By Is’haq Modibbo Kawu
SPEAKING last week at the Chatham House in London, Nigeria’s National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki, suggested the postponement of the February 2015 elections by three months, in order to enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) distribute outstanding Permanent Voters Cards (PVC). The figures being bandied around say that about 30 million of such cards were yet to be given out to prospective voters. The NSA who spoke during a Q-and-A session, told his audience that he had suggested to the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, that a postponement by three months was allowed by law and that it would be a good idea to delay, to give INEC more time to distribute millions of biometric voters’ cards to voters.
In truth, there had been notable hitches with the PVC distribution process in many parts of the country, leading to a lot of apprehensions about the conduct of the February 2015 elections.
On the other hand, INEC had consistently assured that it was going to conclude the PVC distribution process before the elections. INEC spokesperson, Kayode Idowu, also reiterated the determination of his organisation to ensure that there are no delays to the elections: “It is not a conversation of the commission at all. As far as we are talking now, the date is what it is”, the INEC spokesperson was quoted by VANGUARD newspaper. And strangely, early morning television programmes by last week, were beginning to feature “pundits and experts” who argued that the elections be postponed! It was beginning to appear that something truly mischievous was being cooked up for serving to the Nigerian public. I do not want to deconstruct the intentions of NSA Sambo Dasuki, but it seemed those who are inclined towards the postponement of the elections underrate the feelings in the country.
Perhaps more than at any point in our history, especially since 1999, the coming election is one that Nigerians anticipate with a determined excitement, because of the possibilities that we could have an election whose outcome will give us a new direction of growth and development.
Postponement suggestions: When the NSA made his suggestion for a postponement, it became something like a confirmation of some of the rumour that has made the rounds in the country.
There is an alleged message from an Aso Villa insider which had boasted that those at the helm of affairs would not be disposed to handing over, even if they lost the coming election. The message had spoken of handing over to the military than allowing Buhari in power; they would not even mind the disintegration of our country! It was then no coincidence, when ex-Niger Delta militants met inside the Government House in Yenagoa, to threaten war against Nigeria if President Goodluck Jonathan was voted out next month.
It became even more worrisome that the Bayelsa Governor, Seriake Dickson and Presidential Adviser, Kingsley Kuku were in attendance at the meeting where the threat was issued against Nigeria. Those in attendance also included thugs who had been given licenses to import arms and warships by the Jonathan administration!
So far, we have not heard denials from the presidency or denunciations from SSS spokeswoman, Marilyn Ogar. In the world of contemporary Nigerian security, those who threaten our peace have all the right to do so, once they are counted to be on President Goodluck Jonathan’s side of the divide.
The events of the days since the NSA’s suggestion for election postponement have shown just how unpopular the suggestion is. The groundswell of feelings in Nigeria has not been in their favour while INEC has continued to express its determination to conclude the distribution of the PVCs and also hold the elections as scheduled.
On Tuesday this week, INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega told Nigerian political parties that his commission will overcome all its challenges before the commencement of the February elections: “I want to …assure you that we are committed to ensuring that the elections we will conduct will be remarkably very-very much better than those we conducted in 2011”.
On the distribution of PVCs that was the peg that NSA Sambo Dasuki anchored his call for elections postponement on, Jega said that: “We believe that even though there may be challenges, such as the distribution of the PVCs, we feel confident that with the measures and mechanisms that we have put in place, that these challenges are challenges that we can overcome.
We shall overcome them well in advance of the conduct of the 2015 general elections”. It was even more comforting to hear that President Goodluck Jonathan assured the American Secretary of State, John Kerry, at their meeting in Lagos at the weekend, that the May 29 handover was “sacrosanct”. That indicated that the elections would hold as planned. It was the position which Kerry had canvassed during the meeting.
Feeling of Nigerians
It is clear that there can be no postponement of the elections. The stakes are too high and the feeling of the Nigerian people is clear too: these elections must hold as scheduled. Those calling for their postponement labour in vain. Similarly, scenario creation patterns seeking the engendering of crisis to prevent the handover of power, the setting up of an interim government or other extra-constitutional contraptions will be dead on arrival.
The dominant sentiment is for the political parties to get themselves and their candidates ready to face judgment time in February 2015. There are pseudo-scientific pretenses at opinion polls, skewed in partisan directions that are making the rounds in the context of the on-going political process.
It is the right of those setting up those polls, but in the long run, what we must all work for are elections that are free and fair, allowing the Nigerian people to express their preferences. The campaign for the postponement of the elections doesn’t fall within conditions that respect the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people.
Luckily, those within this bracket are a minority. As things stand, we will go to the polls in February; believe me when I say that like most Nigerians, I am very expectant about the coming elections.
Of school certificate, mudslinging and stonings: Pattern of Nigerian electioneering
FEMI FANI-KAYODE made the most of the hysteria. APC Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, according to him, does not possess the minimum requirement to be a candidate in the upcoming elections. A furore was deliberately engineered around what must have been known to the PDP strategists to be a red herring, but one that was useful as a diversionary tactic.
It seemed that the PDP team could not run on the basis of the record in office of its candidate so a dirty tricks campaign has been very central to their tactics. Each new day seemed prepared for a more vicious campaign than the previous. When candidate Goodluck Jonathan speaks, there were not often many, if at all any, inspiring bites that could elevate his campaign.
It was often as if the campaign is bogged down in the murky waters that it engineered by itself. Unlike at any point in our recent history, the dirty tricks tactic has just not cut it with the Nigerian public. The scurrilous documentaries of recent days have taken the PDP campaign to new lows, clearly underlining how serious the crisis of confidence has become within the party and the campaign.
Then there have been the unacceptable stonings of the president’s campaign train in Katsina and Bauchi states.
Whoever was behind those irresponsible acts should not only be condemned but must be brought to book. No one should stone the Nigerian President’s campaign entourage or any other person’s for that matter, because they are exercising rights that Nigeria’s Constitution protects and which are central to the construction of democratic society. But it is very curious that these acts of irresponsibility have taken place in PDP-controlled states. So what is happening?
In Bauchi, there have been accusations and counter-accusations. Isa Yuguda, the governor, accused “Abuja politicians” from Bauchi, as being responsible; and the prominent ones are the National Chairman of the PDP, Adamu Muazu and FCT Minister, Bala Muhammed. Bala suffered the indignity of being pelted with pure water on live television, but would he have arranged to be so ridiculed at home?
In response to Yuguda’s accusation, Bala Muhammed fired back that the Bauchi Governor is actually a mole of the opposition APC, inside the PDP. In Bauchi, the allegation is that Isa Yuguda planted his cronies as the APC and PDP governorship candidates respectively, so head or tail, he wins. The scenario has been carefully engineered to ensure that whoever wins the election will not be interested in examining the more unwholesome happenings over the past eight years in the state, post May 2015.
There is no biting the fingers that fed, eh? In the meantime, what appeared to be an internecine fight within the PDP is becoming a source of tension within circles in the Niger Delta, who always wanted to find the opportunity to hang every Northerner! Asari Dokubo has threatened to “retaliate” for the attacks on the presidential campaign team in the North.
Election to remember
The campaign and lead to the 2015 elections will long be remembered for the way that different forms of media were exploited by all sides, to further their agenda. Social media has taken a life of its own in our country and the battles on the virtual spaces of social media have been so reflective of the deep divides in our country today. They are indicative of the importance of the coming elections amongst the Nigerian people.
The campaign strategists are slinging mud and in the process no one seems able to remember that we had been promised “issues-based” campaigns. The issues got swamped under layers upon layers of mud that are slung in all directions. We are not any clearer about the plans to stem the looming economic meltdown that Nigeria faces, while we have not been presented with coherent perspectives about how to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency and the solutions to the underlining socio-economic issues which conditioned the emergence of the tendencies to insurgency and sundry rebellions across the country.
The political elite is far too busy trying to win power to really focus as seriously as these problems demand. This is electioneering in the Nigerian manner of doing things and because the people are far too driven to express their franchise to affect the process of governance, it is clearer each passing day that these will be the most defining elections in Nigerian history!