The dates for the general election in February may be hanging in the balance as the nation’s national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), has called for postponement to give the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) more time to distribute about 30 million permanent voter cards (PVCs) to eligible voters.
But, INEC has declared that there was no operational reason, including the concerns over the distribution of the PVCs, to postpone next month’s general election.
Dasuki spoke yesterday during a talk show at Chatham House, the London think-tank group.
According to Reuters, the NSA said he had discussed the matter with the INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, adding that a delay within the time allowed by the law will not be a bad idea.
“That is what we are encouraging at the moment,” he said, noting that INEC had been able to distribute 30 million PVCs but had an outstanding 30 million others to hand out.
He further said that although INEC had assured him it would achieve the task in time for the February elections, he thought it would make more sense to take more time. According to him, there is a 90-day window during which the election can legally take place.
Dasuki was said to have told Jega: “It costs you nothing, it’s still within the law,” adding that it was for INEC and not him to decide on the matter. “What sense does it make to vote three months early when there are 30 million cards still with INEC? That’s my position.”
But in another twist, Dasuki gave assurances in the text of the lecture he delivered at the event that the February general election will be successful.
“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,” the security chief stated.
He, however, admitted that there was anxiety in certain quarters about whether elections will hold in the northeast and the ability of the government to ensure that those internally displaced are able to vote.
“Our answer to both of those is yes. As far as it is possible, we are determined that adequate security will be in place to enable elections in all the areas in the northeast that are safe, and that the IDPs will be provided with the opportunity to exercise their vote,” he explained.
The NSA commended the emergence of a strong opposition in the polity, saying it is a sign of growing maturity in the country’s democracy.
“The emergency 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 rightto 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 vote will count.”
Speaking on the theme, “Nigeria’s Insecurity: Insurgency, Corruption,Elections and the Management of Multiple Threats”, Dasuki demonstrated
that Nigeria’s insecurity challenge was both local and global. He, however, challenged the international community to show the same concern to the rising terrorism in parts of Nigeria as it does in other parts of the world.
He noted that while Nigeria continues 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.”
He also told his audience 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 succour to those most vulnerable and those affected by violence,” he said.
No basis to postpone election – INEC
The commission further added that there was no communication from the presidency to postpone the election over complaints of the PVCs distribution.
The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Kayode Idowu, said: “We have not received any official or unofficial communication to that effect. From the point of our operation, the commission has not seen any good basis to postpone the election.”
Kayode, however, pointed out that information available to the commission with regards to what transpired at the London meeting was contrary to what the NSA was quoted to have said.
He stated that the claims that 30 million uncollected PVCs were not true, noting that there has been accelerated distribution and collection of cards since the decentralisation of the process.
According to him, rough estimates indicate that the collection process has surpassed 70 percent since the decentralisation of the distribution of the cards at the ward level.
Kayode said: “Where are the 30 million cards that have not been collected? Statistics are cold; they are not flighty. By the commission’s rough estimation, even though we have not collected the raw data from the states, we have cases of over 26,000 PVCs collected in states in a space of three days, and this could be the trend across the country.
“I can assure you that the percentage is much higher than 70 percent.
What we do is that immediately the cards come in, we move them to the states. We just moved four million cards recently.”
He assured that before the end of the month most of the PVCs wouldhave been distributed and collected.
Govt should not tinker with election timelines – Atiku
Former vice president and APC chieftain, Atiku Abubakar, has insisted that the general election should hold as scheduled next month, adding that government must not tinker with the option of postponing the timelines for the elections.
In a statement signed by Atiku’s Media Office yesterday, he said: “Yes, we have a problem with the distribution of PVCs but the position of my party, the APC, is that since we have a voter register, then that should be used in conducting the elections. I also believe there is enough time between now and the elections to issue everyone with their PVCs.”
He said the call made by Dasuki for a postponement of the elections was uncalled for and portends a dangerous signal about the intentions of the federal government to conduct a free, fair and credible polls in February.
APC Rejects Call To Postpone Elections
The APC has rejected the call by national security adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), for the postponement of next month’s general election ostensibly to give INEC more time to distribute the permanent voter cards (PVCs).
The party, in a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its national publicity
secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Col. Dasuki’s call during an event at the Chatham House in London yesterday, had exposed the plot by the Jonathan administration to push for the postponement of the polls, using all sorts of cheap tricks. APC warned that under no circumstances should the elections be scuttled.
The party said: ‘’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 said Dasuki was only seeking to buy time for the struggling Jonathan electioneering campaign to gather steam, saying Dasuki is hinging his postponement call on the delay in PVCs distribution.
“They know for sure that if they don’t postpone the elections, there is no way they can win. They are just terrified,” the party stated, urging Nigerians to reject in its entirety the ongoing plot by the Jonathan administration to postpone the elections, to avoid a constitutional crisis that could undermine 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,’’ it said.
APC said 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.”
The party accused the Jonathan administration of using tricks to scuttle the forthcoming polls, while also hiding under the insurgency in the northeast.
According to APC, “They are hiding under the needless controversy over the secondary school leaving certificate of our presidential candidate, the concocted report by the DSS alleging a plan to hack into INEC’s database and the fabricated report of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s ill-health
‘’They tried to hide under terrorist attacks in the northeast and the fact that Nigeria is at war to shift the elections, this did not fly. They used the 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,” the APC said.
It further noted that the PDP government also launched an aggressive campaign to convince Nigerians that the APC 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 has now been published for all to see.
‘’They went and procured a fake report showing 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.
According the APC, 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,” the statement concluded.