*Denies influencing election schedule
BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE & OKEY NDIRIBE
THE presidency has dismissed as false, comments that it influenced the 2015 election time-table released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, last week.
Kano State Governor, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Monday, accused the Presidency of influencing the electoral umpire to schedule the presidential election first so as to create a ‘bandwagon effect’ in subsequent elections in favour of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“I don’t know how they influenced the Independent National Electoral Commission to put this election and National Assembly election first and then two weeks after, they’ll do House of Assembly and governorship elections. I think the presidential election should come last,” he said.
Responding to the allegation, Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi, in a chat with Vanguard, said the Presidency had no hands in the issuance of the election timetable, which he said they were not expecting.
This came as the INEC gave reasons it released the schedules early and fixed presidential polls first.
Said Obi: “They (INEC) have a constitutional responsibility to take care of elections. It is that responsibility they have adhered to. For me, it is part of the transformation agenda that those who are given responsibilities to perform do so without let or hindrance.
That is what the (Professor Attahiru) Jega-led INEC has done. Nobody was expecting it. If anybody was saying that they were under some influence that person is wrong in his presumption.
“It is the independent nature of the various organisations under this administration that is coming to play. We must thank the President for making sure that these organisations have a free atmosphere to function.”
Asked if the timetable was not released too early, given that the 2015 elections are 13 months away, Senator Obi said: “It is their (INEC) responsibility to put out dates for elections, declare dates for campaigns, among others, that is what they have done. Don’t forget they did that under a retreat. All of them cannot be making a mistake at the same time. ”
On whether putting the presidential election first would not create a bandwagon effect in favour of the PDP as alleged, Obi said the argument was neither here nor there because past elections had not followed any strict order.
History of elections in Nigeria
Indeed, past elections in the country beginning from the Second Republic did not follow any strict order.In 1979, the governorship election was held first on July 28 followed by the presidential polls on August 11.
However, in 1983, the controversial ‘bandwagon effect’ was introduced into Nigeria’s political lexicon when the presidential election was conducted first on August 6 while governorship polls came up a week later on August 13. The elections were characterised by widespread rigging, which the military also cited as one of their excuses for wresting ing power four months later on December 31, 1983.
To return the country to civil rule in 1999, local council elections were held on December 5, 1998, followed by the governorship on January 9, 1999 and the presidential election on February 27, 1999.
In 2003, there was a marked departure from the two patterns already established. The gubernatorial and presidential elections were held on the same day and same time on April 19.
However, in 2007, governorship and state assembly elections were held first on April 14, while the presidential and National Assembly elections were held on April 21. In 2011, the presidential polls (April 16) came before the governorship election (April 26).
Meanwhile, speaking on the issue in an e-mail chat with Vanguard, Mr. Kayode Idowu, the Special Adviser on Media to the Chairman of the Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, said the commission is backed by law to fix the time table and schedule of elections as it deems necessary.
Idowu, who is currently in the United States of America, in response to the specific question on why INEC chose to conduct the Presidential Election first, replied:”The law empowers INEC to determine the schedules, and it is neither here nor there which comes first. The arrangement is what the Commission considers most suitable for its operational planning.”