do State will elect a new governor on September 28 after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday postponed the election by 18 days.
On Wednesday, the Directorate of State Services (DSS) and the police advised the agency to shift the poll because of an untoward security situation.
At a joint news conference, the security agencies said it would be impossible for the election to hold on schedule.
The INEC, whose top officials, including Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, were already in Benin, the state capital, said it would meet and take a decision based on the advice.
The initial position of the agency yesterday was to go ahead with the election.
INEC National Commissioner in charge of voter education and publicity Prince Solomon Soyebi, said the agency was ready and would go ahead.
“We cannot shift the election on the basis of security report. We have weighed all the parameters and consequences of postponing the election. This Commission will not mortgage its independence for the sustenance of democracy.
“We have made 99 percent preparation for the elections and we have also weighed the political atmosphere,” Soyebi said.
But he later made a U-turn to announce a new date after a long deliberation. Reporters were kept for a long time after the agency called a news conference to break the news of the shift.
Sources said the delay in announcing the new date was to avert a clash with the coronation of the Crown Prince of Benin Kingdom, Ambassador Eheneden Erediauwa, as the Oba. The ceremony is slated for September 26.
Soyebi said the commission’s earlier insistent on holding the election on Saturday was because there was no official communication from security agencies.
He said the commission only received official communication from security agencies at about 6pm yesterday, drawing attention to the need to postpone the election in view of threats of terrorist activities in Edo and other states.
He said: “The communication indicates that deployment of security personnel country wide to secure lives and property would over stretch their capacity to at the same time provide adequate security for the election.
“The commission notes the request of the security agencies and considering the security implications of proceeding with the election, the safety of eligible voters, electoral officials, including ad hoc staff and other stakeholders, has decided to reschedule the Edo governorship election to Wednesday, 28 September.”
Governor Adams Oshiomhole welcomed the decision although he would have favoured a week’s postponement. He cautioned against a new date clashing with the Oba’s coronation.
The governor nevertheless said the All Progressives Congress (APC) would win because he claimed the PDP is not popular in the state.
Speaking on a television programme, Oshiomhole said the APC defeated the PDP in 16 local governments in the last election.
He said his party was ready for the election and that Edo is not a war zone.
His added: “We will win the election. The PDP has no credibility in this state.”
But the PDP declared the shift as illegal and a coup against the people.
In a statement yesterday by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the Makarfi-led PDP said the date should be kept sacrosanct, stressing that there were no tangible reasons to tamper with the election.
The statement said: “The call for the postponement of the election by top hierarchy of the security agencies predicated on alleged security threat was a less than ingenious attempt to buy time for the APC which is clearly heading for a major electoral catastrophe on Saturday.
“It is shameful and indeed a major constitutional breach for the security agencies to act in concert with the APC to truncate an election that had been planned for months.
“Nigerians were not deceived by the obvious concoctions of the security agencies whose performances during elections have been less than average since the advent of the Buhari Administration.
“Indeed they have become instruments in the hands of the ruling party to harass, intimidate and punish opponents”.
The PDP called on the President and the National Assembly to conduct a non partisan and holistic review and investigation of the national security apparatus to save the nation’s fledgling democracy.
“The postponement of the election by INEC is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the peoples’ trust in the commission and the security agencies.
“It is a coup against the people of Edo State in particular and Nigerians in general. Since the APC assumed power, virtually all elections conducted by INEC have either been inconclusive or truncated.
“Saturday’s election in Edo State must be an exemption. We will not accept anything less than free, fair and transparent election conducted and concluded the same day.
“INEC must rise to the occasion to restore the confidence of Nigerians in its operations. Edo is a test case. With the way INEC is performing, how are we sure that it would be able to handle the 2019 national elections.
In another statement by its publicity secretary, Chri Nehikiare, Edo State PDP accused INEC and the state government of orchestrating the shift.
‘’For us, the move by INEC to put off the election is shocking and unacceptable.
‘’We are taken aback by the rash security advice a day after the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, was present at the final campaign rally of the APC in Benin City, which was concluded without any security hitch.’’
The party said INEC recently conducted a hitch-free senatorial bye-election in Borno State, a state which had remained a hotbed of terrorism and insurgency, yet the security agencies saw no reason to advise against the conduct of the election.
‘’We are therefore convinced that this phantom security advice is orchestrated in connivance with the APC in the face of imminent defeat in the governorship election,’’ the PDP added.