The National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki(retd.), has canvassed the postponement of next month’s elections to give theIndependent National Electoral Commission time to distribute over 30 million outstanding Permanent Voter Cards to registered voters.
Dasuki, according to Reuters, said he had told the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, that a postponement within the three months allowed by the law, would be a good idea.
But his advice was rejected by the electoral umpire and the opposition All Progressives Congress.
Before he spoke at the Chatham House, a London think-tank, groups like the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide, the Federation of Middle Belt People and the Ohanaeze Ndigbo had also advised that the elections should be shifted.
Dasuki told participants at a talk in London, that INEC which had distributed over 30 million cards late last year, had assured him that the outstanding PVCs would be given out before February 14, the first day of the elections.
He however stated that he believed it would make more sense to shift the elections since the law provided a 90-day window during which elections could legally take place.
“It costs you nothing, it’s still within the law,” Dasuki said, adding however that it was for INEC and not for him, to decide.
But the electoral commission said even though it had yet to receive any formal request for the postponement of the elections. it would stick to its timetable for the polls.
“It is not a conversation of the commission’s at all. As far as we are talking now, the date is what it is,” Jega’s spokesman, Kayode Idowu, said.
He added that “as far as the commission is concerned, it is on course regarding the February schedules for the general elections. Postponement is not being contemplated.”
Also, the APC, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, said the call by Dasuki had exposed what it called the hitherto clandestine plot by the Goodluck Jonathan administration to push for the postponement of the polls, using all sorts of cheap tricks.
The statement read in part, “Now that we have found the smoking gun, we are urging the international community, in particular, to urgently extract a commitment from President Jonathan that the elections will hold as scheduled next month and that he would respect the outcome.
“Dasuki was only seeking to buy time for the slugging Jonathan electioneering to gather steam by 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 called on Nigerians to reject in its entirety, the call by Dasuki, saying it could lead to constitutional crisis and undermine the nation’s democracy.
Mohammed had earlier in his response to calls by some groups for the postponement of the polls, said, “The 2015 elections must begin with the presidential poll on February 14, 2015 as scheduled.
“When the Department of State Service or the SSS lied that we are trying to hack into the database of INEC, we raised the alarm that it was part of a ploy not to hold the 2015 elections. People did not believe us.
“Now it is coming out clear, the ruling party(Peoples Democratic Party) does not want this election to hold; they are desperate. This call for postponement by groups and individuals is simply the infamous Association for Better Nigeria trying to resurrect.
“We join all well-meaning Nigerians to resist and reject it in any form or shape.
“Why are they not ready? Why should we postpone? We say ‘no’ to postponement. They know that if they don’t postpone, they can’t win.”
Like the APC, the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, the Afenifere Renewal Group and the Borno Elders Forum, warned against the postponement of the elections.
The ACF and JNI , in a joint statement after their meeting in Kaduna, said, “We are aware of sentiments being canvassed by anti-democratic forces that an unconstitutional Interim National Government or a similar illegal arrangement should be put in place to stop the forthcoming elections.
“We want to warn in the strongest terms possible that any designs to prevent the expression of popular will in February 2015 under whatever guise or excuse will be rejected and resisted by all Nigerians.
“The February general elections must hold under the most secure and peaceful conditions possible, and we have no doubt that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is in a position to guarantee this, if it wishes.’’
The ACF is headed by a former Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Coomassie, while the Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar, is the leader of the JNI.
NEF Deputy National Chairman, Chief Paul Unongo, told one of our correspondents that INEC would violate the electoral law and some aspects of the 1999 Constitution if it attempted to shift the elections under any guise.
He said, “There is tension in the country already caused by insecurity of lives and property. So, I suggest that Nigerians should support INEC to make the election credible.
“Instead of shifting the poll, INEC should allow those who have yet to collect their PVCs to use the temporary cards to vote after which they can collect the PVCs when they are ready.
“Shifting the election will set a bad precedent. Some people may want to use it as an instance to seek tenure elongation in future.”
The ARG National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Famoriyo, said, “Postponing the elections will destabilise many things. I think that INEC should do the needful by making sure that our people get their PVCs. This is a technology age and it should not take ages to get these things done.
“I am worried that it is only when we want to conduct census or elections that we run into problems. If you go to the banks, it doesn’t take time to get your credit cards, automated teller machine cards, and so on.
Also, BEF opposed the call for the poll shift regardless of the issues arising from the PVCs’ distribution.
The forum’s spokesperson, Dr. Bulama Gubio, supported the suggestion by NEF that INEC should allow the people to use the temporary voter cards to cast their votes.
The CAN General Secretary, Dr. Musa Asake, had told one of our correspondents that the polls should be shifted by one week to give more people the opportunity to participate in the process that would lead to the emergence of a new President.
Asake said, “I support the idea that INEC should shift the poll by one week because many eligible voters have yet to get their PVCs.
“The purpose of election anywhere in the world is to enable the people to make choice among contenders for positions or offices. So, if it is within the purview of the law, INEC should not hesitate to shift the poll to allow massive participation of eligible voters.”
The spokesperson for the FMBP, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, said the elections should be shifted so that there would be more time for eligible voters to collect their cards.
He said the “delay in distributing the PVCs seems like a calculated attempt by INEC to disenfranchise some eligible voters.”
Watyil said that for INEC to disallow eligible voters from using the temporary voter cards when it had not made the PVCs available to them would mean denying them the right to vote.
He said, “Our stand as the Middle Belt People is that INEC should shift the election forward so that every eligible voter can take part in the election.
“The election can take place in the second week of March. That will be better for us so that there will be more time for people to collect their PVCs to be able to exercise their right, else, there will be room for rigging.”
The Secretary General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Dr. Joe Nwogu, suggested that the elections be postponed for two weeks to enhance their credibility.
Nwogu said, “If the election is moved by two weeks, it will not be a waste of time. It is better we shift it and have it done properly. It can be postponed for about two weeks so that many people will have the opportunity to vote. But that is my personal opinion.”
The IYCW also supported the call for the postponement of the election to ensure that more Nigerians voted for the candidates of their choice.
Its spokesperson, Eric Amare, said,“We are in support of the extension of the date because the issue of PVC is very important and INEC must do everything possible to ensure that every registered Nigerian has the right to vote without any hindrance.’’