• Presidential and National assembly now March 28
• Governorship and State assemblies election will take place on April 11.
• There Are Unresolved Issues, Says Jega
• ‘Poll Shift Within The Legal Window’
AFTER a stormy meeting with the chairmen and secretaries of the 28 registered political parties, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yielded to pressure from both the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and leaders of the 16 other political parties, who were backing the call for a shift in the date of the election.
The Associated Press (AP) Saturday reported categorically that an official close to INEC said the commission would postpone Feb. 14 presidential and legislative elections for six weeks to give a new multinational force time to secure northeastern areas under the sway of Boko Haram.
According to the AP, “millions could be disenfranchised if the voting went ahead while the Islamic extremists hold a large swath of the northeast and commit mayhem that has driven 1.5 million people from their homes.”
The representatives of the political parties, it was gathered, differed in opinions, based on their different interests. The United Progressives Party (UPP) and the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) led a shouting debate at the INEC conference room, demanding that the election be held as scheduled, while the other political parties insisted on a shift. The Guardian gathered took the lNEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, and other National Commissioners a long time to call the house to order.
Jega, who had earlier briefed the National Council of State on INEC’s preparedness to conduct the election, reiterated that the commission was ready for the February poll even as he admitted that it would be difficult to conduct a free and fair election in the North East States of Adamawa, Borno, Yobe and Gombe, due to the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Guardian also gathered that INEC took the decision to meet with the leadership of the political parties after it had received a correspondence from the military, which urged the commission to shift the election date to give it more time to flush out the Boko Haram sect in Borno and Adamawa, especially at this moment when the joint military onslaught with Chad and Cameroun has started yielding positive results.
The army, it was gathered, warned that it would be counter productive if the election was allowed to go ahead in the states under ‘emergency rule,’ adding that it would release its soldiers to provide the needed security at strategic places as INEC demanded.
After the stormy meeting with the leadership of political patties, Jega and the other national commissioners began another meeting that lasted for over four hours on the way forward to ensure that the commission put all things in place to guarantee free and fair election.
The lengthy meeting apparently delayed the media briefing, which was scheduled for 5pm, keeping a large number of journalists both from within and outside the country waiting for a long period of time.
Jega was Saturday quoted as saying that there were `new developments’ that needed to be addressed before the conduct of the 2015 general elections.
The Guardian gathered that, at the consultative meeting with INEC, 17 of the 28 registered political parties asked the commission to shift the conduct of the general elections scheduled for February 14 and 28. Leaders of 12 others, including the leading opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), opposed the shift.
The 17 pro-postponement parties cited purported shoddy manner the commission allegedly handled the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), as well as the security challenges in the Northeast as major reasons for calling for the shift.
Sixteen political parties had, during the week, addressed a press conference calling for postponement. They included the United Democratic Party, UDP; the Citizen Peoples Party (CPP); the Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN); the Action Alliance (AA), the Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC); the Labour Party (LP); and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN).
Others are the Alliance for Democracy (AD); New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP); and the Independent Democrat (ID).
Also in support of shifting the election dates are the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD); Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN); Fresh Democratic Party (FDP); National Conscience Party (NCP); All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA); and Progressives Peoples Alliance (PPA).
The following day, 10 others expressed shock at the demand of their colleagues. They included the PDM; African Peoples Alliance (APA); Kowa Party, Mega Progressives Peoples Party (MPPP); Social Democratic Party (SDP); African Democratic Congress (ADC); Hope Democratic Party (HDP); Democratic Peoples Party (DPP); UPP; and Accord Party (AP).
In his remark before the officials of the commission and the representatives of the registered political parties later went into a closed door meeting, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, the Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), said council should be considered whenever the commission was taking any decision.
“The council has from the onset been making tremendous contributions to our democracy. But unfortunately, the issues that all of us have been raising long before now have never been considered or put into perspective,’’ Tanko said. He urged the leaders of the political parties who attended the meeting to put Nigeria first in their responses to the new developments mentioned by Jega.
As Nigerians react to the shift in the dates for the 2015 general election, a rights activist and convener of Movement for the Voice of Democracy (MOVERS) Mr. Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo, says the slight adjustment in dates conforms to the legal window created by the constitution.
Okonkwo, who is also a former governorship candidate of the Nigeria Advanced Party (NAP), dismissed insinuations in some quarters that the change amounts to a postponement of the doomsday for the PDP, saying that there is no basis for such assumption.
He also berated those who suggested that the APC was insistent on the sanctity of the announced days to pave way for its candidate to undertake a due medical checkup, saying that it was impossible for anybody to tell who would die the next moment.
He berated Prof. Jega, for his constant prevarications, pointing out that simple capturing of data and documentation of eligible voters proved too much a task for the INEC chairman, which he said did not provide the right indices about his often announced readiness for the election.
• Presidential and National assembly now March 28