By Chimdi Maduagwu
It has become necessary to make attempts at clarifying some issues now before we drift from the already hazy atmosphere into more serious political miasma.
All these are as a result of the postponement of the 2015 elections, sorry, I mean rescheduling of the elections. Everybody; the ruling party, the opposition, the electorate and observers have agreed that INEC acted within the law and everything seems alright, but it may not be so in the real sense. INEC is empowered to do what it did by the electoral act. Specifically, SECTION 26 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010, (as amended) is clear on such rights and powers of INEC. It states:
Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that day or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disaster or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.
Many people did not realize this initially or if they did, they never wanted to acknowledge it. For a brief moment, both local and foreign commentators and analysts of the events in Nigeria presented their personal views and prejudices as the real and authentic points of view. It was not until this section of the canons governing the entity called Nigeria was pull that all parties concerned held their peace. But now, tongues are still wagging and degenerating to a ridiculous level.
Utterances, some creeping, and some blasting into the polity and credited to elders and statesmen in the country at this critical period of her history have become, as they would say, a cause for concern. The chairman of APC insinuated that the military engineered the postponement of the elections and thus claims that it would not be out of place to regard that as a first stage of silent coup. I consider this somewhat an expensive joke.
I hope I am the only person that will give consideration to that. Well this is democracy, the government of “talk, make I talk.” Even at that, there is a need to talk with caution. Within this period, we have heard highly placed Nigerians make statements that attract comments from fools. The Igbo people say that a man who brings an ant infested firewood home has invited lizards for a feast. This is what the elders are doing this period and lizards must surely have a good time.
A former president has had to talk to a serving president with so much disrespect that many people are beginning to question the sanity in such speeches ( note clearly that I did not say the sanity of the speaker, the former president) and what they are designed to achieve.
I was particularly astonished to hear him refer to the president as a “failed president” and also to place him in the circle of the former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo. To say the least, as at the time he made these statements, he was a leader of the ruling party and it was the party that provided a platform for him to become the President of the country. Such developments are incomprehensible.
Anyway, let me not spend all the time on this, two examples are enough. I return to the important issue now; the drift to political miasma waters. True, the security agencies provided reports which point towards insecurity of life and property, if the elections were to hold as earlier scheduled but there are still more important considerations in the orbit of security.
By far the greatest threat to our individual and collective security is the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. Arguments have come in different directions concerning this. Some have argued that the entire country is threatened and if the present administration has been unable to combat the insurgency so far, then it has failed in protecting life and property of the entire country despite the fact that only three out of thirty six states are caught up. The same group approached the problem from a different perspective, insisting that it is not enough to let what affects only three states determine the fate of the entire country.
This argument was put forward when the group protested the postponement of the elections. Now that the picture is a little clearer, it has become certain that the postponement was not only necessary but wise. The security agencies are almost completely occupied by the efforts to ward off Boko Haram and maintaining a violence-free election in a country like Nigeria equally demands absolute involvement of joint security action. This is why it makes sense to control one big issue before starting with the next.
The insistence of INEC and the security agencies are thus commendable. I have no doubt that these authorities knew that they would face a lot of protests and even rejection by groups, yet they insisted, and that amounts to patriotism. There is every need for relative peace before elections. The country cannot afford to risk either a civil war or heavy presence of insurgency during elections.
Either of these two evils will confuse the election processes. Right now, the situation in the country is such that many observers believe has gone beyond sporadic insurgency to a sizeable civil war. I personally was told that Nigeria was going through “another civil war” late last year when I was in Boston USA.
Though it did not seem true to me, yet it was difficult for me to refute that. What I am saying is that there is a need, indeed, an urgent need, to reduce the terrorist disturbances to the barest minimum, that is, if it cannot be completely eliminated before the time scheduled for elections. I say this because we must respect the constitution of this country and Section 135 (3) of the Constitution restrains the country from holding elections in a time of war or any disturbance deemed to be so:
If the Federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time
I have only honoured the Independent National Electoral Commission and the nation’s security agencies for taking a prompt action that could prevent invoking the letters of section 135 (3) of the constitution. I am not one of those calling for Interim National Government because that, in itself, is unconstitutional; rather the constitution recognizes that the existing president should hold forth until an elected president is sworn in. This is the responsibility of the President and the National Assembly. Nigeria will survive. Long live Nigeria!