By Henry Umoru
ABUJA- NATIONAL leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP said yesterday that shifts in the dates of the presidential and general elections from February 14, 2015 to Saturday, March 28, 2015 and April 11, 2015 by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC was carried out to save the electoral umpire and the country from huge embarrassment.
The PDP also reiterated its readiness for elections, claiming that with its array of credible candidates, recorded achievements by the Federal government, support of Nigerians, it was assured of emerging victorious at the polls.
According to PDP, it became imperative to postpone the election because of , unfolding events, especially the prevalent huge deficit in the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).
In a statement yesterday by PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the party pleaded with all lovers of democracy to appreciate those who raised the alarm that led to the postponement as any election on the earlier scheduled February 14 and 28 dates would have not only been chaotic, but would have been far from fair and credible because over 23 million registered voters would have been disenfranchised for no fault of theirs.
Metuh said “the fact that millions of Nigerians are still struggling to receive their PVCs a week after the February 14th date, clearly shows that the commission would have been thoroughly embarrassed had it gone ahead with the elections on that day.
“As at February 7, a week to the rescheduled elections, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega announced that only 45, 829, 808 representing 66.58 percent of the total number of registered voters have received their PVCs. INEC’s records also showed that 1.3 million cards were yet to be delivered by the printers while 1.1 million stolen cards were yet to be replaced as at that date.
“Whereas INEC gave the impressions that all processes including the PVC distribution will be perfected before February 14, it is disturbing that a week after that date, millions of Nigerians are still struggling to receive their cards, which confirms the fears that the commission was not truly ready for the election in February in spite of its posturing.
“Also, had the commission gone ahead with the polls on February 14, non-indigenes who were being denied their PVCs in select states such as Lagos and Kano would also have been disenfranchised. The shift gave INEC the time to tackle the issue, which led to the sacking of two of its culpable adhoc staff members in Lagos state.
“Furthermore, while briefing the Senate on Wednesday, the INEC Chairman had acknowledged that the postponement was a blessing in disguise which affords the commission and other stakeholders an ample opportunity to perfect all processes for credible elections.
“In Prof Jega’s words, ‘the period of extension has offered us an opportunity to further perfect the electoral process for the delivery of free, fair credible and peaceful elections to the satisfaction of the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. We hope that all stakeholders will continue to join hands with the commission to turn this disappointment into a blessing to our country. We believe that the effective utilization of this period of extension will enable INEC to have a flawless and near perfect conduct of elections’.
“We note that what is paramount for our nation at this point remains the conduct of credible, free and fair elections where all registered voters are given equal opportunity to exercise their franchise. We therefore urge all stakeholders to put the overall interest of the nation ahead of other considerations and desist from making unguarded statements or jumping into hasty conclusions regarding the preparations for the general elections.”