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Johnson: Matters arising on re-scheduled polls

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WHEN the All Progressives Congress (APC) raised the alarm about the plot to shift the 2015 polls, many people waved it, while others termed it APC propaganda. Even the Presidency denied involvement in the plot when it was strongly disclosed, only to commend and support it after it was successfully executed by the power hawks in government, led by the security adviser in connivance with security agencies.

    To execute it successfully and box INEC to the corner even while it was on consultation with major stakeholders before the public announcement of the polls shift, the proponents of polls shift gave out the details to their hired internet warriors to place it in online media ahead of INEC’s official announcement of the shift. By the time INEC announced the shift, it was no different from what has gone viral on social media earlier in the day.

   It is obvious to Nigerians that the security issue which was posed to INEC as reason to shift the polls by the National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) was a smokescreen to divert attention and achieve some ulterior motives ahead the 2015 polls. It has clearly exposed the meddlesomeness of some people in the Presidency in the affairs of the electoral commission which, might compromise its integrity before the polls.

  It has also confirmed that despite acclaimed transformation and performance by the PDP-led Federal Government in the last five years, the party is not confident of going to the poll, suspecting that it may lose.

    It was alleged that before the sudden shift of polls, three opinion poll organisations from U.S., Britain and Israel had been commissioned for months, with the outcome showing that PDP might lose the presidency to APC if the election is conducted as scheduled. Was this why the Presidency opted for push to shift the polls? Is the security concern a cover-up?   

   Many Nigerians are saying that the PDP and the Presidency have just postponed the evil day, which they cannot wish away. Come to think of it, why is it that it is only when the elections had come closer that security agents become serious in fighting Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast region? What do they have now that they were lacking in the last four years Boko Haram insurgents have been ravaging the entire country, especially the Northeast region? 

   Recently, Dasuki had boasted that Boko Haram insurgents would be crushed within the six weeks. But has the government the capacity to protect lives and property of its citizens? Nigerians have heard these promises by government before, but nothing came out of it, so they are not expecting anything different. After all, the Chief of Defence, Air Marshal Alex Badeh had assured Nigerians a week earlier that the military was ready for the now rescheduled 2015 polls. But when the chips were down, the same military said it could not guarantee the security of Nigerians for few hours to exercise their franchise. Having succeeded to shift the polls, perhaps with the hope that it would spark protests to create room for another shift from March 28, the plotters in collaboration with their foot soldiers are back to the drawing board to plot another gimmick aimed at depriving or delaying Nigerians from making choice of their president on March 28.

   Several groups are apparently being sponsored within and outside INEC to blackmail its chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega and force him out of office. Already they have been staging protests, raising all sorts of allegation and calling him names. The Bring Him Down Campaign of calumny against Jega started two years ago when they accused him of giving some Northerners strategic positions in the Commission. But the truth is that these INEC staff have been in the Commission and grew in ranks before Jega was appointed.

    On the allegation of favouritism in the distribution of PVCs against Jega, looking at the number of voters in each state across the country, some states in the South like Abia, Anambra and others have attained 80% collection of PVCs. The North has more number of voters than the south and expectedly they have high ratio in the collection of PVCs. Across the country, especially in the South, many PVCs are lying uncollected because of apathy on the part of voters. Will INEC be blamed?

     Now the date for collection of PVCs has been shifted to March 8, let’s wait and see the percentage of collection in the North and South before passing verdict on INEC leadership and its preparation for the elections. Unfortunately, because of pecuniary benefits, Nigerians have become so biased, making themselves willing tools in the hands of the conspiratorial elite. Is it not the same Jega who conducted the 2011 elections that President Jonathan won overwhelmingly and nobody raised eyebrow.         

   Although the Presidency has denied making moves to remove Jega, its body language portends otherwise. Nigerians and the international community are not convinced by such denial, particularly under the PDP presidency since 1999. But such move, if true, will do more damage to the country’s electoral process. The Presidency must care and not seek to satisfy the desire of the cabal that is toying with the country’s democracy at its own peril.  It is not compulsory that Jega must proceed on terminal leave by March 1 especially as the Commission has election at hand to conduct. Prof. Maurice Iwu’s tenure of office was supposed to end by June 30, 2010, but he superintended the Anambra governorship election in May 2010 before his tenure expired.

   Of concern is the alarm by the APC leadership that  the PDP-led Federal Government was plotting to use the military for the rescheduled presidential election. According to the APC national chairman, Chief John Oyegun, a secret memo has been allegedly written to all formations to perfect the briefing. Oyegun also alleged plan to pressurize INEC to shift the polls again or at worst make do with interim government. These are weighty issues that Nigerians and international community must not ignore. They should be on the watch. This is because every political rumour contains an element of truth. The military involvement in the country’s democracy is fast becoming a dangerous trend that may draw the country back if not properly handled.

   Professionalism and integrity of the Nigerian military is at stake already over its inability to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency. To be used by the power-that-be in a democratic process means politicisation of the institution.    

     Surprisingly, a social media revelation on how a Brigadier-General of the Nigerian Army in connivance with some politicians and serving ministers allegedly rigged last year Ekiti governorship election has not been debunked by the Nigerian military authority. 

   The constitutional responsibilities of the military are well-defined in the country’s constitution, but some politicians in a desperate quest to hold unto power by all means are dragging the military into the politics. It was the same military that held some APC governors hostage at Akure airport on their way to Ekiti during the last governorship election in the state. 

  Sadly some people who should otherwise be enlightened are encouraging the Presidency to perpetrate impunity. Obviously, these sycophants are out to destroy the unity of the country for what they will individually benefit. But for how long will they do this and at whose expense?

   Since its independence, the country has not witnessed this kind of election where the country is divided along tribal and religious line. Instead of campaign on issues that would be of benefit to the people, it has been more of hate, divisive, incisive, blackmail, religious cum ethnic jingoism. The development is already threatening the corporate existence of the country and the Presidency is busy chasing shadows in the name of power struggle with the APC. The situation calls for concern and caution among true Nigerians because we cannot afford to toe the path of the past again.

• Dr. Okebugwu, a university don, wrote from Florida, USA


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