The alarm bells and ominous signs are once again available for the discerning lovers of democracy to see the duress and undue influence that President Goodluck Jonathan and the ruling PDP are exerting on the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega. This is reminiscent of the same shameful approach that the late President Umaru Yar’adua adopted with the then Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti state, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, as we can all remember. In any civilized clime, a candidate or party that is participating in an election should naturally distance itself from the Electoral Commission; if only to avoid any appearance of undue influence and/or conflict of interest. This is why most, if not all, Electoral Commissions throughout the world are supposed to be independent of the various arms of government. Regrettably, this is not the case in Nigeria as our so called Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has a track record of being independent more in the breach than in observance.
That the pattern of abuse by the executive arm and the ruling party on INEC can continue even in the middle of a critical period of general elections is mind boggling and totally unacceptable. In so doing, President Jonathan (like his recent predecessors) is laying the foundation for the forthcoming elections to be anything but free, fair and credible as Nigerians and the world at large would want it to be. We had hitherto believed that the National Assembly elections that had to be aborted and postponed in the middle of voting was because of non availability of critical materials as announced by Prof Jega. However we now have reasons to believe that covert as well as overt pressures are being exerted by President Goodluck Jonathan, the ruling PDP and their agents because of their vested interests in manipulating the outcome of the elections.
If we had doubts about the widely circulated rumour that senior officers in the legal and operations departments of INEC deliberately engineered the delay/non availability of the critical materials as an act of sabotage to discredit Prof Jega, such surreptitious or covert moves now pale into relative insignificance in light of the emergency meeting of the National Security Council chaired by President Jonathan with Prof Jega and other senior officials of INEC after the postponed elections. According to today’s edition – Monday 4th of April of the Daily Trust newspaper, it was reported that the Vice President Namadi Sambo, National Security Adviser to the President, Ministers of Defense and Police Affairs along with other service chiefs were also present at the meeting where accusing fingers were repeatedly pointed at the INEC chairman for the problems that led to the postponement. The INEC chairman was further chastised for turning down the offer for the military to be involved in the election logistics and that:
1. The government should henceforth constitute a taskforce consisting of the military and INEC officials to take over all election logistics;
2. INEC should not combine the postponed National Assembly elections with that of the Presidential elections on the 9th of April as demanded by a majority of the opposition parties;
3. The Modified Open Secret Ballot system that INEC has adopted should be changed such that there should be no accreditation of all eligible voters prior to voting. The pressures were so strong that the INEC chairman succumbed and agreed not to combine the National Assembly elections with that of the Presidential elections as has since been publicly announced by INEC. He however refused to constitute a taskforce and change the accreditation procedure as demanded and offered to resign instead.
Naturally, we and most other Nigerians are disappointed by the postponement of the elections midstream but we strongly believe that Prof Jega made the right call to postpone the elections rather than continuing with flawed elections. So we see no reason for the President and National Security Council meeting in the first place. We also understand that there will be more surreptitious moves in the days ahead to embark on a media campaign of calumny to force Professor Jega to resign so that one of the PDP friendly INEC commissioners can be appointed as acting chairman of INEC.
The alarm bells and ominous signs to be deduced are as follows:
• Why should the National Security Council be meeting with INEC at this stage without other political parties being present?
• Why embark on duress and undue influence for the rules to be changed in the middle of the game?
• Why should the President and PDP’s preference for the National Assembly elections and the Presidential election not to be combined be imposed on all the other major parties?
• Why should the President and the ruling PDP be clamouring for the involvement of the military in the conduct of the elections?
• Will Prof Attahiru Jega eventually succumb just as Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo of Ekiti State, who initially resisted but later bowed to pressure from the ruling PDP?
For these and many more reasons we strongly urge President Jonathan and the ruling PDP to cease and desist from any further covert and overt interference in the way and manner in which the elections are conducted by INEC; not only in the interest of free, fair and credible elections that President Jonathan has promised Nigerians and the world at large but also in the interest of peace and stability of our country.
Lastly we demand a probe of the role of INEC Director of Operations, Mr. Nuru Yakubu in the event that led to the bungling of last Saturday elections just as we call on Prof Jega to clear the air on the rumour making the rounds that 2 sets of result sheets with the same serial numbers were allegedly printed by the official printer of INEC.
Spokesman for General Buhari