As Edo votes

•We expect free and fair polls Saturday in spite of security concerns

Politics is always a source of tension for many in this country. And that often happens in the face of elections. As the gubernatorial election in Edo State looms on September 10, a few news stories have caused quite a few ripples in the land.

The two political parties were in the maelstrom of great political activities in the past years. The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have been on the hustings trying to persuade the voter that they have the greatest benefit to deliver for the state in the next four years.

The incumbency factor gave the APC a sense of something to show, a bragging right of sorts, and also an opportunity to tell the voters that they are the doers while the opponent sat on the sidelines as critics.

On the other hand, the PDP points out what it saw as the alternative. It also tried to flesh out a countervailing vision.  In the process, there have been accusations and counter-accusations. There have been advertisements and rhetoric and barnstorming and fierce music and incidents of violence and near violence.

But on the cusp of the election, we had bad news from the wrong source. The Directorate of Security Services (DSS) and the Nigeria Police warned that violence loomed in the Edo polls and cautioned that it was better that the polls be put off to stand the men and intelligence forces the opportunity to conduct the polls.

It sent jitters across the land. What was the violence and when was the real poll going to take place?

But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which has been panned in the past few months as the metaphor for inconclusive elections, provided a welcome irony. It said it was going to undertake consultations and was not ready to yield to the ominous notes from our security forces. No election, especially in Nigeria, can happen with not only security but maximum security.

So, for the same forces responsible for a calm vote to show doubt was seen as bad news for our democracy and Edo State. The INEC held consultations with leaders of political parties, civil society and traditional rulers in an atmosphere of tension. Hear the words of the INEC chairman, Mahmoud Yakubu: “INEC is fully prepared and mobilised for the election. The preparation started six months ago. We have mobilised, we have recruited, we have trained and we have deployed personnel. After today’s meeting, the news broke about security threat.”

He noted that men and material had been deployed, and INEC was ready to roll. The idea of putting off elections in this republic is not new. We have had this happen in local government elections and presidential elections. In fact, in 2015, a slew of elections were put off and this affected the presidential, gubernatorial and the two legislative chambers – senatorial and House of Representatives. But when it happened, the issue of security was tangential, except on account of the insurgency in the northeast. Even the case of the north was not political but it was about a country at war.

The INEC has braved the odds and it has decided the elections would take place. The DSS and the police could not issue such a warning without solid evidence, at least we don’t expect them to do so. So whatever the situation, we expect them not only to be alert but also to deploy the men, intelligence and other resources that would make the elections take place without bloodshed or rancour. The Edo people deserve no less as do the Nigerian people.

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