By Samuel Ogundipe
The meetings between the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, and all the 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory ended in a deadlock on Saturday, sources within the commission say.
The refusal of 21 of the 37 RECs to bow to pressure and postpone the elections is believed to have triggered the stalemate.
But the defiant electoral chiefs have given preconditions for their acquiescence to the growing call for postponement.
“RECs need a guarantee that there will not be further postponement after the six weeks they are demanding,” the Premium Times quoted an INEC source as saying.
Another condition was that the commission should be allowed to decide how long the postponement should last, reports Premium Times.
“The feeling is that outside forces, especially the security agencies, should not be the ones to decide how long to shift the elections. That should be solely decided by INEC.”
Official position of INEC is still being expected as at the time of filing this report.
The call for postponement of the elections gained widespread momentum following a pronouncement by the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, at the Chatham House in London two weeks ago, in which he called for the postponement of the elections on security grounds.
Several elder statesmen with apparent sympathy for the Jonathan’s administration immediately swooned on the statement and began to call for postponement of the elections. Afenifere leader, Ayo Adebanjo called for the postponement of the elections “amid prevailing issues across the country.”
Elders on the platform of Southern Nigerian Peoples Assembly, a southern nationalists think-tank, also held a meeting where it made case for the polls to be postponed as it alleged connivance between INEC chairman and northern elders.
“We authoritatively gathered with unassailable and incontrovertible evidence that the INEC Chairman, who was away in Lagos for an official engagement, through one of his National Commissioners that represented him, met with select leaders of the Northern Elders Forum, led by Prof. Ango Abdullahi, on the 20th August 2014, where strategies and modalities for enthroning a President of Northern extraction through vote rigging were discussed and agreed upon,” according to a statement signed by one of its members Chief Femi Okurounmu.
Those who attended the meeting included Chief Edwin Clark, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Chief Alex Ekwueme.
Some opposition parties, especially the All Progressives Congress, have continued to express their anger over the postponement. They argue that it is an attempt for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to buy time for itself while demoralising their own supporters across the country.
“It is shameful that those who should be working hard to promote peaceful elections as scheduled are the same ones doing everything possible to trigger violence. Those who should ordinarily be seen as elder statesmen have degenerated to dangerous partisans and shameless promoters of a narrow, parochial interest, at the expense of the national interest,” said Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC.
The election has been extremely difficult to predict as the candidate of APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, and President Goodluck Jonathan continue to run neck and neck in the opinion polls. But many believe the ruling party will be better favored by the postponement.
Earlier, INEC held a meeting with representatives of all the 28 political parties in the country over the lingering controversy bordering on the distribution of Permanent Voters’ Cards. It was reported that 17 of the 28 political parties demanded for postponement of the elections. Eight political parties, including the APC, were said to have demanded that the elections must go on as previously scheduled; while 3 political parties, including the PDP, abstained.
Jega also reportedly said during a meeting with 25 civil society groups that he’d received written statements from several security agencies that they cannot provide the much needed security during the election because of the protracted unrest in the northeastern part of the country.
Meanwhile, there are reports of protests by some aggrieved Nigerians believed to be sympathetic to the APC in Lagos, Abuja and Kano. Soldiers have been sighted and security beefed up around the mentioned parts of the country.