic government. It is a civil affair that ought not to be militarized.

When the former PDP Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metu raised the alarm that the role of the army brigade commander in Benin in the edo election of 2012 was unwholesome, no one listened to him until the revelation of what the military did in the Ekiti governorship election of 2014, which was confirmed by an army probe was released. Will these provide lessons for edo 2016?

As many analysts have contended, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should rely more on technologies than comprised security personnel more so as it is a syndicate which has election officials as members. Therefore INEC should do everything possible to thwart their efforts in election malpractices and present the nation with free and fair elections.
All eyes are earnestly on INEC to take control and be diligent in elections starting with that of next Wednesday in Edo. The postponement of the event from its scheduled date of September 10, 2016 has filled the rumour mill to capacity which the umpire needs to douse to avoid the resort of losers to violence.

A few days back, the opposition party in edo state claimed to have uncovered a plan to use a soft ware that obliterates votes for other candidates except those of the candidate of the ruling party. As if to suggest the complicity of INEC, the party appealed to “the international community, local and foreign observers as well as all other stakeholders in the electoral process to prevail on the INEC to come clean by responding to our expression of concern in order to inspire our confidence again in its ability to conduct a credible, free and fair election, which will be acceptable to Edo electorate and Nigerians.”

INEC should not wave off the allegation because there is nothing Nigerian politicians cannot do. In the case of edo, the battle will be tough because the two major parties are not just twins but they are also graduates of the same post graduate school of election rigging. For those of us who have monitored past elections in Nigeria especially those for the office of state governor, it is hard to imagine how politicians organize many election miracles.

In Adamawa state in 2012 for instance, INEC for whatever reasons decided to distribute 200 instead of 1000 ballot boxes meant for Thukudou/Sukufu/Zar wards of the state. At the end of the day, there were results from all the 1, 000 ballot boxes including those not distributed! One politician was actually caught with 6 ballot boxes inside his house. This analogue framework no doubt explain why our politicians do not support the use of technology which makes rigging hard for them
On its part INEC, must introspect and dumb what it has established for itself since 2011; a constant canon of behaviour in which no matter the election; be it nationwide or in only one state or indeed in just a single constituency, election personnel and materials must arrive late for the event. During the last governorship election in Anambra State, election materials were allegedly late to even a polling unit behind the INEC office-the operational base of the commission in Awka, the state capital.

The case of the Oguta election of June 2013 was more scandalous because although it was held in only 4 wards for just one seat in the Imo State House of Assembly, many voters became restive after waiting in vain for several hours for the election process to commence. This must be avoided in next Wednesday’s edo election.
Also to be avoided is the trend whereby elections conducted by INEC are always inconclusive.

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