Does the PDP really want the 2015 election? By Rotimi Fasan

IT is important to ask at this time if the ruling Peoples Democratic Party is really interested in contesting the rescheduled 2015 elections. This question has become pertinent in view of what looks like a deliberate attempt by the party to continue to stonewall any attempt to have the election until such time as it feels ready for it. The ‘filibustering’ tactics of the PDP are too obvious to be ignored.

This type of attitude was often to be found among underdog, opposition parties during election in Nigeria. It would seem to me that this is the first time in the history of Nigeria that a party in power would be acting like one in opposition, too frightened and afraid of testing its strength in an election.

President Goodluck Jonathan displaying Expression of Interest and Nomination Forms  at the People's Democratic Party's Secretariat in Abuja on Thursday (30/10/14).

It is not often the case that there are no legitimate grounds for concern when opposition parties see booby traps in electoral arrangements made by a ruling party. Since no Nigerian politician, especially one already in office, wants to leave even when they have been defeated in an election, they make all effort to subvert the electoral will of the people rather than acquit themselves well enough to look credible for re-election while still in office.

Their default move thereafter is to ensure that the electoral plans put in place are laced with all kinds of booby traps that would downgrade their relevance or usefulness. This they do in addition to barefaced electoral fraud like ballot stuffing and violent intimidation of opponents. It is for this reason that opposition parties often see problems even where there are apparently none during build-up to an election. That is never the story of a party in power which is almost always the aggressor, the culprit and, rightly or wrongly, expected victor all rolled into one.

But that a party in power would not want an election and would do all in its might to prevent one taking place even when it knows it cannot function like in a one party state is a phenomenon that the PDP has introduced into electoral practice in Nigeria. This is not because the party is even-handed and has not made its own arrangements to pervert the electoral process. No, there are numerous instances to cite in this regard. It is rather that in spite of its best efforts at turning the tide in its favour, it still sees itself as vulnerable and very open to defeat. This is the real reason it got its military wing to ensure the postponement of the election formerly slated for February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015. It is still bent on ensuring the election does not hold on the advertised new date until such time as it can be sure that it has won the election even before the first vote is cast. For the PDP, the rescheduled election is a bitter cup it would rather not have.

The PDP’s rejection of election (for that is what all this delay tactics mean) is neither a necessary nor desirable attitude. It is however one that the party is determined to maintain. Which is why Nigerians should not just gloss over it or view it as yet another freak incident in our drive towards improving democratic practice in this country. It is an attitude that should be condemned and opposed in the strongest terms given its import. It amounts to a denial of a fundamental imperative of democracy, even if ours is only so in name: the right to vote and be voted for.

The PDP may claim it has never made any call for the postponement or cancellation of the rescheduled election. It may deny any direct or indirect complicity in the activities of the ABN-like associations, misnamed political parties, dangerously springing up all over the place, campaigning either for the postponement or cancellation of the elections while dragging the courts into their patently criminal activities. But we are not all too woolly-brained not to know what is happening. The Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) was one of the worst contraptions set-up by the military and its civilian wings to wrongfoot the presidential elections of June 12, 1993. It began its activities in the same manner as the so-called 15 political parties that are rejecting the use of card readers alongside the PDP or, in fact, the self-styled Young Democratic Party that has just won a court judgement to be registered this late hour for the March 28 election.

Let us be clear about the complicity of the PDP in all these anti-democratic initiatives that are disguised as genuine worries for the integrity of the election. These plans surfaced clearly after Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser, first called for the postponement of the 2015 election citing security reasons. In order to make his call appear as unrehearsed as possible, he chose to make it in faraway London in the course of a perfunctory speech-making.

When it appeared like Dasuki’s call would fall on deaf ears, our so-called military chiefs issued the not-so-veiled threat of violence in their claim that they could not guarantee the safety of the electorate and electoral officials should the election go ahead as planned. This was hardly over before the same groups opposed to the election started the Permanent Voters Card controversy. Now that the PVC noise-making seems to be petering out after a few weeks as a national talking point, up came the Jega-must-go campaign, followed by the card readers cacophony. This not over yet but we are already faced with the entry of the Young Democratic Party and the cold possibility of the election being postponed or cancelled should this misguided group have its way.

At every point, people have cited one reason or another to oppose INEC or made calls for the postponement or cancellation of the scheduled elections, the PDP and its stalwarts have been on standby to amplify such calls, leaving nobody in doubt that they were privy to the destabilising activities of these rented elements. Given institutionalised defects in our electoral practice, it is hardly possible to expect 100% readiness on the part of the body responsible for organising elections in Nigeria now.

Otherwise no election can hold in this country as there would always be one thing or another in the arrangement to raise questions about. This is the loophole that the PDP has been exploiting through surrogates of different kinds even though it could be said that it has both the yam and the knife in its hand as far as this election and the arrangement for it are concerned. It could and has been doing as it pleases. But let it be mindful lest it becomes the lizard that desecrated its mother’s funeral with its own feet .