Nigerians Disagree Over Election Postponement Plans

Adedayo Ogunleye, Abuja

 As the scheduled dates for the forthcoming elections draw near, differing opinions have emerged within the leadership of the different political parties and among Nigerian over whether the elections should be postponed or be held as planned in February.

While the opposition All Progressive Congress, APC, is leading other voices to insist that the elections hold as scheduled, other political parties have called stridently for postponement, giving excuses such as the disenfranchisement of some voters due to the inability of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to effectively distribute Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs, in time for the poll.

Last week, the APC raised alarm over high-level plots within the presidency and the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, to postpone the elections.

Alleging that the decision to postpone the polls was being considered as a result of the PDP’s loss of popularity among the electorate and its imminent defeat at the coming polls, the APC warned that such a decision may truncate the nation’s democracy.

Joining the APC in the demand for the elections to hold as scheduled, the presidential candidate of the United Progressive Party, UPP, Chekwas Okorie, has also warned against any postponement of the polls.

Okorie, who gave the warning Tuesday, said that since INEC had announced that it had distributed over 80% of the PVCs to the registered voters, a shift in the schedule of the elections was needless.

Also on Tuesday, Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, Ahmad Gumi, joined his voice to calls opposing the postponement of the February general elections. Encouraging INEC to proceed with the elections as scheduled, Gumi asserted that the elections would still have flaws even if postponed for 100 years.

“To be honest with you, Nigeria is not yet perfect. Even if you give 100 years, it can never be enough. So, no matter what, elections must still be held. We can never be perfect. We are passing through a very difficult stage now. What I suggest when I said elections should hold irrespective of its flaws, it is because we first have to establish that you don’t get to power except through the ballot,” he stated.

The vocal  Islamic scholar, who spoke on the issue while inaugurating a non-governmental election monitoring group, My Choice, My Pride Foundation in Kaduna also wondered, ‘If we postpone this elections, then on what grounds are we going to continue; emergency rule?”

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In a similar vein, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, has also encouraged the electoral body to proceed with the election schedule, saying that postponing the general elections was not a solution to address the country’s insecurity situation.

Urging government to do everything necessary to ensure a conducive environment for the conduct of the elections, the labour union stated, in a statement released Tuesday by its General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, in Abuja, that it was not in support of those calling for the postponement of the elections.

Acknowledging the enormity of the security challenge being faced by the nation, the NLC stated, however, that there was no guarantee that the security situation will improve in the next few months, adding that postponing the election would only be confirming the allegations of manipulation being levelled against the federal government.

However, 16 political parties and four presidential candidates have stated their preference for the suggested postponement of the polls, threatening to boycott the polls if their call for postponement was not heeded.

Political parties who have called for election postponement include United Democratic Party, UDP; the People’s Party of Nigeria, PPN; Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN; the New Nigerian People’s Party, NNPP; Alliance for Democracy, AD; the Democratic People’s Party, DPP; the Action Alliance, AA; the People’s Democratic Congress, PDC; the Labour Party, LP; the Citizen People’s Party, CPP and the Independent Democrats, ID.

Presidential candidates Sam Ekeh, Godson Okoye, Anifowose Kelani, and Ganiyu Galadima of the CPP, UDP, AA, and ACPN, respectively, also joined in the call for postponement.

Speaking Tuesday at a news conference in Abuja, Okoye, who spoke on the behalf of the other parties and the four presidential candidates, said that they would have no choice but to boycott the polls if INEC persisted in its bid to proceed in its conduct of the polls according to schedule.

The parties insisted that the current security challenge in the north east zone of the country and “apparent irregularities” in PVC distribution by INEC were enough reasons to reschedule the polls.

Wondering how free and fair elections could be conducted in a nation where an entire region was under siege from insurgents, the parties also pointed out that the recently signed peace pact had been violated by the threats of violence emanating from the South-south region of the nation and the use of defamatory language and hate speech against perceived political opponents in the name of electioneering.

The leaders of the parties warned that the dangerous omens they have observed would lead to unavoidable consequences if left unchecked.

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The parties countered the suggestion that a postponement of the election would be a violation of the provisions of Section 25 and 26 of the Electoral Act, stating that it is a necessary decision to be taken to ensure that INEC had ample time to conclude the distribution of the PVCs to registered voters.

“We are not urging INEC to do anything that is unlawful, illegal or unconstitutional. It is unfortunately becoming clear by the day that most Nigerians appear not to be ready for election but are ready for violence,” the parties said.

On Monday, in a public demonstration of their support for the call for postponement of the general elections, about 100 people under the aegis of Forum for Democratic Change, FDC, gathered to protest at the INEC headquarters in Abuja

Led by their coordinator, Solomon Chuks, the group barricaded the INEC office while chanting slogans for the polls to be shifted owing to the challenges in the PVC distribution, ad hoc staff recruitment as well the fear of disenfranchisement of many Nigerians.

The Daily Trust, howeve,r reported that an interview with one of the protesters revealed that he only participated in the protest for the financial gain promised by the organizers.

According to the newspaper, the young man who gave his name as Moses said “it is a matter of money. We participate in this protest to help our forum. But we have not yet been paid. I did know how much they are going to give us. I am thinking they would pay me like N5,000 or N4,000. We were conveyed from Masaka down to here.”

The on-going debate over holding the election has raged ever since the National Security Adviser, NSA, Sambo Dasuki, broached the idea of postponing the polls while speaking at Chatham House, a United Kingdom-based think-tank two weeks ago.




     

     

    Dasuki stated that a postponement might be better considering security situation in the country and the fact that many people had not been able to collect their PVCs.

    The presidential and the national assembly elections are scheduled to hold February 14 while the gubernatorial and state houses of assembly are slated for February 28.

    The National Council of States is expected to take a decision on the fate of the elections at a meeting in Abuja Thursday.

    The council of state is made up of the  President, the Vice-President, all former Presidents or ex-Heads of State, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, the President of the Senate, all state governors and the Attorney-General of the Federation.

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