The recent postponement of the general elections earlier scheduled for February 14 and 28, 2015 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has continued to elicit more reactions from political players.
Lagos State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jimi Agbaje, in his reaction backed the Chairman of the commission; Prof. Attahiru Jega, adding that the postponement was in line with the Nigerian Constitution even though it meant more expenses and more stress for the competitors.
According to him, the postponement would facilitate the holding of more credible and better inclusive elections by the commission.
He argued that a slight delay in the polls should raise no eyebrows so long as the May 29 handover date remained sacrosanct.
In his words, “It is apparent to everyone now that the postponement is within the confines of the Constitution and the electoral guidelines. As long as May 29 remains sacrosanct, everything is in order. And it is obvious that May 29 remains sacrosanct.”
In his reaction, a Warri based constitutional lawyer, Barrister Akpo Mudiaga Odje, said, “We saw it coming. It is a combination of poor preparation by INEC and security concerns. INEC has power to postpone elections under the electoral act. Even the President can do so if we are at war. Now the thing is that the distribution of the PVCs has not reached the voting percentage of the populace.
“28 million Nigerians are yet to get PVCs. That could have been an act of electoral slaughter. It is good for Nigeria and the security situation in the North East to postpone the elections. Under the constitution, INEC has till 29 April to do the elections,” he stated.
In the same vein BOT Chairman of Dr Ifeanyi Okowa support Group, Chief Frank Ojenima has urged Nigerian to bear with INEC, saying that “it is the will of God”, to postpone the elections.
However, a human rights activist, Barrister Oghenejabor Ikimi, condemned the postponement of the general elections by INEC.
Reacting to the postponement in Warri, the business hub of Delta State, the lawyer said it was an act of pure desperation by the ruling PDP to rig the 2015 elections.
“This is because the excuses given by INEC for the postponement are unjustifiable. This is so because just barely a week after the chairman of the commission and the various heads of our security agencies had assured the entire nation of their preparedness for the election whose timetable, it released almost a year ago only to postpone the same election now,” he said.
According to him, “We are therefore not surprised that INEC has finally succumbed to the unwritten script of the presidency, which was first let out by the National Security Adviser in far away London. We make bold to state that the action of the commission is not only unconstitutional, but has further soiled her credibility and integrity in the eyes of the general public as the 1999 constitution as amended supersedes the electoral act which the Presidency and INEC are presently relying on to justify the postponement.”
He called on Nigerians to be calm and urged aggrieved political parties to approach the court for judicial interpretation of the constitution on the subject.
Also, in his reaction, the Delta Central Senatorial candidate of Labour Party (LP), Obaisi Ovie Omo-Agege said, “While not my preference, we in LP are prepared and determined to win the elections whenever a new date is announced.”
On his part, Delta State APC gubernatorial candidate, Olorogun o’tega Emerhor said; “APC’s position before this development is against postponement. In the light of this development, our party will be coming out with an update of our position.”
Meanwhile, a group under the aegis of the “Transition Resurgent Group (TRG), committed to free, fair and credible elections has accused Prof. Attahiru Jega, of attending meetings with leaders of the Northern Elders Forum where plots were hatched to compromise the integrity of the electoral process in Nigeria.
The group also alleged that the INEC boss accepted a donation of 100 laptops for each state of the North from the Northern elders, which were given to youth activists to compromise the registration process among legions of other charges.
Addressing a press conference in Ikeja, Lagos State on Sunday, the spokesperson of the group, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, stated that the allegations, weighty as they were, did not attract any response from Jega until a journalist asked him pointedly at the briefing. He quoted Jega as saying that he would have gone to court to sue for libel were it not that he was busy with preparations for the election, an argument he said was too flimsy.
The group therefore called for a serious investigation of all the allegations leveled against the INEC boss to ascertain his worthiness to preside over elections whose outcome would be credible and acceptable.
TRG expressed concern over the failure of the INEC boss at the media conference to take responsibility for the obvious lapses that characterized the shoddy preparations for the now rescheduled polls. According to him, the INEC boss rather went ahead in his claims that the commission was better prepared to conduct the forthcoming elections than it was in the 2011, but for the insistence of security forces that could not guaranty safety of its officials as well as the electorate in the affected states.
His words, “Much more surprising was the gusto with which he rolled out the high percentage of the distribution of PVCs in insurgency ravaged states in the North East. For example, Borno 68 per cent, Gombe 78 per cent, Yobe 79 per cent, and Adamawa 80 per cent, based on this statistics, reasonable people are bound to question what magic the INEC boss performed in war zone areas that he could not in Lagos where PCV collection is at a ridiculous 38.39 percent?
“Whereas Jega had been making wild claims about improvement in card delivery; our investigations reveal that not a single new card has been delivered to many of the collection centres in Lagos in the last two to three weeks. There have also been claims of deliberate denials of cards to owners based on subjective factors, which suggest deliberate plans to disenfranchise certain categories of voters their cards in the state due to the voting pattern in the 2011 general elections.
“That Jega has no apology to offer millions of voters who have been thronging the collection centres for months without being able to collect their cards smacks of galling arrogance and insensitivity, and among the millions he has failed without any remorse are prominent Nigerians like the Sultan of Sokoto, Soun of Ogbomosho, Otunba Gani Adams and the Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, Charly Boy, Dr. Amos Akingba etc. He has added salt to injury by saying that millions who have been denied their right to vote by sheer ineptness of the commission was not enough to put off the elections. Is Jega aware that voting is a right and not a privilege at the behest of any arrogant official?”
It could be recalled that the first Credible Alternative Alliance (CAA) led by the former Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa had accused Jega of bias in the PVC distribution in favour of a particular candidate.
According to CAA, South East has (3,287,530), South West (7,411,205), South South (3,844,370), North East (2,429,763), North West (4,835,556), North Central (3,907,849) and the FCT (421,559). On the distribution of the PVCs, CAA said it has observed, “a criminal gross disparity of voter spread designed to tilt the election to a pr-determined outcome.
In his word, “let us call a spade a spade, there are two main contenders for the Presidency in this election. The analyzed data above depicts a worrying trend. Voters in the zones that tend to support President Goodluck Jonathan are massively disenfranchised by the application of the so-called PVC debacle, 40 percent to 50 percent of the voters in these regions who are lawfully and duly registered to vote will be denied their right to vote by INEC.
“That is nearly half of the support base of the President, simply nullified by administration failure prior to the election. By comparison, the zones that tend to support Buhari are handed a massive voter advantage, nearly 80 percent of his support base will be allowed to cast their votes by INEC. In an election, which many say will be won or lost by a slim margin, to now disenfranchise 26 million voters through a questionable and unlawful rule by the INEC is not acceptable by any measure.
“CAA condemns in its entirely, saying attempt by INEC to undermine our nascent democracy through this criminal enterprise to determine the outcome of this electioneer before the ballot is cast.
“We are of the full persuasion that the political coloration that has been splashed over the failure of INEC has not allowed us to fully address the fundamental issues at stake in the non preparation to hold the 2015 elections. There have been too much blackmail and terrible propaganda to paper over the real issues. Now that the elections have been shifted; it is a good opportunity to put things by beaming a proper searchlight on the issues that have to do with voter’s right. The extension of the time within the law would make no sense if the anomalies that characterized the shoddy plans are not rectified,” the group submitted.