• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Election shift a dent on Nigeria’s international image – Opadokun, David-West, other

PDP, APC, others sign peace accord as INEC assures credible poll in Edo

The postponement last weekend of the 2015 general election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) citing security challenges according to advice from the highest military command in the country has been described as painful and a development that was capable of ridiculing the image of Nigeria before the international community. Speaking with BusinessDay on the possible implications of the shift in dates, Ayo Opadokun, convener, Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) chieftain, alleged that Attahiru Jega, chairman, INEC, was intimidated and blackmailed by the powers that be to announce the election postponement.

“Let me tell you that having achieved this postponement, I have my doubt if the Nigerian presidency will allow Jega to organise this election. The rumours are all over the place. It is even said that a letter is being written that Jega will have to proceed on his accumulated annual leave. He will not likely to be there to organise the election on March 28. Except the Nigerian people rise up in unison to defend Jega, it is not likely that he will be there to organise the election,” he said. According to him, “the postponement portends negative implications from various dimensions. I want to tell you right away that, that postponement is just a platform the incumbent Nigerian presidency wants to exhibit some reactionary moves to sustain itself in power. The excuse they gave was not only pretentious, but unbelievable. They cannot sustain it. For instance, if in 774 local government areas in Nigeria, there is issue in about 14 of them, that’s not a genuine reason to postpone a general election. There are more volatile places elsewhere where successful elections have held. For instance, Afghanistan, Somalia, Liberia, Iran, etc, quite a number of them have organised successful elections.

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“The truth of the matter is that Nigerian Presidency, in collaboration with the high military command, intimidated Jega into postponing the elections. When the NSA and some military chiefs said they could not guarantee security should Jega insisted, there was nothing he could have done in that circumstance. Don’t forget that he had said the Commission was ready to conduct the election. It was a clear blackmail and intimidation. It is very painful.” On the impact of the shift on democracy, Opadokun said: “Nigeria has not really progressed democratically. The sitting executive will exploit the office to deny Nigerians their right to elect those that should represent them. This has a revolting connotation because what they have done is that Nigerians must accept whatever they do without asking questions. It is a negative development.”

A professor of International Relations, who works with a government organisation, told our correspondent that the development was capable of sending wrong signals to the international community and particularly to investors. “Granted that the constitution empowers the President to take certain actions, such as imposition of emergency rule on volatile parts of the country, and in the event that there are signals that there could be security breaches if the election went on as planned, he could advise for a shift. But that is not saying that he ordered the shift.

What happened was in the national interest given the level of tension that was building up before the postponement. However, it creates impression of instability and it is capable of scaring away investors,” the professor said. In his reaction, Tam David- West, a professor of Virology and former minister of petroleum in the military era, said the postponement created a situation of uncertainty in society. “For the first time in the history of Nigeria, a government in power is becoming afraid of losing an election. The power does not be- long to any government or party, but to the people and they are realising that now.

The postponement is not good for President Jonathan. I foresee a protest vote against the PDP candidate,” David-West said. “INEC said long ago that they were ready for the election. It is curious that they shifted the election when the Nigerian people were already prepared for it. They are just trying to buy time. I think, this had been planned long ago. They have seen that Nigerians cannot be deceived. Now, they claimed it is because of Boko Haram that they shifted the elections; they have not been able to contain Boko Haram for six years, are they going to contain them in six months? Nigerians are watching,” he further said. On whether he thought that Jega would resign or be allowed to see through the elections, David- West said: “Somebody told me that they want to send him on compulsory leave. And that will further ruin the government. It is going to drain whatever that remains of their credibility. They should leave Jega alone.”

A member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from the North East told BusinessDay that the shift in date would deny the people the right of proper deployment of funds to developmental projects. “It is going to be a serious dent on the economy. Agreed that individuals directly involved in the system may make more money through contracts- campaign materials, etc- it will hinder proper development. Don’t forget that larger percentage of the election funding is from government (oil). As more money is moved out, developmental projects suffer. Parties are going to spend more money and INEC will also review their budget to accommodate the additional weeks. It is a whole lot of stress.”