Ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election in Edo State, WALE ELEGBEDE writes that with the tense atmosphere in the state, adequate security should be put in place for a free and fair election
Violence is not alien to elections in Nigeria and it is believed that the election hostilities are promoted by political actors to win the elections at all costs. Their sole interest is how to induce mayhem as part of their do-or-die strategies to get their parties into power at all costs. In the process of the desperation, which usually suspends constitutionally prescribed electoral processes, many lives have been lost and wanton destruction of properties are always the order of the day.
Almost every election year and off-cycle elections have their tales of woes afterward. Perhaps to quell the embarrassing development and ensure that elections are conducted seamlessly, the Independent Electoral Commission under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu created the Interagency Consultative Committee on Election Security and saddled it with the responsibility of securing the voting process as well as lives and property. Ahead of tomorrow’s governorship election in Edo State, the stakes are also high and the signs around security in the state appear ominous especially in the light of the neck and neck brawl between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). The fallout of the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki, with his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has heightened tension in the run-up to tomorrow’s election.
Obaseki is running for re-election on the platform of the PDP while Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu is running on the platform of the APC. So far, the desperation has reached a fever pitch, with reported cases of shooting, fighting, killings, and maiming at campaign rallies of the two parties. Expectedly, each of them pointed accusing fingers at each other.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting held at Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre, Benin, the Edo state capital, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, said the security agency would deploy a 31,000 police personnel ahead of the governorship election. According to the Police boss, the Force was aware of pockets of violence during campaigns in the state, assuring that his men would ensure security across the state before, during, and after elections.
He noted that election security threat assessment had been undertaken and all flashpoints identified. “All the three senatorial districts, 18 local government areas, 192 wards, and 2,627 polling units across the state have been appropriately mapped out and adequate deployment will be made to provide security,” he said.
Similarly, IGP Adamu, also approved the deployment of 10 high ranked police officers to Edo for the election, which includes a Deputy Inspector-General, an Assistant Inspector General and eight Commissioners of Police. According to a statement issued by the Police Force Public Relations Officer, DCP Frank Mba, the Police Force Public Relations Officer, the deployment in line with Nigeria Police Force (NPF) efforts to ensure adequate security for the governorship election in the south-south state. Addressing newsmen after his deployment, DIG Oyebade said, for effective manning of the polling booths, no fewer than three police officers and personnel of other security agencies will be deployed in each of the 2,627 polling booths.
He said as a prelude to the election, the Police recently mopped up arms to curtail the proliferation of illegal arms, therefore, said that no carrying of arms by” persons, groups, or outfits by whatever name would be allowed. On the need for synergy among the security agencies before, during and after the polls, the state Commissioner of Police, Johnson Kokumo, stated at a forum that there would be a synergy among the security agencies as the Inspector-General of Police, Adamu, was in touch with other security chiefs for the election. Sharing his thought on the nature of violence in the run-up to the election, the acting Chairman of the APC in the state, Col. David Imuse (retd.), alleged that the pattern of violence had been one way, just as he accused the opposition PDP of orchestrating the unrest being recorded in the past one year.
Imuse said: “If you look at the pattern of violence in the state over the last one year, it has been one sided. You don’t need a soothsayer to tell you who the perpetrators of these criminal acts are; it is the ruling party and its supporters. So, we have made this point clear to the security agencies and it is their responsibility to carry out investigation and apprehend those responsible. The security agencies should do their job to make Edo State safe for a peaceful election.” On his part, the state Publicity Secretary, PDP, Chris Nehikhare urged INEC and the security agencies to be transparent, while wondering why the polity was so charged as this was not the first time an election was being held in the country.
He stated: “This is not the first time an election is being held in the country. We want a situation where there will be transparency not on the part of INEC alone, but from the security agencies, whose duty is to protect lives and property as well as the integrity of the ballot and the electorate.
“This is very important to us the people of Edo State. So, we expect that people are not victimised, intimidated and anybody caught with arms should be dealt with according to the law, while nobody should be threatened by security agents or members of another party.
“The arms build-up is a narrative being put forward by the other party to try to have the election postponed by creating an atmosphere of confusion and insecurity. It is their imagination that arms are being built up; we encourage them to go to the police and show them where arms are being stock-pilled. “The security agencies should be alert and do their job fairly and freely without bias as well as improve their intelligence gathering.
If our competitors have intelligence, I will advise them to share it with the security agencies.” Calling on the Police and other security agencies to ensure a peaceful election tomorrow, the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, said he has been praying to God and ancestors for violence-free election.
The monarch, who made the call when IGP Adamu visited him at his palace, expressed worry about the violence that has marred political campaigns in the state, describing the political tension as unprecedented. Clearly, the stakes are high and the partisanship are tangible on the streets of the Big Heart state. If there is any time that the security agencies should be on top of their game with a high sense of dutifulness, responsibility and objectivity, it is now.