Presidential candidate seeks further extension of polls
Presidential candidate of People’s Trust (PT), Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim has called for further extension of the Presidential and National Assembly elections billed to hold on Saturday, February 23.
He contended that the one-week extension was too short to conclude the logistics requirement for the polls.
The presidential candidate stated yesterday in a letter to the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, stressing that another extension was reasonable in view of the logistics burden on the contestants and parties.
Olawepo-Hashim noted if his calls were heeded, candidates and parties would repeat logistics preparations that have hitherto been deployed to achieve the level of mobilisation for the February 16 botched election.
He said: “It is my considered opinion that in the haste to stick to a quickly announced date for the election, the commission may not have paid adequate attention to the attendant voter apathy that may result if adequate confidence building measures are not implemented to win back ‘would-be’ voters for the next date of polling.
“As a result and because a potential voter’s apathy in some section of the country or all of the country may substantially affect the results of the election, a new date of election should be between three to four weeks from February 16, not one week from February 16, as previously announced.
“This is more so for self-funded candidates and political parties who do not have the possibilities or intentions of falling quickly on the state treasuries to refinance another logistic deployment.”
He also advised that the commission should liaise with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to use its national networks to ensure mobilisation of communities, social and interest groups to reach potential voters to avoid voter apathy at the next date of election.
Olawpo-Hashim added that political campaigning should resume in consonance with extant legislation that allow campaign to continue up till 24 hours before elections in order to achieve the same level of mobilisation of voters as before February 16.
Copied in the letter were the United Nations representatives, observers and civil society groups, the diplomatic community, and the media.
Meanwhile, National Chairman, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Supo Shonibare has expressed worries that the highly sensitive electoral materials already released by INEC may be used by unscrupulous persons who wished to steal the mandate of the electorate.
Shonibare who urged INEC not to be manipulated by unpatriotic elements or collaborate with any group, no matter highly placed to destroy the integrity of the postponed elections, also asked the commission to rectify the challenges of logistics by Thursday for the postponed election to hold on Saturday, February 23.
Shonibare also condemned attacks on INEC offices and the destruction of the commission’s electoral materials in areas that he noted were strongholds of the main, consensus opposition president candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
According to Shonibare, “APC was very vocal four years ago in its claim that postponements (at least, at that time, not within a few hours to the start of the poll) were orchestrated to assist the then ruling party. It appears that the APC has very concrete plans to put their thoughts four years ago into action to subvert the strong opposition challenge of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. We have very strong suspicions that this postponement is a carefully conceived and hatched plan to deplete the logistical resources of the opposition in order to aid the electoral fortunes of APC.
“We ask the teeming PVC holding masses of Nigeria to not allow themselves to be discouraged or disenfranchised by the shenanigans of any group. Nigeria is our country and it will become whatever we will it to become. Each and every one of us owes a duty to ourselves, our families and our unborn generations to go out to vote your conscience. Vote Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to get Nigeria working and to ensure that the different sections of our dear Nigeria are enabled to further our individual and collective destinies.
“We have very little option than to accept the apology of the INEC Chairman and trust the challenges he has identified will have been rectified by Thursday, so that he can give assurances by that date of the preparedness of INEC to conduct a nationwide election on Saturday 23, February.”