The security scare in Edo

A S the world awaited another examination of Nigeria’s slow and generally adjudged uninspiring walk towards strengthening democratic  institutions in the governorship election slated for Edo State on September 10, 2016, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) suddenly put spanners in the works. The election, which like all elections in a developing country had witnessed a lot of saber-rattling and emotions, was suddenly cancelled by the electoral umpire, citing a security report which indicated that there might be security threats to the election. The Nigeria Police and the Directorate of State Services (DSS) had jointly hinted at the possibility of a terrorist strike in Edo State, ostensibly within the period of the election. Based on this claim, the election was postponed till September 28, 2016.

The postponement has courted the ire of politicians and many Nigerians. It came on the heels of allegations and counter allegations from the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Why INEC would want to cancel a scheduled election where everything else was going smoothly apart from the generally inaccessible claim of an impending strike by terrorists was queer and unacceptable to the generality of commentators. The suspicion, which snowballed into allegation of partisanship, is rife that the ruling party had deployed its might to postpone the election because the Edo State electoral weather was unfavourable to its aspiration of retaining power. Even though the allegation has been rebutted by the APC and INEC as unrealistic and wild, there has been no scientific and empirical justification for the postponement.

The security claim by the DSS and police which was used to justify the postponement, serious as it may seem because of the vice grip of violence and terror on the Nigerian landscape, appears to be too tenuous to warrant the postponement. Indeed, it looks like a throwback to the days of military governments’ peremptory decisions to hide national incompetence and inability under the plane banner of national security. National security had always been the sing song of the military top brass during military dictatorship. The reason is not far-fetched. Security is one of the most impenetrable shields ever, with its shroud of secrecy. It is an index of government or governance whose ultimate and generally accepted mode of operation is restricted audience and restricted circulation. Due to this restriction of circulation, national security easily becomes a ploy in the hands of nefarious governments and their appendages in their gambit of hiding serious ineptitude and gang-ups from the views of the people.

It was for this singular reason that national security became the personal security of the helmsman and seldom the security of the people. A number of atrocities were committed, and are still being committed, hiding under this shroud. Asking questions about the ‘national security’ reasons adduced by government is regarded as a threat to the state, thus giving official imprimatur to the whims and caprices of ignoble official decisions and policies. In the case of the Edo election, the reasons given by INEC, based on a report by the police and the DSS, does not seem to add up. Granted that, for “national security reasons” the DSS and police would not go into the details of this claim of an impending terrorist strike in Edo, the fact that there is absolutely no terrorist strike before now in the state makes the claim very unrealistic and unreliable as a precedent to build a probability upon. Worse still, the postponement is courting unnecessary imputation of ulterior motives.

The statement of postponement also came on the heels of the claim by the police hierarchy that it had deployed 25,000 policemen for the election. For a state that had never been hit by insurgents, how strong was the so-called report by the security agencies to warrant a postponement of such a highly important election? What cogent reason can the security establishment give to a cynical Nigerian public that is used to such government insincerity, to convince the people that this is not another of such lies at the very top? What is the nature of this impending overwhelm of 25,000-strong Nigerian policemen, not to mention the military, that should warrant the postponement? INEC had announced that it was going ahead with the election, but pressure from the security agencies apparently forced it to inform Nigerians that it was postponing the election at the eleventh hour.

We condemn the postponement in its totality. It is a costly shift whose consequence could be an erosion of the confidence of Nigerians in government and its policies, among other consequences. INEC, of course, will not go ahead with an election where the security agencies are not prepared to do their jobs. Therefore, it would be unfair to single the commission out for blame in the current instance. However, it should always be careful to explain its position to Nigerians and not to take their adulations for granted. In the same vein, we like to caution the security agencies not to take Nigerians for granted, citing nebulous security reasons.