By Emeka Mamah, Kingsley Omonobi & Joseph Erunke
LAGOS—The National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki in London, yesterday, suggested postponement of this year’s national elections by three months to enable the Independent National Election Commission, INEC, distribute the Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs, to about 30 million Nigerians who were yet to obtain the cards.
Dasuki spoke at the London think-tank Chatham House, during a lecture entitled, “Nigeria’s Insecurity: Insurgency, Corruption, Elections and the Management of Multiple Threats,” that “INEC had distributed 30 million cards in the past year but had another 30 million to hand out.”
Agency reports quoted Dasuki as saying during a question and answer session that he (Dasuki) had suggested to the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, that a postponement by three months was allowed by the law and that it would be a good idea if next month’s elections were delayed to give organisers more time to distribute millions of biometric voters’ cards to voters.
There have been technical hitches in data collection, while election officials have not explained how they will conduct election in parts of the North-East gripped by a violent uprising by Islamic Boko Haram group.
Dasuki further said Jega had assured him that “It would achieve this in time for the February date, but he thought it will make more sense to take more time and there was a 90-day window during which the election could legally take place. It costs you (INEC) nothing; it’s still within the law,” adding that it was, however, for INEC and not for him to decide.
But INEC’s spokesman, Mr Kayode Idowu, has said that there was no plans to delay 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,” Idowu said.
However, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has rejected Col. Dasuki’s call, warning that under no circumstance must the elections be shifted.
The elections, scheduled to start on February 14, will be the first where Nigeria’s 68.8 million voters must have biometric cards, a measure introduced to guard against fraud that had plagued past polls.
APC rejects call to shift polls, calls for urgent action
APC in a statement in Abuja, yesterday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the call by Col. Dasuki, during an event at the Chatham House in London, yesterday, “has exposed the hitherto clandestine plot by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to push for the postponement of the polls, using all sorts of cheap tricks.”
The APC spokesman, said: “Why are they not ready? Why should we postpone the polls? We say ‘no’ to postponement. They know that if they don’t postpone, they can’t win.”
He added: “They tried to hide under terrorist attacks in the North-east and the fact that Nigeria is at war to shift the elections, this did not fly. They used the Department of State Services, DSS, to invade our Data Centre and then concoct the allegation that we are planning to hack into INEC’s Data Base; it did not fly as INEC said its Data Base cannot be hacked.
“They launched an aggressive campaign to convince Nigerians that our presidential candidate is not qualified to run because he has no secondary school leaving certificate, but that also did not fly, as the certified results of his Cambridge examination have now been published for all to see.
“They went and procured a fake report showing that our candidate is suffering from prostate cancer, hence he is not fit for the high office of President, but their antics were discovered when the health institution that purportedly issued the report disowned it.
“Now they have launched their last set of jokers, which include hiring willing hands to make the television rounds saying there is no way the elections could hold next month; ostensibly because INEC is not ready, even when the electoral umpire has said it is ready to conduct the polls.
“There are also alleged plans to stage-manage some high profile cases of violence and arson, for which the opposition will be blamed and then its leaders arrested in droves, all in an effort to scuttle the polls. For those who find these hard to believe, we ask them to look at the sheer madness of a state governor placing a newspaper advert wishing our presidential candidate dead! The possible repercussions of this kind of provocative act are better imagined, had our party not been a peaceful party.
“In view of the above, we have decided to take our case to Nigerians and indeed the global community, so they can prevail on President Jonathan to allow the elections to hold as scheduled and to make a commitment to respect the outcome.
“Now that we have found the smoking gun, we are urging the international community, in particular, to urgently extract a commitment from President Goodluck Jonathan that the elections will hold as scheduled next month, and that he would respect the outcome, just as we have said.”
APC further said that Col. Dasuki was only seeking to buy time for the slugging Jonathan electioneering campaign to gather steam by hinging his postponement call on the delay in PVC distribution, adding: “They are just terrified.”
The party also called on Nigerians to reject in its entirety the ongoing orchestrated plot by the Jonathan administration to postpone the elections, saying the constitutional crisis that would be triggered by such postponement was capable of undermining the nation’s democracy.
“After realizing it will be rejected by Nigerians who have borne the brunt of its mis-governance over the years, after realizing that its campaign of calumny against our presidential candidate has failed, the Jonathan Administration has now started to play its last card, which is the postponement of the election,” the party added.
APC stressed that the importance of elections cannot be over-emphasized, adding: “Election is the lifeblood of democracy, the mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates. It is the only way for the citizenry to renew and refresh the governing process so they can get the most benefits out of democracy. Therefore, anyone that tries to sabotage this mechanism is aiming a dagger straight to the heart of democracy.”
Dasuki had given an assurance to the international community that the February general elections will be successful and violence free.
Dasuki said: “The 2015 elections are expected to be relatively peaceful and violence free.” He said the Federal Government had taken all necessary measures to ensure this by making adequate provisions for INEC, security agencies as well as supporting numerous sensitisation programmes.”
Excerpts from Dasuki’s presentation:
“The real and existential threat posed by Boko Haram is perhaps a millennial challenge; how we approach it will have immediate as well as generational consequences. It will determine how we reform our institutions, define our fundamental values, the capacities we develop and the tools we use to address and prevent future threats. When a nation’s citizens take up arms against their fellow brothers and sisters, operate outside acceptable rules and norms of their society, kill and maim innocent civilians, including women and children, kidnap young children, and force preteen girls to blow themselves up in public spaces, it calls for deep introspection.
“In the run-up to the elections, Boko Haram have escalated their campaign, seizing territory and hoisting their flag, they have burnt down whole villages, ransacked communities, raped young girls and continued to kidnap both boys and girls. They have openly declared support for ISIS and expanded their campaign into neighbouring Cameroon and Niger Republics.
“Nations that have been directly affected by terrorism have shown us how difficult it is to eradicate. The terrorists utilize their abundant imagination for evil, to inflict the maximum horror on communities conscious of the fact that states must be guided in their responses by rules, the law, their own values and respect for civilian lives and property.
“It is my belief that any response to terrorism must be long term, holistic and robust enough to address its root causes. It must be guided by a law and order approach that utilizes both hard and soft approaches. The tenacity, organizational capability, ability to attract illicit funds, motivation of Boko Haram fighters and the fact that they embedded themselves within civilian populations has perhaps helped to prolong the conflict in the North East.
“For Nigeria to address the underlying conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism leading to insurgency, the cancerous menace of corruption must be fought with all elements of its national power. In order to build badly needed infrastructure, put our children in schools, ignite economic activities and accelerate upward mobility for a majority of our people we must address elite greed and weak institutions that make it impossible for national resources to be applied appropriately.
“Corruption must also be seen by the international community as a threat to international security and take even stricter measures to make it difficult for corrupt people to enjoy the proceeds of illegitimate earnings. There is a link between terrorism financing and weak international financial systems that allow the movement of stolen resources.
“Corruption is both a major cause and a result of poverty around the world. It occurs at all levels of society from local and national governments, civil society, judiciary functions, large and small businesses, to the military and other services.
In Nigeria, much attention has been paid to the issue of corruption, especially in government establishments. However not much attention has been given to the efforts of successive governments to address the issue. It is to the credit of the successive administrations in Nigeria, since 1999, that many institutions have been established to deal with corruption especially within government circles and private businesses.
“The institutions are, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission –EFCC; the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission – ICPC and the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit – NFIU.
‘’These institutions, since their establishment have performed creditably as acknowledged by Nigeria’s international collaborators.
“Anxiety over the peaceful conduct of the 2015 general elections has continued to grow both at home and abroad, fuelled by the memories of the post-election violence that occurred after the 2011 elections. Boko Haram members who have repeatedly expressed their disdain for the democratic process have also escalated their campaign over this period, further adding to the sense of instability.
“In a country of 170 million people elections have not been without their challenges, most especially pre and post-election violence, allegations of rigging, delayed delivery of ballot boxes, names left off ballot papers, desperation of some politicians to win at all costs are some examples. Experience, most especially after the 2011 general elections has shown that some of the most serious challenges to election security could emerge spontaneously or due to perceptions, of irregularities during the voting process, which then reflected in what some people concluded were unfavourable election results.
“Other challenges that we anticipate include the ability of INEC and the state to protect sensitive election related material as well as the provision of adequate security for electoral officers. This will help to ensure the integrity of the process.
“Among the steps being taken is the setting up of an Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security –ICCES. The ICCES consists of top INEC officials, commissioners, directors and heads of departments, with representation from all security agencies, including my office. For the first time in the history of election security in Nigeria, the country has a platform responsible for the coordination of security matters and pooling resources, particularly personnel in dealing with security challenges. Security services have promptly intervened and prevented potential crisis situations that could have gotten out of hand across the country. ICCES has continuously taken measures to upgrade its activities and ensure its effectiveness at both the state, and especially the local government levels.
“In addition, the electoral commission is retraining security personnel on their roles and functions at polling units. Sensitisation workshops such as the one currently embarked upon by the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons, PRESCOM, in the six geopolitical zones of the country, with the theme: Ballots Without Bullets raise the awareness of Nigerian citizens across the country to the destructiveness of electoral violence and the need for youths to avoid being used by politicians. The National Orientation Agency and other civil society organisations including a group led by eminent well respected elders are also involved in similar sensitisation programmes across the country. Given the importance of how the conduct of the election is communicated, including the accurate and timely reporting of results, INEC staf s are being trained on strategic communication.
“However, election security matters cannot be left solely to security agencies and INEC to manage. All other stakeholders, such as the media, community leaders and political parties have a significant role to play in the task of ensuring a peaceful atmosphere during the conduct of elections. Recently all the presidential candidates and their parties agreed to curb the use of hate speech and work towards violence free, fair and credible elections by signing what is now referred to as the Abuja Accord.
“Given the above, the 2015 elections are expected to be relatively peaceful and violence free. The Federal Government has taken all necessary measures to ensure this by making adequate provisions for INEC, security agencies and by supporting numerous sensitisation programmes.
“We are conscious that there is some anxiety about whether elections will hold in the North East and the ability of the government to ensure that the internally displaced will be able to vote. Our answer to both of those is yes. As far as is possible, we are determined that adequate security will be in place to enable elections in all the areas in the north east that are safe, and that the IDP’s will be provided with the opportunity to exercise their votes.
“The emergence of a seemingly viable opposition, as well as the closeness of the race is a clear demonstration of our maturing democracy. Greater voter awareness also means that people are more engaged in the electoral process and determined to protect their right to vote. We on our part are doing all we can to ensure that every Nigerian who wants to vote is able to and that their votes will count.”
“I have attempted to present Nigeria’s most pressing security threat and demonstrated that this threat is both local and global. The question is whether the world will show the same and commensurate concern to the rising terrorism in parts of Nigeria as it does in other parts of the world.
I have also shown that while we continue to face the debilitating effects of corruption we have taken steps to build strong institutions and strengthen our laws in addressing it. As we continue to do this we call on the global community to further address the corrupting influence of big companies and rich countries. I finally submitted that successive elections in Nigeria have improved and lessons learnt in 2011 are now being practiced in preparation towards the 2015 elections. The INEC has a strong team and government has ensured adequate funding and capacity enhancement while putting in place strong coordination mechanisms between the electoral body and other stakeholders.
“It is my firm belief that Nigeria will emerge stronger, manage her threats better and improve on governance. We are taking these careful but sure steps at the moment. The terrorist threat has focused us on the right path. We have developed a new national security strategy that puts our people at the heart of our efforts, a national counter terrorism strategy that employs both hard and soft power and an economic revitalization plan that will bring succor to those most vulnerable and those affected by violence. We continue to reach out to members of the international community to stand with us as we strive to build a united and prosperous country. Thank you for listening.”