Pro’s and con’s of election postponement debate – Emeka Madunagu

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It’s really such a sad thing that the alleged agenda by some politicians to force the postponement of the February elections is taking a dangerous turn, with a deliberate campaign to blackmail the Independent National Electoral Commission. Different kinds of adverts have been floating about, seeking to hoodwink Nigerians into accepting calls for the shift in the election dates.

There is a hint that women and youth groups are being mobilised to organise protests calling for the postponement of the elections. In fact, the central theme is: What will it take to postpone the elections by just six weeks? Now, let us take the key arguments for the postponement of the elections. These are that about 15 million Nigerians have yet to collect their Permanent Voter Cards. Now, it has been reported that in some states, the rate of collection has gone up to 70 per cent. Thankfully, INEC has extended the date for collection to February 8.

INEC has also said it is also salutary to note that political parties and candidates have been mobilising Nigerians to go and pick their PVCs. So, there is hope that by February 8, the rate of collection would have gone up significantly across the country. Some people have even suggested that the Federal Government should set aside two or three days as holidays to enable Nigerians to go and pick their cards. This is a much easier step to take than pushing the elections further. I strongly align with the informed position of one of Nigeria’s greatest lawyers, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who declared in his piece on the backpage of the last edition of Sunday Telegraph (January 25, 2015) that a shift in the dates would place the nation in jeopardy.

All that those calling for the shift should do is to study the relevant provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) before pushing such a position.

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The next point raised by the proponents of the call is that the elections might not meet the test of credibility because of security concerns in the North-East. This argument is defeated by assurances from the Defence Headquarters that it is making serious efforts to defeat Boko Haram, in conjunction with the Multinational Joint Task Force, comprising Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and even Ghana. Chadian forces yesterday retook Malumfatori in Borno State from Boko Haram.

Using air and ground assault against Boko Haram, the Chadian forces dealt a crushing blow to the insurgents. The theatre of war then moved to neighbouring Abadam, which the Chadian troops look set to retake under ‘Operation Logone 2015.’ Few days ago, the Nigerian military took delivery of Chinese-built CH-3 Unmanned Air Combat Vehicles (armed drones).

These drones have purpose-built features that will increase the Nigerian military’s ability to defeat Boko Haram speedily. So, there is the strong possibility that the areas under Boko Haram control can be retaken within two weeks. With the aid of the MJTF, these areas can be cleaned up with one month and prepared for supplementary elections. I may not be a legal expert but I do know that supplementary elections can be held in areas retaken from Boko. I do know that the country is in a dire situation with the security situation in the North-East. INEC has indicated that it will proceed with the eelctions, even if it means excluding the affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. I leave the legal juggernauts and the courts to determine whether by excluding these states and proceeding with the elections, INEC can reasonably say that the presidential election can stand as validly conducted. Instead of the ridiculous and childish path taken by proponents of elections shift, the courts are there to ensure accelerated hearing of this matter and further strengthen our democracy.

In so doing, I pray that matter gets up to the Supreme Court so that we can all benefit from the process eventually. It’s quite objectionable the way some politicians have been going about, casting aspersions on INEC. This desperate attempt to compromise democratic institutions, in a bid to score cheap political points, will not work out in favour of democracy in Nigeria on the long run. It’s quite childish for anyone to just sit in an office and simply castigate INEC for not doing his or her bidding. Then, we have the aspect of the educational qualifications of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.

While the Peoples Democratic Party and some interest groups have made a song and dance of Buhari’s eligibility for the presidential election, some lawyers have gone to court. However, I believe that we should allow the courts to determine the issue instead of resorting to self-help like the PDP spokesman, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, did with his press statement on Wednesday. INEC is established by law and the only way to redress any wrongs believed to have been done by the electoral body is by going to court. Placing the integrity of INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and the entire electoral body in doubt, the way Fani-Kayode did with his statement, is rather unfortunate. You can’t be a judge, prosecutor and plaintiff in your own case.

Allow the courts to do their work and shun this patently Nigerian way of crying wolf where there is none. Let me state without fear of equivocation that it is quite unfortunate that blackmail and personality attacks have been infused so much into electioneering in Nigeria that no terrain is spared. Take for instance, the documentary titled: The Real Buhari. For whatever it is worth, the sponsors of that documentary went too far in their desperate bid to portray Buhari in bad light. While I believe that Buhari is eminently qualified to defend himself and respond to the allegations raised against him in the documentary, I find it rather disgusting that his late wife and daughter had to be dragged into the matter. It is trite to say that you don’t speak ill of the dead because they have no defence.

It is also indefensible that the family of a candidate had to be dragged into an election in which he is running on a party’s ticket. I’ve read many attempts to defend the documentary by various commentators on social media but none has been able to justify why Buhari’s late wife and daughter were dragged into the matter. I believe it’s only people with low morals that would descend to such disgusting depths, all because they want to score a point. I once asked a candidate for the House of Representatives why such mudslinging had become fashionable to Nigerian politicians.

His response was that it’s all propaganda, which is allowed. But what I find rather strange these days is that there is a deliberate attempt to demonise and destroy the reputation candidates have built over the years. It appears as if no matter how clean you are, every effort must be made to pin something on you. Now, that’s one reason why Nigerians with impeccable credentials shy away from politics.

If you have to tear the background of a candidate apart in order to gain some cheap points for his opponent, do you have to drag his family into it? In this case, do you have to drag his deceased family members into it? For me, it all smacks of desperation and disregard for cherished values. It’s as if we have lost our sense of morality that such should be counted among issues that define a debate. I do urge the sponsors of the documentary and the TV station that has been airing it to stop such forthwith. It makes no sense to mock people who have no direct or remote connection to a matter, simply in an effort to score some points.

 

 

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