The National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) proposed for a postponement of the February 14 Presidential elections in Chatham House, London. His reason was for the populace to get the permanent voters cards as millions were still lying uncollected.
There was hue and cry against his opinion particularly from the opposition who insinuated a sinister surreptitious tenure elongation agenda by the Presidency. They argued that he had no business with the distribution of the pvc’s and that the constitution was unequivocal in the expiration of the current GEJ led government on the 29th of May, 2015.
Section 45(1) of the 2010 Electoral Act with 2011 amendment states that the elections can be postponed. ‘Elections into the office of President, Vice-President, Governor, Deputy-Governor and the National Assembly can be shifted to a date which should not be 150 days earlier to the expiration of the present term of the occupants of the offices and not less than 30 days before the expiration.’
Section 26(1) of the act gives INEC the power to postpone the election. It provides that where a date has been fixed for the elections and if there is reason to believe that there will be a serious breach of peace or that it will be impossible to conduct elections on the dates actually fixed as a result of natural disaster or other such emergencies, INEC may postpone the elections.
The critical question before us is the availability of the permanent voters cards and the reluctance of INEC to allow voters vote without it. A commissioner in INEC, Amina Zachary said that only 44 million out of the 68.8 million have collected their cards. Dasuki had queried the possibility of the commission’s distribution of millions of cards in barely two weeks.
There is also the crisis of insurgency in the North East with three states – Adamawa, Borno and Yobe being placed under a state of emergency for some time now. The INEC boss, Professor Attahiru Jega shocked the nation when he said that two-thirds of the local government areas of Borno state could not be captured. The boko haram insurgents have even been emboldened to hoist their flag in some areas of the state thereby excising the map of the country. Two conflicting issues arise here. One the one hand, it will be grossly unfair to leave out the uncaptured areas of the North East as they are still part of the country. On the other hand, there are grave security concerns as to voting when the insurgents can strike at any time and kill people en masse. The elections would attract a large horde of people and this may likely give impetus to the heartless beasts masquerading as insurgents to brutally strike.
The issue of postponing the election for whatever legitimate reason ranging from the need to allow people get their pvc’s or allowing the North East get totally captured as their non-total capture may lead to a future electoral debacle – let us remember the twelve two-third brouhaha of the defunct Second Republic is a very delicate one that must be handled with caution. For starters INEC should take the blame for the current PVC fiasco. They bungled the process by waiting till the eleventh hour to start distributing the golden cards. They had four years to do so. Why then should the nation take the rap for their inefficiencies? It is not a novel thing for us to do things at the dime minute. It permeates through all facets of our national life and so one is not overtly amazed. One wonders why there was not a change of guard in the leadership of INEC for allowing this national embarrassment to persist? It is so sad that Jega didn’t deem it fit to throw in the towel for this national disgrace. What is the big deal in organizing a hitch free election? In 2011, there was a postponement for some of them on some flimsy grounds. Why should the signs still rear its ugly head again after four years? What a monumental shame and tragedy!
The grounds for a proposed deferment seem legitimate but it could be explosive as the opposition will not take it lightly at all. It will be seen as a sinister move to buy time in order to massively rig the elections since the popularity of the current government is waning by the day. The tribal and religious issues involved in addition to the inflammatory remarks being made by some citizens makes a postponement an extremely hot potato. Caution is the word needed here.
The office of the National Security Adviser is a very sensitive one and the holder is most times in possession of information not shared by the generality of the public. His argument may be tenable as he sees things the rest of us do not see. However any attempt to postpone the elections may be akin to merely postponing the evil day.
How much time does INEC need to distribute the cards? Would postponing it solve the knotty challenge? Shifting the elections will not solve the crisis of the insurgency in the North East. The fears of attacks still ring true and cannot be dispelled by shifting the goalpost. The suspicion and tension between the ruling party and opposition is too high for any insinuation to be given of any of them having an undue advantage. In the presence of former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, the peace accord was signed and promises were made not to engage in post-election violence to avoid the ugly incident of 2011. There will never be enough time and so it is in the best interest of the nation for the elections to hold on the scheduled dates. Any attempt to tinker with this may bring back the gory episode of the June 12 annulment.