On the 8th day of September 2016, I started putting my thoughts on paper on a post-election Edo State. My organisation ANEEJ had been involved only at the point where we tried to clear a field and let all the governorship candidates have their say. We made a big success at our interactive session with the governorship aspirants, and so we waited with bated breath to see if the political higgledy-piggledy (apologies to Obayagbon) we met on ground would get some order and point us to a direction which the pendulum would swing eventually. My first sentence which was: by the time you are reading this, the election in Edo state would have been held, won and lost – lost its zip just a few hours after I started to write. The gist in the air was that INEC would be postponing the Edo governorship elections. A postponement…? Damn it. Wasn’t that what Goodluck Jonathan tried to do before April 2015 and he lost the election after all? Wasn’t that what the military under IBB attempted to do again and again with a so-called politburo in the election in 1993 until we eventually had the June 12 watershed? Was there a mene-mene-tekel-urphasin we didn’t know about?
But word hadn’t come and so I waited. Waiting to write or discuss as events begin to unfold is not what I usually do. But in this case, it was like real-time mainstream reportage as the news is breaking. The blood is hot and the issue is sweet to discuss but the saturating anxiety does not encourage you to open your mouth too much, lest you are identified a PDP or APC supporter. The wahala which had enveloped the city of Benin when the rumour spread that the elections were not going to hold any more was something to behold. Friends were no longer friends. Acquaintances were at daggers drawn and markets close abruptly. In the buses, APC and PDP supporters hold one another from slapping a fellow commuter running their mouth. Ahh…election in Nigeria and Africa is do or die, and a short cut to conquer poverty. Some politicians are like vampires and mosquitoes – they would feed on people to survive. They would kill, maim, impugn the character of their opponents and even prefer to die in the process.
But the gist came much later that night of 8th September, that indeed the elections had been postponed. First there was numbness, and before I allowed the info sink in, I decided to gaze at my oracle, my wassap talisman – this is my coterie, my classmates from my first university. In that virtual classroom, we are blessed with our died-hard APC and PDP aficionadas and some of us who usually sit on the fence, sit on the fence to enjoy their political differences and jibes. Our Prof, the PDP juggernaut is always on hand to take on the APC firebrand. We love the banters. But on this one – on the postponement of an election which local and international observers have invested concern and in a state in Nigeria with perceived egalitarianism – party differences gave way to a collective condemnation of the shift in the election goalpost.
In postponing the elections, INEC cited questions and challenges related to advice from security agencies. Prior to the postponement as well, candidates registered to sit Mathematics at the General Certificate of Education, GCE, on the same day of the September 10 governorship elections staged a protest march to government House in Benin to protest the plan to move them out of Edo state for the Exams, resulting in their possible disenfranchisement.
For me, the postponement of this crucial election clearly indicated that INEC did not properly monitor and evaluate the political and social calendar of this nation before scheduling that date. Coming on the heels of a recession, this lapse is one which Nigeria cannot afford at this stage of her existence, particularly as organizations like ours, together with other stakeholders had painstakingly spent funds to organize an interactive session with governorship aspirants to prepare the minds of voters for September 10, 2016.
While taking into consideration the security advice to the INEC from the Department of State Security, DSS, and the police that there are imminent security threats in Edo state during the election, I believe that this is no justification for shifting an election for which extensive funds, logistics and manpower have been expended. Having become privy to intelligence that there is the likelihood of a terrorist attack, the security forces should have therefore undertaken covert operations to nip these anticipated attacks in the bud rather than an outright cancellation of elections already scheduled, and huge funds already expended. What is even more worrisome with the postponement of the elections is that it has opened up the space for speculations capable of igniting tension and apprehension in the polity. I would recommend that in the days before the rescheduled elections, government and INEC must call all stakeholders, governorship candidates of all the political parties, and security forces together once more to forestall the impending disaster that a postponement such as this is likely to discharge on Edo State.