February Date for General Elections Sacrosanct

Kayode Idowu


The presidential campaign teams of both the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress are engaged in sabre-rattling over plans to truncate the February elections even as President Goodluck Jonathan and the Independent National Electoral Commission assure Nigerian that the date for the general elections cannot be shifted

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Feb. 9, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THOSE calling for a change in the date of the general elections scheduled to hold on February 14 and 28, will be disappointed because of the hard stance of the federal government and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Both the government and INEC have expressly reiterated their resolved to hold the elections despite the complaints trailing the distribution of the permanent voters card, PVC, which will enable voters to vote in their elections. This is coming on the heels of public outcry that half of the 68 million registered voters are yet to collect their permanent voters’ cards. Sambo Dasuki, national security adviser, weighed in on this calling on INEC to shift the election dates within the stipulated time while in London last week.

But President Goodluck Jonathan and INEC have ignored Dasuki’s call. On Sunday, January 25, Jonathan during his meeting with John Kerry, United States Secretary of State,  who paid an unscheduled visit to the country, said: “I made it absolutely clear that the May 29, handover date is sacrosanct. In addition, the Government will provide all resources that are required by the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that the election goes smoothly. I also emphasised that INEC is an independent body, which makes its own decisions without any interference from the Government”.

Similarly, Jega and his top officials have made the rounds of television houses, saying they are ready and prepared to conduct the elections despite the hiccups over the PVC assuring those who have not collected to theirs that they have till January 31 to do so.

But despite the reassurances, many Nigerians and interest groups do not see how the electoral umpire could conduct a free and fair election when many Nigerians are likely to be disenfranchised. There is also the idea that the elections could be truncated through the courts. There are court actions challenging the candidature of both Jonathan and Buhari. In the case of Jonathan the Hope Democratic Party wants him disqualified on grounds of ineligibility while that of Buhari is because of perjury over the raging scandal surrounding his certificate. Expectedly, both the APC and PDP campaign teams have been shelling each other of plan and counter plans to torpedo the general elections.

The first salvo was released by the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation, APCPCO, On Thursday, January 29, when it raised alarm about a dastardly plot by The PDP and the Jonathan-led government to scuttle the 2015 general elections through subterfuge of frivolous litigation initiated by some people to get a court pronouncement (from one of the Presidency’s pliable Judges) to the effect that General Muhammadu Buhari – the APC presidential candidate – lied under oath in saying that the military had his certificate, whereas, the military had denied being in possession of the certificate.

Lai Mohammed

Garba Shehu, director of Media and Publicity of the campaign, said the counter arguments by the APC’s candidate’s counsel would not matter because the particular Federal High Judge has been prepared to do a dirty hatchet job. The APC said it was their calculation that this wicked pronouncement of disqualification of the APC candidate shall precipitate spontaneous violent protests across the country and that this scenario shall then make President Goodluck Jonathan to declare a six-month state of emergency across the land.

According to him, the three-week long strike action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN, was embarked upon on the prodding of the PDP-led federal government as a way to stymie any higher Court upturning of the lower Court pronouncement which ruled on President Jonathan’s eligibility to contest the February 14 election. Also, the APC Campaign said the same trade Union has been procured to open the Court to allow for this Court pronouncement in disqualifying General Buhari from contesting the election.

“We are aware of the intense desperation of the PDP-led Federal government of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan in desiring to retain political power at all costs despite his and his party’s overwhelming rejection by the Nigerian people, ahead of the 2015 general election. We have brought this wicked plot of the PDP-led government to the attention of Nigerians, from whom any government derives its legitimacy. Nigeria cannot be thrown into chaos because of the selfish and callous desire of a tiny cabal to goad the Nigerian people into its destructive path. The governance of the Nigerian people by any person or group of persons must have the assent of the Nigerian people,” Shehu said.

The APC Campaign called on the International community to prevail on this obviously agitated presidency not to plunge the Nigerian State into avoidable intractable crisis. Swiftly returning its own volley, the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Organisation rammed the APC for whipping up sentiments and inciting violence ahead of the scheduled February 14 and 28 general elections.

“The APC’s penchant for propaganda and threat of violence ismind-boggling. We are not, at all, surprised about the false alarm raised by the APC that the PDP-controlled Federal Government is planning to declare a six-month state of emergency across the land. It is characteristic of the opposition to make spurious allegations in the build-up to the scheduled February general elections,” Femi Fani-Kayode, director of Media and Publicity of the PDPPCO, said.

According to Fani-Kayode, the narrative weaved together by the opposition party is disingenuous and it shows how desperate it has become in its impossible bid to dislodge the PDP-controlled Federal Government. “It is clear that the APC now knows full well that a crushing defeat awaits it at the February 14, presidential election; otherwise why would it embark on this flight of illusion about a purported plot by the PDP to precipitate violence prelude to the declaration of a state of emergency? We state categorically that the PDP is ready for the February 14 presidential elections and all subsequent elections; and is therefore not party to any imagined ploy to postpone or cancel the election,” Fani-Kayode said.

Garba Shehu

He continued: “At no time has the PDP ever had the power to postpone or cancel elections. Moreover, the PDP has been consistent in stating its readiness for the forthcoming elections. We urge our numerous supporters and indeed all Nigerians to discountenance the panic-driven shenanigans of the APC.

The inalienable right of every eligible Nigerian to participate in the political process of our great country is guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution as amended and the relevant Electoral Laws.

“The PDP has neither the right nor inclination to dictate to anyone, including members of the opposition party, how he or she participates in the electoral process. If the APC is afraid that its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari has fallen foul of the laws of the land, instead of crying wolf he should submit himself to the nearest police for interrogation and prosecution.

The forthcoming election is not and should not be a do-or-die affair. We must state clearly that we are not impressed or in the least bit intimidated by their constant, boastful and empty threats. All the promises of violence in the world will not stop us from shaming them on February 14th. The PDP is battle-ready and we are confident of victory in a free, fair and credible election on February 14 and 28,” he said.

The sabre-rattling of APC and PDP notwithstanding, the Situation Room, made up of Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria is also worried about the challenges of production and distribution of permanent voters cards by the INEC. It is concerned that INEC has allowed logistical problems to persist and becloud its preparations for the elections, urging the electoral body to immediately take steps to address several logistical and other concerns about the elections, including ensuring that the delay in the distribution of PVCs is resolved urgently by operating longer hours. It advised the INEC to more effectively communicate and update Nigerians on a daily and regular basis, its preparations and plans for the elections, including the extent of progress on training and deployment of permanent and ad hoc staff for election duty and other logistics arrangements.

Fani Kayode

The Situation Room also calls on the federal and state governments to declare at least one work-free day towards the end of a week to enable Nigerians concentrate on collecting their PVCs. The INEC should also be encouraged to make adequate preparations to enable it deliver on its promises to hold credible elections on its announced dates of February 14 and 28. The Situation Room insists that only PVC and card reader machines should be used for elections. “The suggestions that Temporary Voters Cards be used will send a wrong signal and nullify all of the efforts put in place by INEC to achieve a fraud-free election,” it said.

The Situation Room is also concerned that with just about two weeks to the February elections, the Security Services, particularly the Nigeria Police, have been unable to publicly state and disclose its election plans and preparations to the public, including what plans it has put in place to professionally and in compliance with human rights standards, manage crowds and possible disturbances associated with elections. It enjoined the Police authority to publicly state its election plans and make a commitment to professionalism and non-partisanship during the elections, including how it intends to cater for the welfare of its personnel being deployed for the elections.

The political parties and their candidates, according to the Situation, are failing in their responsibility of enlightening voters on issues and are rather focused on personality attacks, mudslinging, scare-mongering and hate campaigns. “Parties and their candidates should respond to citizens’ demands for issue-based campaign and outline what strategies they intend to adopt to address national development issues. Candidates should take responsibility for the actions and excesses of their agents and supporters who breach electoral guidelines and code of conduct, including agents and supporters who engage in violence.

It also admonishes voters to discountenance campaigns by political parties and candidates that tend to emphasise religious, regional and ethnic divisions and to prepare to cast their votes in the general elections and ensure that they go to centres designated by INEC to collect their PVCs preparatory to voting in next month’s polls for candidates of their choice.

The Situation Room comprising Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Enough is Enough Nigeria and Wangonet, Electoral Reform (PER) and Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth & Advancement, YIAGA, Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, CITAD, CISLAC and several other CSOs numbering more than 60 will deploy and receive reports from observers across the 36 States of the country and the FCT.

This deployment also covers the North East of the country. It is also training observers to impartially observe the elections from the point of distribution of materials to voting, collation of results and announcements. Situation Room intends to pursue a fair, objective and non-partisan strategy for observing the elections.