*Kudos, knocks trail time-table
By Soni Daniel, Johnbosco Agbakwuru
With the release of the 2015 general elections time-table by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), indications emerged, yesterday, that the campaigns for the next presidential poll would kick off not later than November 16 this year in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The 2011 Amended Electoral Act, which INEC relied upon in issuing the time-table, stipulates that campaigns into elective offices must begin 90 days to election day.
Counting from the date set by INEC for the election on February 14, 2015 means that the campaigns must start not later than November 15, 2014 and end on February 12, 2015, which is 24 hours before the end of the 90 days stipulated in the Act.
Section 99 of the Act states: “For the purpose of this Act, the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and shall end 24 hours prior to that day.”
The violation of the Act could lead to a fine of N500, 000.
A statement by Secretary to INEC, on Friday night, said the presidential and National Assembly polls hold on February 14, 2015 while gubernatorial and state assembly elections are fixed for February 28, 2015. According to the statement, Ekiti and Osun State gubernatorial elections hold on June 21 and August 9, 2014 respectively.
Meanwhile, politicians, yesterday, differed in their reactions to the time-table.
The PDP said it would participate fully in the elections but taunted the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) to boycott the 2015 elections as it is wont to do. Senator Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, lauded the time-table as meeting the Electoral Act provisions.
While a former Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Roland Owie, described it as fantastic, Senator Francis Okpozo faulted it on the grounds that the gubernatorial poll ought to come before presidential.
Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume said he was only concerned about free and fair polls just as Senator Odion Ugbesia (Edo) was optimistic the order of election as shown in the time-table would reduce costs and enhance voters convenience.
Reacting to the time-table, the PDP said that, as a law abiding party, it will be guided by the procedure for electoral processes.
It urged the APC to, in the same manner it instructed its members in the National Assembly to stall the passage of the 2014 Budget, and screening of the newly nominated ministerial candidates, do same in the forthcoming elections.
The PDP also boasted that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria with or without the APC.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, noted that it became imperative for the PDP to ask the APC to order its members to boycott the elections because it has become what he termed the stock in trade on the part of the opposition to call for the boycott of elections.
Metuh said the job at hand for the PDP was intensive sentization of the various organs of the party at all levels to prepare for the forthcoming elections as stipulated by INEC.
“The INEC time-table is part of democratic process. PDP is a law- abiding party; we are guided by the procedure for electoral processes. We will participate fully in the entire process. Our job is to sensitise the various organs of our party to mobilize themselves and rallies for the election,” the PDP spokesperson stated.
“We are not unmindful of the machinations of the opposition who have become undemocratic in their actions and activities to boycot elections; we hold that they will instruct their members in the National Assembly not to participate in the electoral process.
“Let me put it unequivocally that democracy has come to stay in Nigeria, with or without the APC. ”
Ndoma-Egba said the commission had taken the right decision by adhering strictly to the provisions of the Electoral Act, which stipulates that it should be held not earlier than 150 days and not later than 30 days before the end of the lifespan of the present administration.
Ndume said that though there was nothing wrong with the time-table, he was concerned about INEC’s ability to conduct free and fair elections, judging by previous elections.
According to him, Nigerians would not want a repeat of what happened in 2011 when INEC had to postpone and repeat several elections as a result of its inability to put the necessary materials and logistics in place.
“There is nothing wrong with the time-table as long as it follows the Electoral Act but we want the conduct of the elections to be better and that is what the commission has been doing so far,” Ndume said.
“It is a matter of getting everything right so as to deliver elections that the world can adjudge as credible, fair and free.”
Ugbesia described the order of the election as a good one, capable of reducing cost and enhancing the convenience of voters.
He, however, called on INEC to put its house in order, as there was more work to be done before the elections could be free and fair and meet the expectations of Nigerians and the International community.
Describing the time-table as an improvement over the past ones, Owie said: “As a matter of fact, INEC is an independent body. Those of us who are players will pander to their dictates. It is a good programme and it has alerted all political parties to get ready for the elections. There is nothing wrong with that order. INEC is an independent body; what they have done is perfect and we must commend them. Apart from the PDP in Nigeria, no government has conducted a free and fair election and I know that the PDP has no influence on the time-table and President Jonathan should be commended”.
On his part, Okpozo said, “The presidential and the National Assembly elections would have come last. Releasing the time-table for the election is just part of the job, what is important to Nigeria today is the prevention of electoral fraud and the problem that the parties are encountering. That means there is no strong political base in Nigeria as of now due the crisis we are witnessing in all the parties “.
According to the second republic senator, all elections should have been scheduled to hold one day as staggering of elections is not good because it encourages fraud. His words: “One day is enough for all the elections, no staggered elections. So INEC should go back and have a rethink on how to correct the anomalies. One would have preferred electronic voting system, let it be done in the urban areas throughout the country and INEC should stop the use of policemen at polling booths because they are being used to rig elections all over. With all these INEC has a lot of work to do before the forthcoming elections could be regarded as free and fair”.
A former deputy governor of Edo state, Rev. Peter Obadan, said the time-table is well programmed, although it is one month later than expected. “It is not a time-table that is always the issue; it is ensuring that things are properly put in place to realize the primary objectives. So I expect Jega and his team to not only plan out a time-table but to plan how the elections will be properly conducted. This time around there should be no excuses because INEC has learnt from previous elections. But I want to commend Jega for releasing the time table on time”, he added.
Chief Odigie Oyegun, a former Edo State governor and leader of the APC, in his own reaction, said:
“I have not studied the time-table properly, so I cannot comment on it now.”