The Transition Monitoring Group on Wednesday said the decision by Nigerian security agencies to unilaterally suggest a postponement of the upcoming gubernatorial election in Edo State was unacceptable.
In a statement signed by its chairperson, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, the TMG, a coalition of Nigerian civil society groups, said the decision was “poorly timed, wrongly presented” and capable of eroding the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral system.
The Nigeria Police Force and the State Security Service had released a joint statement requesting the postponement of the election. They cited “credible intelligence” of a plot by “insurgent and extremist elements” to disrupt the poll slated for September 10.
Godwin Obaseki, the APC candidate, is slugging it out with Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the PDP in the race to replace incumbent Adams Oshiomhole whose two-term tenure expires this November.
President Buhari was in Benin City on Tuesday where he campaigned for Mr. Obaseki in their party’s final push to sway the undecided.
As a result, the TMG said it was wrong for security agencies to publicly push for postponement without carrying INEC along at this stage in the campaign.
“It is trite fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies have meeting forums and channels of communication.
“It is astonishing that INEC appears not to have been taken into confidence before the security agencies came out in full glare of the public to announce its preference for a postponement,” Ms. Akiyode-Afolabi said.
INEC had said it was not carried along by the security agencies prior to the announcement, saying it would embark on consultations to determine the next course of action.
Ms. Akiyode-Afolabi said the security agencies should understand that their announcement was capable of causing tensions that they intended to forestall in the first place.
“TMG feels strongly that this tendency could undermine the confidence of voters and precipitate apathy and is capable of building tension in the electoral space,” Ms. Akiyode-Afolabi said. “This could lead to electoral violence, which the security agencies are supposedly trying to prevent.”
Shortly after the announcement, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, weighed in, alleging that the APC was behind the plot as it was desperate to win elections.
“Democracy in Nigeria has now graduated from inconclusive elections to postponement of elections in other to return APC candidates at all cost,” Mr. Fayose said.
In its reaction, the opposition PDP said in a statement that the decision was “shocking, bizarre and confusing.”
The TMG also echoed some Nigerians who slammed the move as a reminiscent of the postponement of the 2015 elections which may not necessarily work in favour of those orchestrated it in the end.
“This clear interference in the electoral process by the security agencies, is a throwback to the 2015 general election, which was also postponed at the behest of the nation’s security chiefs,” the group said.