I don’t envy the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega. He has come under intense attack over the postponement of the February general elections, with some people calling for his sack outright. I was at a discussion programme during the week on MITV in Ibadan and my point was there was actually nothing that Prof. Jega could have done in the circumstance, I mean in the matter of the election shift. The National Security Adviser and Service Chiefs had presented Jega with a fait accompli as it were. When the security chiefs said in their letter to Jega that the military was going to be engaged in fighting insurgency in the North-east in the next six weeks and they could not guarantee the provision of security for election in the zone, even for the electoral officers who would be engaged for the election, what they were saying indirectly is Jega should hold the election at his peril. Which electoral boss would do otherwise, go against the security report and conduct the election as scheduled for February 14? What if there occurred a serious breach of security? What if the same military deliberately orchestrated a security problem? The blame would naturally fall on Jega’s head.
But firstly, how did we arrive at this sorry pass where the military would be determining for us whether we hold or don’t hold an election? We had a general election in 2011 and we knew we would hold another election in four years time. How come we are still dealing with the issue of PVC distribution and collection at this Eleventh hour? INEC had been talking about PVCs and card readers for God knows when. The irregularities observed in the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State were more or less put down to the non-use of PVCs and card readers by the commission. And INEC chairman had promised all these loopholes would be ploughed before the next general election. It was for that reason that the governors of Ekiti and Osun at the time demanded for the use of PVCs and card readers in their elections. PVCs were used in the June 21, 2014 election in Ekiti and August 9, 2014 election in Osun. INEC had said the cards would be used for the 2015 general election across the country. The commission knew this a long time ago, how come we are still dealing with PVC distribution and collection at present. What seems obvious, therefore, is INEC was not fully ready for the February election. And with that, the commission had provided the atmosphere for the service chiefs to demand a postponement of the election. The non-readiness of INEC gave room for NSA Sambo Dasuki and service chiefs to play a game on us.
You may ask what business have our soldiers got to do with elections, as I asked earlier, and it would be a legitimate question. But the day our political actors learnt to behave themselves and played by the rule and our corrupt policemen stopped allowing themselves to be used to rig election, that would be the day we won’t need soldiers to supervise the election. I support soldiers’ involvement in election and I make bold to say so. In my view, the soldiers help to instill sanity into the electoral process. I watched with delight in my hometown Iwo, Osun State during the August 9, 2014 governorship poll as the soldiers provided cover for the election without intefering in the process. But what I abhor and which we should all oppose is for soldiers to be determining the timing of our election for us. It is not their domain; it is not their call. Come to think of it, the security problem is now confined to 14 local governments in the affected Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Gombe states, of the 774 local governments in the country, so why seek a shift of the poll in the entire country? In 1999, the presidential poll did not hold in Bayelsa State and that did n’t affect the victory or defeat tally. By demanding a shift of the poll on the grounds that they can’t guarantee security in the 14 LGAs, what the service chiefs have done is an abdication of responsibility. And we must all condemn this rather than call for Jega’s head. We must, however, be careful in doing this in order not to play to the hands of the military because something more sinister could be around the corner. What Jega needs now is support to navigate this dangerous bend. Thank God the new schedule does not offend the 150-30 days conduct of election window provided for in the 2010 Electoral Act as amended.