• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Now that we are back on the march again  

Now that we are back on the march again  

In a country where everything, including honour and integrity, appear to have been commoditized, trust too is now a scarce commodity. No one knows who to believe anymore in the political landscape as far as the feasibility of the election holding as rescheduled is concerned.

Not the politicians and their political machinery which are always looking for the slightest opportunity to tweak the facts in their favour in order to edge out the opponent. Not the military, which appears to have become so politicized and, perhaps, compromised so much so that if its command sneezes now, it would be better to run for cover than seek anti-cold medications.

Nor should one completely accept the excuse from the Independent National Electoral Commission that it was blameless as to have solely attributed the reason for the postponement of the election to the caution from the military, citing its inability to guarantee security. Without seeking to give fillip to the rather incongruous argument that the inadequate pace of distribution of the Permanent Voters Card might be a deliberate ploy by the INEC boss to favour a particular party, it is painfully obvious that the preparation towards the initial dates of the elections was rather shoddy and unsatisfactory.

If the deadline for the collection of PVCs had been last Sunday and the presidential election allowed to go on this Saturday, as originally planned, more than a quarter of eligible voters would have been disenfranchised. It wouldn’t matter if about 40 per cent of those who are currently in possession of PVCs would either deliberately refuse to vote or would be technically disallowed because a PVC does not allow you to vote anywhere except where you registered, what is important for INEC is to be seen to have dispatched every PVCs in its custody to the owners, and in good time too.

Read also: APC demands probe of military role in Ekiti polls, alleged intimidation of opposition

But the fact that INEC is now taking advantage of the rescheduling of the election dates to extend collection of PVCs merely confirmed that it was being clever by half last week when it told the Council of State and the entire nation of its readiness to roll. Yet, the twin concerns of the training of its staff across the entire country as well as the testing of the card readers before election date needed to have been sorted and convincingly communicated to the whole nation to give the assurance of foolproof preparation, beyond the demonstration of the workings of the card reader on Kadaria Ahmed’s show on Channels Television.

While that singular demonstration of efficiency is commendable, INEC ought to have followed up with a press conference that would be attended by representatives of political parties to convey the message that alleged purchase of PVCs for N10,000 is inconsequential with an effective card reader in place.

What I thought the INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, meant when he said he was ready to proceed with the election was based on his conviction that the card readers were good enough and the hope that half of the 75 per cent of the registered voters that would have collected their PVCs by last Sunday would be up to the 42 million Nigerians that voted in 2011. But Jega underestimated the protests that would have trailed such a move if the election had gone ahead with about 20 million PVCs either yet to be produced or collected.

With this lapse, Jega unwittingly allowed the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, or shall we say the Federal Government, to find a potent excuse to offer INEC a breather: take six more weeks and put your house in order. But it was not so much of a Greek gift as it was a battle-front order, which was why Jega had to cleverly latch on to the curious warning by the military that it was unable to guarantee safety, considering the volatile security challenge in the North-East of the country.

The joke, however, is on the military which appears to have been drawn into the political arena in a rather unsavoury manner. In my column two weeks ago, I had warned that the ghost of June 1993 general elections was being invoked and that for the love of country and democracy, we should just get these general elections over with. However, it is evident that the June 12 vampire might have been unleashed on the nation, except the concerned institutions, namely the Federal Government, the military and the judiciary, are able to save the country from a needless bushfire that might burn beyond anybody’s imagination.

In deconstructing the security reason for the postponement of the elections, therefore, it is important to draw the attention of those three institutions to this summation. The insurgency in the North-East cannot be a valid excuse for the entire poll to be postponed. If the terror attacks could not be quashed in the past three or four years, and the dreaded Shekau is still cyber-threatening the nation, what guarantee do we have that six weeks are sufficient to root Boko Haram out? Should we trust an army that once announced a ceasefire with Boko Haram and the release of the Chibok girls only to make an embarrassing detour 48 hours later?

Like most Nigerians, one would love the idea of Chibok girls being rescued before March 28 and Boko Haram defeated, but to what will the army attribute this sudden miraculous valour? If, on the other hand, it fails to deliver and the National Security Adviser has already promised that no further extension of election dates would be entertained, would the army be responsible for any security fall-out if INEC fulfils its own side of the bargain in ensuring a free, fair and credible elections?

Now that we are on the march again…eager to elect the ‘best’ president in these trying times, I have a hunch that we should beware of the Ides of March, so that the nation does not bleed for justice’ sake.

Steve Ayorinde