Usman Okai

OPINION | Edo Guber Election: INEC, Security Agencies and the International Community – By Usman Okai Austin

As the nation prepared for the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections, Nigeria, as usual was thrown into frenetic political activities with gladiators on all sides brandishing various obnoxious weapons of fratricidal warfare. To the people of Edo State, particularly whose election preceded that of Ondo State, the occasion presented yet another opportunity for them to make their choices.

However, in the case of Edo, a wide range of interested parties within and without the state had by their utterances and actions heated up the political atmosphere of the state. This reverberated in the entire country of course along Nigeria’s major political fault lines. Many feared a re-enactment of the violence, fraud and political murders that characterized the November 2019 gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.

Indeed, that was the direction the Edo gubernatorial election was headed as both the APC and PDP mobilized for a showdown in the state. Concerned citizens including the reverent Oba of Benin had to urge caution on all political sides, admonishing the political players to allow the electorate make their choices according to the law and established electoral procedure and processes. Perhaps, what made a more significant difference in the relatively peaceful election that we just witnessed in Edo State were the terse statements issued by the Governments of the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK): including the silent vigilance of the European Union (EU) on the entire process.

While the United States, through its embassy in Nigeria said it has slammed visa bans on certain anonymous persons it had identified to be associated with electoral violence and malpractices in the last gubernatorial elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States, the UK warned that it will exert similar measures on anyone that truncates or tries to truncate free, fair and peaceful runs of gubernatorial elections in Edo and Ondo states.

These statements by all means rattled and jolted Nigeria’s desperate politicians and their cohorts. While some protested albeit lamely, many including the Nigerian Governments with their agencies knew that they were under a potent searchlight this time around unlike what obtained in the past. Shortly before INEC deployed to Edo State, it’s cerebral chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, in frank admonition, told his staff to ensure they abided and acted according to extant electoral laws emphasizing that they must remain neutral and execute a free and fair election while avoiding a repeat of the shenanigans that attended the last Kogi election.

Similarly, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu admonished the Nigerian Police Force with all other security agencies collaborating with it to remain neutral during the elections but ensure that all parties including the electorate observed all laws without breaching internal peace and security as they went about their political activities in Edo State. Most importantly, the admonition by President Muhammadu Buhari to both INEC and security agencies to ensure credible polls in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility while vowing to congratulate whichever candidate wins fairly and lawfully, laid the foundation for what we just witnessed in Edo State.

It was not as if the parties in the gubernatorial election did not attempt as usual to sway proceedings in their favour by whatever means including use of violence, ballot snatching, intimidation, murder etc. But the resolve of most electoral and security officials to discharge their responsibilities according to the Presidential order as well as the vigilance of the electorate threw spanners in their works.

Concerned citizens including the reverent Oba of Benin had to urge caution on all political sides, admonishing the political players to allow the electorate make their choices according to the law and established electoral procedure and processes. Perhaps, what made a more significant difference in the relatively peaceful election that we just witnessed in Edo State were the terse statements issued by the Governments of the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK): including the silent vigilance of the European Union (EU) on the entire process.

The people have made their choice and INEC as the arbiter has interpreted the choices through the results that it announced and will conclusively announce. Let me borrow a common refrain among political gladiators in Nigeria to say whosoever is not satisfied with the outcome of the election in Edo State should approach the courts. The courts themselves must know that both the people and the international community are also watching them.

For now, many of the political gladiators have retreated to their camps to prepare for Ondo State gubernatorial election. Let none of them be under any illusion that they can act differently from the way they acted in Edo State. That will amount to committing political suicide. If anything, it is advisable for them to allow the political re-generation that has begun in Edo State to flourish and mature in order for our nation to move forward. Let the so called political godfathers allow Nigerians to freely exercise their political franchises that they have usurped for a long time now.

The day is far too gone in our country and the night will soon come when no man can work again. Before I conclude let me be clear that I have no political interest whatsoever in who won or lost the gubernatorial election in Edo State. Neither am I vested in the forthcoming one in Ondo State.

After all, all the gladiators are collectively different sides of the same coin. My interest is rather with the electorate that after a protracted denial of their rights, now had the privilege once again to make choices. I dedicate this feat to President Muhammadu Buhari, INEC, the Nigerian Police Force with all cooperating security agencies and indeed, the international community. Nigeria, is this a new dawn?

Usman Okai Austin writes from Abuja

Featured Image Credit: Usman Okai Austin/Facebook

 

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