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2015: Southwest Elders Insist On February Dates



• There Is Need For Caution, Say Falae, Adebanjo

SOME Southwest elders have thrown their weight behind the dates sets for the 2015 general elections, insisting that the original plans should remain sacrosanct. 

  In chat with The Guardian, former Second Republic Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the federation, Chef Richard Akinjide, and stalwart of Yoruba socio-cultural group, Senator Biyi Durojaiye, were resolute in total rejection of the calls for postponement of the polls. This came as another Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and the former Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae, called for caution and better objectivity in handling the issue. 

   “If a three-week postponement would enable the INEC to do a better job, to make the election acceptable to all of us, it should be considered within the provisions of the constitution,” Falae said.

   Falae, who is the national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), however, insisted that postponing the election at a result of the criminal activities of the insurgents, predominantly in the three state of the Northeast geo-political zone, is not sufficient reason. He said, “Postponing the election because of the insurgency in certain parts of the country may not be good enough reason. For one, no one knows for how long the insurgency would go on. So, you cannot postpone the election indefinitely. 

   “But then, any postponement must be within the constitution and the law, “ he said.  

   Adebanjo, on his part, pointed out that “one cannot be too rigid about a particular position in matters like this. At one hand, when you look at it from the argument that postponing the general election because of trouble in three or four states; it does not make sense. 

   On the other hand, there is the problem of distributing the Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in certain areas and these areas would be disenfranchised; you cannot say those anchoring their argument on the need for a shift in the date of the election don’t have a point. Especially, when viewed against the backdrop that three weeks postponement is still within the law.”

   The major constraint in postponing the election, according to him, is the cost on political parties, as well as, the government (through the funding of the INEC). “This election must have cost the parties and the government a lot of money. Those saying the election should be postponed are not looking at the other side very carefully. As such, it is neither here nor there. There must not be any serious hard line position on the issue,” Adebanjo said.

   He, however, stressed, “I would like to take a position that if INEC says it is ready, we should go with the commission and support them. The problem with us is that we are too suspicious of one another. This attitude has put a lot of us on the edge and restless. 

   “Also, the types of allegations that have trailed the conduct of the INEC boss have been unsettling. For example, having more polling units in some areas more than the others are unfortunate.  This has put some dent on his reputation. 

   “Meanwhile, we must appreciate the fact that the INEC boss is also under intense pressure, having regard to the fact that if he says, INEC is not ready, some people would say, it’s the presidency that is manipulating him,  

    Akinjide totally rejected the idea of any shift in the polls. “There’s absolutely no need to postpone the election. What for? Everything will go on very well. This is not the first time we are having emergency in this country before election and even after election, said the first republic federal commissioner for education. 

 “In any case, if the election is conducted very well, there would be no problem whatsoever. 

     Durojaiye was also unsparing in rejecting the need to shift the election date. He said:  “We should not at all. There is absolutely no plausible reason to postpone the election. The very fact that people cannot begin to vote is an admission of failure on the part of government that it cannot provide security. In itself, that is a failure and we don’t want to announce that we are failing so as to justify continuation of failure. 

    “The first quality and first duty in the social contract between the government and the governed is to provide security for the governed. Thomas Hobbes and John Locke propounded this theory and it is accepted all over the world. That the situation has arisen where some people cannot exercise their fundamental right to say who should rule over them is an admission of failure on the part of the government and you cannot use that as an excuse to continue in the position of authority.

   How are we sure that what we are hearing is what it is? Then, they can as well continue not prosecuting Boko Haram so that more states will fall into the group, and that is now an excuse to continue in power indefinitely. That logic leads us to absurdity. We need to follow the argument and put it on the run of logic. 

  “The second point is that only three out of 36 states that are affected, even at that, a sizeable number of these states would still be available. Election should be conducted where people can vote. We should not because of failure as a result of lack of security in three states say 33 states should abandon or breach the constitution for possible termination government after four years. 

   “Renewal of mandate every four years is a constitutional provision. Any excuse whatsoever is a breach of that constitution and it should not be encouraged. 

   “What the constitution provides, circumstances that bring about state of emergency that will prevent an election from holding; in the cases of invasion or the civil war we had before, something more serious than this type of situation which they have not handled effectively well enough, and they had more than one year to prepare for this election. 

   “The second argument they give is that the PVC is not available but how long does it take to print the PVC card, it is not a thing you are going to mine like diamond or gold and process and take a long time. Security printing both here and overseas even if it is today you order, they can produce within a week and fly them down; I am sure it can be done, if we have the good will to do it. 

   “In fact, INEC is not saying that the cards are not available is distributing them. If this is the case, let every INEC state office advertise that these cards are available so, so and so time. Even if it means taking public holiday to ensure distribution, so be it.”

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