By Josef Omorotionmwan
EVIDENTLY, the more things change, the more they remain the same. These people are taking us round in circles. Thank God, Prof. Humphrey Nwosu, the distant predecessor of Prof. Attahiru Jega, is still alive. He must be smiling somewhere as Nigeria gets set for a total re-enactment of the shameful scenario of his era.
Perhaps unwittingly, these people openly contradict themselves. They keep telling us that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is the body charged with the responsibility for the nation’s elections. On this ground, INEC Chairman, Prof. Jega, has re-iterated, with monotonous regularity, that the Commission is ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
Ironically, the PDP and forces loyal to the presidency continue to tell INEC to its face that it is not ready, insisting that the elections must be postponed.
This is where the administration and the PDP have scored many firsts. In the 16 years of the Fourth Republic, controversy has never trailed the election time-table from the administration’s viewpoint. This is the first time that INEC releases a time-table to which the ruling party becomes livid. And it is the first time that all those basking in the euphoria of incumbency will object to INEC’s poll date without justification.
As soon as the administration found that it could not secure a postponement by preaching INEC’s unpreparedness for the elections, it changed strategy by getting the National Security Adviser, the Armed Services and the Intelligence Services to unanimously agree that the safety and security of their operations could not be guaranteed.
The Security Agencies resolved that they needed at least six weeks within which to conclude a major military operation against the insurgency in the North-East and that in this operation, the military will be concentrating its attention in the theatre of operations such that they may not be able to provide the traditional support they render to the police and other agencies during elections.
Since INEC is not a security agency that could by itself guarantee protection for voters, personnel and materials during the election, it could not lightly wave off the advice by the Nation’s Security chiefs. This explains why INEC capitulated to the idea of postponing the elections.
Our concern is projected on the ground that in just the same way that you do not postpone Christmas, the administration should have realized that tampering with the election time-table is an ill-wind that blows nobody any good. They had four years to prepare for the elections and it is doubtful if they would accomplish in six weeks what they could not accomplish in four years. And what happens if the security situation does not change for the better after six weeks?
The situation at hand is purely reminiscent of the inglorious days of the military when unpatriotic elements kept pushing for election postponements until the centre could no longer hold and everything fell apart.
We see the notorious Association for Better Nigeria, ABN, being re-enacted in the activities of unscrupulous advocates of poll shift. While the military administration of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida gave tacit support to the ABN led by Senator Arthur Nzeribe and Mr. Abimbola Davies, we have every reason to believe that the current advocates of election shift enjoy the blessing of the presidency and the PDP.
For sure, the postponement gives the administration an opportunity to buy time. In the character of 1993, various aspects of the current elections are already in court. If the court succumbs to manipulations as it did in 1993, then, Nigeria will be in for troubles.
This is where we consider the stern warnings of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, during the recent inauguration of Election Tribunals as timely and appropriate: “We must never again be used as tools to truncate our nation’s democracy. Any judge found wanting would only have himself or herself to blame as the National Judicial Council, NJC, will definitely not spare the rod in ensuring that the honour, respect and independence of the judiciary are protected”.
How did we get to the present situation? Apparently, the presidential campaign has been a popularity test of sorts for President Goodluck Jonathan. Once upon a recent time, a media outfit that apparently had sympathy for the President decided to conduct an opinion poll on Jonathan and Buhari. That outfit has been unable to own up that it had been compromised. Rather, as soon as Muhammadu Buhari’s popularity was soaring beyond the 82 percentage level, the outfit quickly halted the poll, claiming that the process had been compromised. Clearly this was not the type of result the outfit expected but we have no reason to disbelieve that, this was the actual situation on ground. Lovers of pounded yam will liken this to the pounded yam that is prepared in hiding: if it is smooth, it will not draw.
At their campaigns in many parts of the North, when PDP chieftains shouted the party slogan, they got the resounding response of Sei Buhari. To them, it was clear that the election had been won and lost. These were foreshadowing for PDP’s return to the drawing board to begin to seek short-cuts to victory.
Jega has done the needful – assuring the people that the postponement is still within the legal framework for the elections. It is only left for the parties to turn the situation to advantage. After all, God has always shown himself as an ardent in rewarding those who diligently seek him.
We are not in a hurry to forget the initial outrage that greeted the INEC time-table, when it was thought that the placement of the presidential election first was intended to trigger a band-wagon effect for the ruling party. We have been justified in our advice then that the band-wagon effect could only go to parties that work hard.
Similarly, barring any clandestine motives, this shift in the election time-table could also be turned to advantage. History will certainly judge each according to his deeds.