But for the refusal of top police officers dispatched to Anambra State to supervise security during the just-concluded governorship election, the incumbent governor would have been robbed of victory
Ahead of the November 18, 2017 governorship election in Anambra State won by a wide margin by the incumbent governor, Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, not many invested a modicum of confidence in the ability of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the security agencies. In particular the Nigeria Police Force, people feared would not be neutral in discharging their national assignments. Their propensities for bias were well demonstrated during the Edo State governorship election of September 28 last year whereby the security agencies and INEC brazenly aided the victory of the candidate of the ruling party by shutting out election observers and journalists from the collation centre where the results were allegedly manipulated. This ugly antecedent did not, therefore, give much hope to candidates of opposition parties, their supporters, members of the public, and other stakeholders in the Anambra election that such brash impunity would not be visited on the state.
It was perhaps based on this misgiving that the state governor, who was seeking a second term in office, decided to pay a visit to the president, Muhammadu Buhari, to appeal for a level playing field for all parties. He succeeded in extracting a promise from the president that the election would be free and fair. And after the election, in which he coasted home to a landslide victory, garnering 54 percent of the total votes cast, Obiano had every reason to return to Abuja to express his gratitude to the president for making his word his bond. That none of the candidates had gone to court to challenge the outcome of the election, speaks eloquently of its considerable measure of credibility in spite of a few flaws highlighted by observers, some of them beyond the control of the umpire. The police high command had deployed 26,000 policemen for the election which was adjudged peaceful, free, and fair.
First to congratulate the police officers and men on election duty for giving a good account of themselves was no other but their boss, Ibrahim Idris, the inspector-general of police, IGP. The police service commission, PSC, had also expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the policemen, noting that they were “civil, polite, and friendly in the performance of their duties”. None of the election monitors had indicted the police for any untoward conduct. A day after the election, a visibly pleased inspector-general of police, Ibrahim Idris commended his men and other security agencies deployed to Anambra State for the election for acquitting themselves creditably in ensuring effective security coverage in the course of the election. In a statement on his behalf by Jimoh Moshood, Force Public Relations Officer, Idris extolled the “high-level professionalism, politeness, firmness and unbiased conducts of the police personnel, before, during and after the election”. He commended all the police personnel for their personal sacrifice, collective patriotism, and commitment in ensuring that the election was conducted in an atmosphere of peace. According to Idris, the impressive performance of the police personnel to ensure a successful election was a clear testimony of the capability of the force in its renewed commitment to continue to adhere to international best practices in the conduct of elections. The police boss described as gratifying and highly commendable, “the good disposition and spirit of sportsmanship exhibited by most of the political parties in the election which doused fear and tensions during the election”.
As the number one cop in the country on whose table the buck stops, the glory for the good outing no doubt goes to him. He, therefore, has every reason to be proud of this notable achievement. But what many may not know is that the real heroes of the election are the superior police officers drafted to the state to coordinate security during and after the election, especially against the menace of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which had threatened that the election would not hold. A formidable team of top echelons of the police force led by the deputy inspector-general of police, DIG, in charge of operations, supported by three assistant-inspectors-general, AIGs, and three commissioners of police, had been dispatched to the state one week ahead of the election.
An inside source hinted the magazine that but for the high level of integrity, professionalism, and patriotism displayed by the very senior officers, Anambra State would have witnessed a monumental post-election violence. The magazine was told how some desperate governors of the APC had, a few hours to the poll, tried to compromise the officers to rig the election in favour of the party’s candidate, Tony Nwoye. The miffed source remarked that “with the governors’ clandestine moves, it is now clear the mission of some of these governors when they sneak into sister states on the eve of elections to be held there”. It was gathered that they had met the officers to strike a deal with them on how to allow manipulation of figures in favour of Nwoye. It was authoritatively gathered that the IGP was not unaware of the sinister plot. Unfortunately for the governors, they met a brick wall as the police officers refused to play ball. They were said to have told the governors that they could try their luck with INEC; but as for them, no deal. Idris, who has the penchant for playing to the gallery to please his principal, was to later call some of the officers to persuade them to cooperate with the governors.
Some of them were said to have politely declined, reminding him of the security implication of such compromise. He was said to have been told that haven been on ground for several days, the feelers they were getting were that APGA was solidly on ground, and the incumbent governor in firm grip of the state, and so, there was no way any candidate could defeat the governor. They reportedly told Idris that should there be a backlash in the event of their upturning the people’s wish, the police, not the governors, would take the blame, a situation that would further rubbish the image of the police as an institution. In a recent global ranking by World Internal Security and Police Index International, WISPI the Nigeria Police Force had been adjudged the worst in the world, especially in terms of its ability to handle internal security. One hundred and twenty-seven countries were assessed. The Transparency International had also consistently rated it as one of the most corrupt institutions in the African continent. It was, therefore, a credit to the officers that they resisted the lure of filthy lucre to perpetrate injustice that could plunge the state into violence. The IGP whom the source gave the credit for usually bowing to superior arguments, was said to have conceded hence the peace that prevailed after the declaration of the results, with other candidates congratulating the winner and resolving not to challenge the outcome of the election.
It was learnt that if the police had agreed to be a willing tool, it would have been easy to rein in a seemingly more pliable INEC to rig the votes in favour of APC.