Who Wins Today? Jonathan Or Buhari ?
• As Nigeria Remains On Edge Over Polls Outcome
THE long awaited moment is here at last. Today, millions of Nigerians will go the polls to elect a new president.
Although there are many candidates, the contest boils down to two of them: incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). This is more so with some of the political parties and candidates queuing behind the duo who are slugging it out for the second time, the first being in 2011 when the incumbent beat his main challenger in the race. But unlike in the past, today’s election would be a keen contest between the two and there might be no landslide victory.
Since the advent of this Republic in 1999, no presidential election has been so close to call. And of course, so polarised along religious and ethnic lines as this. For Jonathan, it is a last chance to demonstrate what he can do to prove his mettle if he wins. And for Buhari, it is a last chance and last attempt, considering his age. However, many believe it would have been easier for a winner to emerge had the election held last month as earlier scheduled.
Many expect the poll to be more peaceful than it would have been last month, especially with the signing of a second peace accord by the major candidates on Thursday to eschew bitterness and violence during and after the results and winner are announced. Across the country, palpable tension remains, with most non-indigenes on the alert despite assurances by government and security agencies of their safety. There have been last-minute movements/travels and shopping for foodstuffs and even petroleum products as restriction of movement is in place today.
Since Thursday, most major inter-state highways have been busy, as people travelled to their hometowns for safety or to enable them vote where they were registered. At the Lagos Airport, there were normal flight operations, although passenger surge was noticed.
Flight operations at both the international and domestic wings of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos were normal on Thursday and yesterday as most of the airlines maintained their daily schedules and frequencies.
But there was a surge in the number of passengers yesterday as travellers tried to beat the restriction of movement imposed between 5am and 8pm today. The Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) announced on Thursday that the Nigerian airspace would remain open in case of any eventuality and that since INEC has announced restriction of movement because of the election, it was left for the airlines to comply or decide otherwise.
According to NAMA, its entire essential staff, particularly air traffic controllers, would be on duty. Going by this development, most domestic airlines have announced cancellation of all flight operations for the today, arguing that the remaining hours of the day after the elections would not be enough to do the normal checking and operate flights.
Above all, most Nigerian airports close by 6pm local time due to visibility problems, as many of them do not have facilities for night operations, including apron lighting and signage, pavement marking, airport beacon, wind cone, lighting and obstruction lighting. For now, the MMIA in Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA) in Abuja are the only airports that operate 24 hours a day. Even though normal flights were operated, there seemed to be increased frequencies by the local airlines because many of them would not operate today due to restriction of movement Arik Air, Nigeria’s flag carrier, had indicated that it would not operate any domestic flight today.
But its Corporate Affairs Manager, Ola Banji, said this decision would not affect its international flights since their schedules are in the evening and at night. In the same vein, Dana and Medview Airlines have cancelled their flights today due to the elections. At the international wing, The Guardian gathered that there was unusual passenger surge, but some of them who were interviewed claimed they were making usual trips, adding that their journeys had nothing to do with the elections.
But a staff of one the agencies at the airport told The Guardian that there had been heavy passenger traffic in the past three days. He added that the international airlines had not since January witnessed the heavy passenger traffic they witnessed in the past few days. “People are leaving the country, but I don’t know whether it is because of the elections or not. Most of the airlines are fully booked this time around.
We recorded low passenger traffic in January and February, but all of sudden, the traffic peaked. It is indeed a surprise to me,” he said. In the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, even as most residents appeared prepared for the polls, the massive movements out of the city which began before the initial February 14 date, climaxed in the early hours of yesterday. As early as 8 am when The Guardian visited the popular Jabi Park in Jabi District, most travellers were stranded as they could not secure seats in available inter-state vehicles.
A resident who accompanied his sibling to one of Southeast-based transport firms, decried lack of vehicles at the park. He said he had arrived the park as early as 7 am with the intention of securing a seat for his younger sister who was relocating to Abia State, but was told that all the seats had been fully booked. He said he would prefer to be alone in Abuja so that it will be easier for him to leave town in case of pre-election violence.
He however stated that although there is relative peace now, compared to the high level of apprehension experienced before the February 14 date, some Nigerians still fear that there might be pockets of violence by supporters of the loser when results are announced. At Utako market, customers were seen making last-minute shopping.
One of them, Mrs. Mabel Ibeka said she was trying to buy foodstuffs that would last for one week should there be need for curfew or restriction of movement after the today’s elections. Activities were lowest in the National Assembly as most lawmakers and their legislative aides have relocated to their various constituents for the elections. Banks were very busy as most customers made withdrawals. Jimoh Khalid said he needed to keep some cash at home. “We have all prayed for peace and believe that Allah will grant us peace.
But it is also good to have something at hand, so that if the banks fail to open, one can still make some little purchases after the elections,” he said. Those who were not in the banking halls were also seen queuing by the Automated Teller Machine (ATMs) for monetary transactions. In Edo State, political parties made last-minute lobbying and house-to-house moves to woo voters to their sides.
Electoral officials have also indicated their readiness for the elections, as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Mike Igini, said as at Wednesday all logistics required for the conduct of the elections had been put in place. He said all non-sensitive materials for the elections have since been moved to the areas where they were required.
The Nigerian Police and authorities of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) have deployed their personnel for the polls. The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Joseph Edoigiawerie told The Guardian that the police had deployed over 8,700 personnel and warned that anybody caught fomenting trouble would face the law. Meanwhile, youths and other stakeholders in the electoral system have been urged to shun acts capable of causing violence.
A youth leader, Jude Imagwe, made the appeal in Benin City, the state capital, during a sensitisation and peace road show. He urged youths to continue to shun vices that could jeopardise the election, just as he tasked security agencies to work within the confines of the law.
Imagwe, who is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Students Affairs, appealled to youths to resist the temptation of being lured as thugs, saying that the nation is at the threshold of making history again.
On his part, former Commonwealth scribe, Chie Emeka Anyaoku, yesterday appealed to political party leaders to ensure peaceful polls. His words: “Having acted as Chairman and principal witness to the signing of the Abuja Accord by 12 presidential candidates and their party Chairmen on 14 January, 2015, I wish on the eve of the elections to remind all the signatories of their solemn commitment to the letter of the Accord.
While it may be admitted that the campaigns have not been entirely free of hate speeches and some fracas, I believe that there is a general relief that the incidence of ugly violence has so far been less than what was experienced in the 2011 elections.”