New elections dates sacrosanct, say Jonathan, Buhari
• Ex-Head of State meets UN, EU, AU officials
• Again, PDP accuses Jega of working for APC
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday assured Nigerians that the new dates announced for the general elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) remain sacrosanct.
He stressed that on May 29, a new president would be sworn in.
On his part, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) yesterday met with officials of the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU) and European Union (UN), reiterating that the March 28 rescheduled date for the start of the general elections must remain sacrosanct.
When he met with the EU delegation that paid him a courtesy visit in his campaign office in Abuja, Buhari maintained that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) no longer had any excuse to shift the polls. In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday in Abuja accused the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, of working in close collaboration with the APC with the aim of making the outcome of the polls favourable to the opposition party.
Hosting his eight presidential media chat since May 2011, Jonathan said in a live broadcast that “if the elections are conducted and I lose, of course, we will inaugurate a new government. I’ve said that severally that May 29 is sacrosanct. There is a lot of wrong information floating in the system.”
The President spoke extensively on the issue of insecurity, corruption and campaigns. Jonathan, who also laid to rest speculations that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Attahiru Jega would be asked to proceed on a terminal leave at the end of this month, noted that he had not contemplated such action, blaming a section of the political class for making up such stories with a view to discrediting his administration.
The President said, “ I have not told anybody that I will remove Jega” and that if he ever contemplates such move noting that he would rely on “constitutional” provisions that gives him powers to sack whomever he appoints.
While giving further reasons why the elections scheduled for Saturday this week was shifted to give room for wide distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs), the President, who described the situation as unfortunate, however, believed that it was necessary so that a good number of Nigerians have access to the cards to enable them participate in the election of their next leaders.
Stating that he was not consulted by INEC before the general elections were rescheduled, Jonathan reassured “Nigerians that elections would be conducted in this country and a government will be inaugurated on May 29, 2015”
Recalling that similar extension took place during the 2011 general elections when the exercise had to be postponed by one week, noting that, like then, he was not consulted. Nevertheless, he believed it was necessary so that all Nigerians should have elections that they could have confidence in.
While identifying with the concerns expressed by the international community on the heels of the postponement, the President, however, thought the Nigerian situation was genuine, as it was the determination of the present administration to leave a better electoral legacy
“Let Nigerians not be perturbed that the President will send the chairman of INEC on three months terminal leave and put someone else. We will conduct election, it is better for INEC to conduct election which we all agree are free and fair and is done in a way that Nigerians agree is credible. For example, in Lagos and Ogun States, less than 40 per cent of the PVCs were distributed. I want a country where every Nigerian should vote.”
On the state of security in the North East, the President also assured that in the next six weeks, substantial progress would be made in the war against the insurgents as Nigeria has just acquired new weapons and gotten support of the neighbouring countries to fight the war.
He specifically mentioned that Chad waited for approval of the African Union(AU) which they got before they agreed to participate in the final push against Boko Haram along with Cameroun.
On the issue of security in the country especially during the campaigns, President Jonathan regretted that the level of misinformation among young people is high, which is one of the reasons why he was attacked in the Northern part of the country.
He stated: “Attempting to attack the president is treasonable offence. The president is protected by soldiers, not just the police. People get carried away and make some provocative statements. Those who pelted my convoy during my campaigns in the Northern part of the country were ignorant.”
On the Chibok girls, he sought for more time as with the renewed onslaught against the insurgents, he is “more hopeful now than before as they will comb the whole area and we have cooperation with our neighbours. Just give us some times. I believe the story would be different in a few weeks. I believe the story of Chibok girls will get better in the next few weeks. But don’t quote me. We are working with our neighbours. We will comb the whole of that place. Partying after abduction? It’s unfortunate that people play politics with the issue of Chibok girls. It’s not like that elsewhere. In other countries, political boundaries collapse in the face of terror attacks, not so in Nigeria.”
On corruption, he explained, “I did not say stealing is not corruption. It’s not actually my quotation. I quoted the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The word corruption we have abused it and its not making so much sense. A thief is a thief. Don’t use the word corruption to cover stealing. Call the person a thief. A thief should be called a thief. Ole should be called ole! If you say somebody is corrupt people don’t know what you mean. We have convicted more corrupt people than ever. It is just that Nigerians are confused on what the difference is between stealing and corruption.”
Our procurement of weapons, “it is now a government to government business. We are doing it this way now because of corruption.” Recalling the intrigues that led to the postponement of the elections, Buhari said that the APC was left with no option but to wait and see if elections would be allowed to take place on March 28 of this year.
According to him: “I think we have got all those things behind us now, and we are now waiting anxiously for government to do its duties by allowing the institutions to run free, fair and credible elections on March 28 and April 11. We in the opposition party have made it absolutely clear that there is no more room for manoeuvre. Constitutionally, elections must hold on March 28 and April 11 because that is the limits the constitution allows.”
Asked by the EU Chief Observer Mission, Santiago Fises who led the delegation on what would happen if government still goes ahead to reschedule the elections after March 28, Buhari retorted, saying it behooves the authorities not to incur the wrath of Nigerians by respecting the provisions of the constitution.
He said: “But the government doesn’t need their own prompting to do their own part because that is their fundamental duty which is to secure persons and properties in the nation state. So the question for room for manoeuvre does not exist. If the government does not allow the elections to hold, they should be aware that Nigerians are aware of the constitutional provisions. So we have to wait for March 28.”
Fises who spoke to reporters at the end of a closed door meeting with Buhari, expressed concern over the postponement of the election, noting that such acts could affect the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral process.
He said: “We appreciate the commitment of Buhari to ask people to accept the postponement of the election. The most important thing is to stay and comply with the provisions of the constitution. We think that it is not a good thing to postpone election because that will erode the confidence of the people.”
Earlier on, when the UN and AU delegation met with Buhari, they enjoined stakeholders in the country’s electoral process to adhere to the constitutional limit for the elections in the interest of peace and tranquility.
The two bodies were in Nigeria to meet with leading presidential candidates of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the APC.
The special representative of the UN in West Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambers, who met with Buhari behind closed doors told journalists: “Nigeria stakeholders have accepted the fact that there’s a postponement and they are working in that context. All we need to be mindful of now is the constitutional limit for the elections and this should be respected.”
The UN representative who came in company of the representative of the AU Commission on Political Affairs, Aisha Abdullah, earlier expressed deep concern over the postponement of the election.
Applauding Nigerians for keeping the peace, he enjoined the presidential candidates to adhere to the Abuja accord recently signed, adding that the eyes of the whole world were on Nigeria.
Buhari, flanked by his running mate, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, and party officials, told the delegation that he had always been an advocate of peace in line with the Abuja peace accord, adding that INEC had played what he termed “its last card” since there would be no room constitutionally for further postponement.
Thanking the delegation for its concern about the country, he assured that he would continue to push for the adherence to the rule of law and entrenchment of democracy in the country.
On the speculation about the institution of an interim government, Buhari said that it was unacceptable to the APC adding: “No, my party and I as the presidential candidate have made a statement on that issue unless you want me to contradict myself. Our expectations are very clear, we said INEC has played its last card and that is the limit.
“Certainly, this 28 of March there must be election and it is up to the government to ensure that the election is free, fair and credible.”
At a news conference in Abuja, the Director of Media and Publicity of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode, alleged that the PDP was in custody of facts on how Jega met with some APC leaders in Dubai and other cities in the world to plot the distribution of the PVCs in a manner that would make most PDP supporters unable to get their PVCs and vote.
“Pieces of information at our disposal have shown that Jega has had meetings with APC stalwarts in Dubai and other cities in the world to perfect this wanton conspiracy against 23 million eligible voters.”
Fani-Kayode further stated that the PDP was aware that a large amount of the PVCs had not arrived in Nigeria, because INEC had not completely paid for their production.
“Besides, we have information that the PVCs that Nigerians are scrambling for are not in Nigeria and will not arrive before the elections. These PVCs are still in China and Jega has strategically delayed their arrival to suit his electioneering permutations.
“Can Prof. Jega show Nigerians proof that the Chinese company printing the PVCs has been paid in full by disclosing the total contract sum and the amount paid to date? Can Jega show proof of arrival or expected date of arrival of all PVCs for the elections? Can Jega tell Nigerians how he could have distributed 23 million PVCs within five days to election if there hadn’t been a postponement?” Fani- Kayode queried.
He challenged Jega to deny the allegation of having met with APC leaders in Dubai or simply confess to the allegation.
Displaying a chart on the distribution of the PVCS, Fani-Kayode alleged that the cards’ distribution was manipulated to benefit the states where APC were strong.
“We would like to say that the major issue that informed INEC’s decision was the deliberate attempt by the Commission to disenfranchise over 23 million eligible voters who are yet to collect their PVCs.
“The matter is that INEC has failed in its responsibility to produce and distribute PVCs to about 34 per cent of registered voters who would require the cards to vote in the elections.
“This brings us to the issue of statistics of PVC distribution and collection, which we believe Jega, as a person, acting in concert with some forces of retrogression, is playing games with.
“We express our concerns today that Jega may have decided to aid the APC to rig the forthcoming elections through the manipulation of the production, distribution and collection of PVCs such that emerging trends have consistently shown calculated attempts to deprive parts of the country that would traditionally vote for President Jonathan of their PVCs whilst the parts of the country that would traditionally vote for Buhari, are already armed with their PVCs.”
Fani-Kayode continued: “Why are the PVC collection rates in the North Central, Southsouth, Southwest and Southeast much lower with the highest being 57 per cent? Is it because these geopolitical zones may be pro-Jonathan?
“Why does the Northwest zone which includes Katsina (Buhari’s home state) have the highest collection rate of 80 per cent?
“How come the Northeast also has 75 per cent collection rate when, in fact, three states in this zone-Adamawa, Borno and Yobe- have been under the attack of Boko Haram insurgents, a development that has led to the displacement of many residents? Did the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) come back there to collect their PVCs?
“Why is it that North Central zone, which includes states like Plateau and Benue that traditionally vote PDP, has a collection rate of 48 per cent when Northeast and Northwest have between 75 and 80% per cent collection rates?”
According to Fani-Kayode: “INEC would have us believe that as far back as January 2014, the PVC distribution would be done in phases.
“Phase one, according to the Commission, commenced May 2014 in 10 states – Taraba, Gombe, Zamfara, Kebbi, Benue, Kogi, Abia, Enugu, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa.
“Phase two – Yobe, Bauchi (Northeast) Jigawa, Sokoto (Northwest), the Federal Capital Territory, Kwara (North Central), Anambra, Ebonyi (Southeast), Ondo, Oyo (Southwest), Delta and Cross River (Southsouth).
“Phase three – kicked off in November and involved 13 states– Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Adamawa, Borno, Edo, Imo, Kaduna, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, and Plateau.
“Can Jega explain to Nigerians how Kano, Adamawa, Borno, Kaduna and Katsina, which were slated for Phase three and actually kicked off in November 2014, have achieved a 75-80 per cent PVC collection rate whilst many states slated for Phases one and two and even some others in Phase three are still in the 40-50 per cent collection rate range?”
Reacting to allegations that the federal government deployed some soldiers to Tinubu, in his House in Lagos, Fani Kayode said that there was no truth in the allegation, pointing out that the PDP would derive no benefit from such thing and so its government would not do so.
“Tinubu did not tell the truth at all. It is sad that he made such claims. Nobody is after him. All we want is to beat them convincingly at the elections. We challenge the APC to produce evidence of such military harassment,” Fani-Kayode said.
He also stated that the PDP was not moved by the endorsement of Buhari by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, saying that it would not stop President Jonathan from winning the election.