Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chair Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu yesterday convened a stakeholders’ meeting in Benin, the Edo State capital, after receiving the security advice that Saturday’s governorship election should be shifted.
Leaders of political parties, civil society and traditional rulers attended the meeting, which sparked a huge debate and suspense.
Yakubu told the impromptu gathering that the call for postponement had nothing to with the preparation for the election. He said INEC was ready for a successful poll.
He is to meet with security agencies for more details about the threat and how it could affect the election.
A decision will be taken today on whether the election will go on or not, Yakubu said, adding that the independence of INEC is guaranteed.
Before the meeting with stakeholders in Benin, party agents were already stationed at the CBN office to escort and monitor the transportation of sensitive materials but they were recalled.
Prof. Yakubu said: “INEC is fully prepared and mobilised for the election. The preparation started six months ago. We have mobilized, we have recruited, we have trained and we have deployed personnel. After today’s meeting, the news broke about security threat. We agreed to take delivery of the sensitive materials from the CBN to our office for further distribution to the local governments. We have fully implemented all activities in preparation for the election.
“If we proceed, it means getting the sensitive materials from the CBN and once the materials leave the CBN, we consider them exposed. We have the result sheets and ballot papers customised local government by local government. It took time for the materials to be delivered. Shall we proceed or leave matters as they are until further clarification with security agencies?
“The independence of INEC will be protected. This is the only body empowered to set a date for election. INEC will do all to protect Nigeria’s democracy. We need to consult with those that gave the advice. They are not in Benin. INEC will take a decision as soon as possible.”
A statement by Yakubu’s spokesman Rotimi Oyekanmi said: “We have just met again with the stakeholders where various pieces of advice were given by them.
“INEC then decided that it would be necessary for it to consult with both the DSS and the police that issued a statement earlier today (yesterday), to find out what informed their decision to issue that statement.
“Thereafter, INEC will take a decision that will be communicated to all Nigerians. However, the commission wishes to assure all Nigerians that its independence will not be compromised.”
The likelihood of a shift set the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on a collision course.
Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole said his party is “over prepared” for the election.
The APC candidate is Godwin Obaseki.
He appealed to INEC not to postpone the “final burial of the PDP for too long”.
He added: “The APC is ready for the election this Saturday and that was why we held our mega rally on Tuesday and after that rally our people across the state became more committed, more dogged and ready for the election.
“I am already preparing to go to my village to also mobilise my people as other party leaders are doing, that is to let you know that we are not relaxing despite the fact that we know the PDP is already dead and our people are just getting ready for the burial.
“However, security issues are security issues and as regards elections they are very critical. If on their own they are calling on INEC for postponement, I am sure they must have their reasons because they are experts in it. If you recall, we raised the alarm that the PDP had planned to import thugs from neighbouring states to help them unleash mayhem on our people because they are not prepared for the election.
“They have not been campaigning because they have no message, rather, they imported thugs into the state but I wish the election will go on so that security agents will pick them up and expose them. So, if security agents are raising this same alarm, I will not be surprised. I am aware some of my colleagues in the Southsouth threatened that they will deal with me in Edo because I went against former President Jonathan.
“But I laughed because I am serving the living God and I am glad they brought a fake pastor as their candidate and we will flush them all out. So these threats have been there but my appeal is that if INEC is shifting the election, it should not be too far because we are eager to bury the PDP.
“I am making this passionate appeal so that we can get this over. I am ready, my people are ready. Whatever is the decision, we shall abide by it because I also know that security issues are serious matters.”
A statement by PDP candidate Osagie Ize-Iyamu’s campaign organisation accused the APC of stage managing the shift because it is afraid of defeat.
According to Ize-Iyamu, he had a comfortable lead over the APC from a state-wide survey his team claimed to have conducted.
The statement said the survey, ”supervised by Dr. Ubani Azuka and released on Tuesday by the organisation, shows that the lead, which Obaseki had enjoyed in the Edo North—compared to the last survey, had hugely declined.
“The report said the survey, which targeted 23,000 respondents and cut across the three senatorial districts, was carried out between August 1 and September 2, 2016.
“The latest report by the organisation, which targeted likely voters by telephone and online survey in the three senatorial districts: Edo South, Edo Central and Edo North, showed Ize-Iyamu to have the support of 75 per cent of the electorate in Edo South; 77 per cent in Edo Central, and 47 per cent in Edo North versus 25 per cent, 22 per cent and 53 per cent of the respondents, who said they supported Obaseki.
“The survey said that many of the respondents based their decision on the neglect of their communities, unfulfilled promises by the government, huge corruption within the state government, high cost of living, bad roads and abandoned projects in their areas.”
Edo PDP also condemned the planned postponement as “ a despicable connivance” with the security agencies.
A statement by Publicity Secretary Chris Nehikhare, said:
“Edo PDP has condemned in very strong terms and brings to the attention of the general public, especially the good people of Edo State, a grand plan by APC to rig Edo elections through despicable connivance with security agencies whose questionable security report INEC has acted upon to postpone the elections.
“The security agencies in their report were talking about planned attacks on densely populated areas during the Sallah celebrations on September 12 &13 ;whereas Edo election is onSeptember 10.
“What APC and its leaders do not realise is that the liberation movement is beyond Ize-Iyamu and the PDP; it is a statewide consciousness; it is a defining idea and movement whose time has come, as the future is now.”