Why observer group opposes plot to postpone Ondo poll

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Linus Aleke:

As the sinister plot and coordinated media advocacy for the postponement of Ondo state governorship election scheduled to take place on the 26th of Nov. hits the roof top, an election observer group under the aegis of ‘Election Monitor’ has vehemently opposed the overture been made for the poll shift.

The group who expressed this opposition in a press conference in Abuja also maintained that the internal wrangling in one political party is not enough to necessitate the ongoing campaign for postponement of the scheduled poll.

National Coordinator of the group Mr. Abiodun Ajijola maintained that postponement of the poll would attract additional cost to the electoral umpire; political parties, civil society groups and the media, adding that postponement of Edo election forced some candidate to withdraw from the race to government house.

According to him, “Media reports indicate that there have been calls by some groups and individuals for INEC to postpone the 2016 Ondo state governorship election. While INEC has insisted that it would not postpone the election, the calls for postponement seem to be getting louder in certain quarters within Ondo state.”

Ajijola maintained that his group is concerned because this pattern of election postponement has repeated itself too often in the recent Nigerian elections. Noting, “It could be recalled that INEC insisted it would not postpone the 2015 general elections, but later the elections were postponed.”

The same scenario according to him “Played out in the 2016 Edo state governorship election, where INEC also initially refused to shift the poll but later had to postpone the election. From all indications, it appears there is mounting pressure by certain groups for the postponement of the 2016 Ondo state governorship election. Even though INEC has stated that it is going ahead with the scheduled date, we insist that the ugly history of postponement of election should not repeat itself.”

The civil society group posited that the commission cannot act outside the law of the land, citing relevant sections of electoral Act that made provisions for postponement of election in Nigeria, adding that any action outside the law would amount to act of illegality on the part of the commission.

He said that section 26 subsection 1, of Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) empowers the electoral commission to postpone an election if the foregoing anomalies play out. “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the election as a result of natural disaster or other emergencies, the commission may postpone election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”

He nonetheless, insisted unequivocally that there is no justifiable and verifiable reasons from those calling for postponement of the election and therefore urge the commission not to yield to such pressure.

His words, “It is Election Monitor’s opinion that INEC cannot shift an election outside the constitutional provisions. In addition, INEC should not be intimidated in any way to take an unlawful action especially when the political party involved clearly has a history of internal crises in the state.

“Were INEC to shift the polls because of the candidacy of any particular individual, it would not be an action of equity or justice but an action of partisanship, showing favoritism towards a particular candidate over and above the remaining 27 candidates. The commission must not succumb to this in the slightest manner.”

The National Coordinator frowned at insinuation in certain quarters that there is a covert plot by some political actors in the state to cause violence and mayhem so as to necessitate a poll shift, while calling on government to treat any politician caught instigating violence as a criminal.

He also called on electorate in the state to be law abiding before, during and after the poll, while appealing to the judiciary not to allow itself to be used to truncate the electoral process which will exacerbate internal crisis in political parties.

Some media report according to him, “Have cited a plot to destabilize the state in order to satisfy the conditions of “Serious breach of the peace is likely” which is one of the conditions through which an election could be postponed. It is important to appreciate the weight of this sort of action, if these media reports have any level of veracity in them, then it means that there may be attempts to use violence to sabotage the electoral process.

“So this should clearly be seem for what it is, which is an affront and aggression against the state and the full weight of the law should be visited on any person or group that may be hatching such wicked plot.

Ajijola also observed that one of the leading political parties in the Ondo governorship race, the Peoples Democratic Party is known for its perennial internal crisis.

“It should be noted that this is not the first time that PDP in Ondo state has had internal crisis close to major election. It may be recalled that on the 7th January 2015, the newly deployed Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to Ondo state at the time, Mr. Segun Agbaje warned that PDP in the state risked not fielding candidate in the 2015 General elections if it failed to resolve its internal crises.

“It is quite disturbing that almost two years after, the PDP in Ondo state still finds itself in a continual history of internal crises. It is however, important to note, that of all the three parties having court cases, (APC, AD and PDP) only supporters of the PDP have been canvassing for poll shift.

“But it is very clear from the electoral Act that election cannot be postponed because of internal crisis in political parties. While the internal wrangling in PDP is unfortunate, it would be unfair to the remaining 27 contestants in the upcoming poll if the election is postponed because of internal bickering in one party even if that party enjoys incumbency in the state.”

He further argued that since the crisis in PDP is not orchestrated by the electoral body, it should not be pressured to shit the poll in order to give PDP time to resolve its crises, while reiterating the negative implication of poll shift.

“It is important to also note that postponement of an election has huge cost and logistics implications on INEC; candidates, observer groups, the media and other stakeholders. If the postponement of an election forces a candidate who is not well funded out of the race, then such postponement has made the election unfair. The postponement of Edo state governorship election led to some political parties been unable to compete.” He observed.

In conclusion, the group states clearly that the commission should resist any attempt to be coerced, intimidated or arm twisted into postponing an election it is prepared to conduct irrespective of whatever threat are made from any quarter, while urging the commission to continue to state publicly that it is prepared to go ahead with the election as planned.

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