INEC'S 'HALF TIME' BREAK IS A BLESSING INDEED
I have been thoroughly benumbed by the furore and the hullabaloo being raised by a couple of Nigerians and 'interested' Foreigners following INEC's postponement of the Elections by Six weeks. I am yet to fully understand how this really hurts anybody too badly and how it creates undeserved advantage for one party and deserved disadvantage for another Party. Yes some inconvenience with rescheduling of activities and perhaps additional funding to keep the campaigns running for another six weeks by the contestants and their Parties. But that pales in the face of the huge benefits that will accrue to the Nation by the postponement or rescheduling .I must say upfront that I congratulate INEC for taking this decision. If it is true as is being alleged that President Goodluck Jonathan or His Government persuaded or pressurized INEC to take this most reasonable decision in the prevailing circumstances then I will like to congratulate him for showing exceptional pragmatic leadership. He has shown the type of leadership sagacity that rattles many of His critics who deliberately underrate him. A good leader must see ahead of his people and do everything possible to avert looming dangers. For me, INEC and the Federal Government have helped Nigeria to jump over a bobby trap. There was a trap and those who desperately want power at all costs were pushing and goading the Nation along with their trade mark media blitz and blackmail- 'If you postpone, hell will be let loose'. Thank God, Nigerians seem to be tired of these threats. I believe that most Nigerians will want to go to heaven and a couple of others actually want to experience Heaven on Earth. Today in Nigeria, it looks to me, that only the People of Bokoharam, their sponsors and supporters seem comfortable to experience hell here or are working furiously to go to hell. All these talk about baboons and monkeys being soaked in blood no longer cut ice with most Nigerians. Every animal learns how to resist the predator. Sometimes the hunter ends up being hunted. And no body has the exclusive Patent on Violence! Nigerians must learn to talk, argue, debate and agree and when they disagree, they can go to court for adjudication. That is the way civilized societies run and Nigeria of the 21st Century must be run that way!
Now it must be stated that this is not the first time that INEC or previous electoral bodies have postponed elections. It happened in 2007 and in 2011 for example and happened during the Anambra elections recently when elections had to be rescheduled in some sections of the State and hell was not let loose. We have an imperfect electoral body that operates in a very imperfect Political environment and so hitches and glitches may occur that can lead to rescheduling of elections as it can happen in any other human activity. Secondly, it was clear to all those who could see without partisan colorations that INEC was not fully ready for the elections to hold on the 14th of February. Despite the desperate actions and the irregular emergency methods INEC adopted in the last couple of weeks( including passing the PVCs through some traditional rulers and village heads) to improve the distribution, only 66% of the printed cards have been collected. And please note that this level of achievement includes those that have been stolen! So two days to the original date for the election, over 30% of registered voters, numbering more than 20 million Nigerians do not have their voter cards. And yet some 'self respecting' Nigerians accept INEC's boast that it was ready for the elections! That could not be totally true. And I have not factored the claims that all the PVC card readers have not been received and the adhoc INEC staff not all trained on how to operate them. If we lived in a Country where Politicians were Nationalists, they are the ones who should be persuading INEC not to attempt 'suicide' rather than goading it to fall into the hole. Let me correct my self and limit that statement. There are indeed Politicians who are Nationalists in Nigeria. A coalition of parties, mainly the minor parties actually were the ones who began this quest for rescheduling of the elections. What ever may have been their motivations, I salute them for helping to save our country from premeditated crisis .
If any Presidential candidate loses an election where 30% of the registered electorate could not vote, not because they did not want to vote but because, INEC could not given them their voter cards, would that not be a basis for legal contestation . Some of those who lose elections in Nigeria go to the tribunal, because their governors or leaders were turned back at check points or because there were too many Policemen and Soldiers at their pooling booth. So what will happen,when evidence can be adduced that many of their 'supporters' could not vote for them because INEC 'refused, failed or neglected ' to release the PVCs. Plenty of business for our lawyers and the tribunals.
Thirdly, how fair can such an election be in the eyes of the World and even in the eyes of Nigerians. There was already talk in my geopolitical zone that INEC was deliberately withholding cards because the zone is presumed to favor a particular Presidential candidate. How was INEC going to deal with that if it insisted on going ahead with the original dates. Even when the cards are distributed 100%, not everybody will come out to vote on the election days . So what credibility will an election have with low voter participation blamable on INEC and not on individual choice?. How many legal cases will INEC handle if all those who have not gotten their cards before the election go to court to enforce their fundamental human rights?More so for those whose preferred candidates lose. Does it therefore not make sense that we allow more time for every or most registered voters to collect their cards. Will it not reduce the possibility of all the legal scenarios painted above and create greater acceptability of the results of the elections by allowing more time for INEC to put its act together.
Fourthly, a significant portion of Nigerian territory is under siege with many of the residents killed, maimed or internally displaced. I have personally been agonizing what will happen in the troubled parts of Adamawa,Yobe and Borno States where some local government areas(LGAs) have been seized by Boko Haram. I have wondered how those who have been displaced will vote. How will they even get their PVCs? We have not planned Well for the living, I am wondering how we can plan for the dead? Will National elections that exclude these LGAs and these internally displaced persons(IDPs) be regarded as credible? I come from Arochukwu LGA in Abia State. How will I regard a National Elections that excluded my LGA? Can I in good conscience regard a President that emerges from such an election as my President. Would I therefore not be pleased to support any move by the military to liberate my LGA, so that I can join the rest of the Country to exercise my fundamental national right. Yes, I was not happy that the Military did not prevent my LGA from falling into the hands of the insurgents in the first place and I had been sad that they had not recovered my LGA till now. But would I not jump at the prospect of finally returning to my home?. If the military asked for more time to guarantee me these rights will I not oblige?. Yes, there may be this question 'how are they sure that they achieve it?'. Well the military says they are better armed now and they are receiving the cooperation of a multinational force( including Cameron, Chad & Niger). Even if I had doubts, what do I lose by giving them the benefit of the doubt. In the desperation to capture power and the programmed mass hysteria, it is easy to see my argument as pedantic but anybody who puts himself in the shoes of our fellow Nigerians from those 14 local governments or so who are currently under satanic occupation, will more readily see my point.
Fifthly, I am really amazed that it is the APC which is reported to have more support from the North East and Lagos that seems not to worry if elections are not held in these North East LGAs or if the majority of voters in Lagos do not collect their PVCs before the elections are held. Ordinarily, one would have thought that they would be the first to support any move to guarantee that more of the LGAs are liberated from Boko Haram. Or is there something they know that we don't. Or could it be a ploy to dispute the result of the Presidential elections, to brand it not free, fair or credible,should they lose? One may never know. But in my simple mind, I would have thought that anything that will strengthen my support base, giving my supporters the best chance to vote will receive my unsolicited support.
Sixthly, if our Military says that they can not guarantee security at a particular time and place and recommend another course of action which is not unconstitutional, should we not listen and pay heed? One of our criticisms against our military is poor intelligence. They could not stop the kidnapping of the CHIBOK girls, they could not preempt the attack on Baga and so forth and so on. Now they plan to preempt planned attacks by the insurgents or other criminal gangs on the election dates and we say 'no, we must have the elections. Let them come and kill our People, as long as we grab the power!'Haba! What of the security implications of possible disenfranchisement of a large number of voters( at the last check, over 50% of voters had not collected their PVCs in LAGOS STATE!). President Jonathan has repeatedly said that his ambition to remain in power is not worth the blood of a single Nigerian. Have we heard other Presidential candidates say the same? Rather we are being told not to believe what the Military says, not to trust data and statistics on the economy from the National Bureau of statistics, not to trust the ministry of Finance figures, not to trust NNPC records,not to trust any National Institution and not even to trust any group of Nigerians or media organizations to conduct a credible debate between Presidential candidates! Who are we to trust then or whom should we believe? Perhaps everybody should fabricate his own story, concoct his own economic data and statistics or believe only that issued by them or spewed in the social media ? What a Country and what a genre of Politics? Perhaps we need to remind our selves of the eternal truth- 'that whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap'.
Seventhly and lastly, this rescheduling of elections gives the kind of relief, players in a football match get at half time. After slugging it out for forty five minutes with adrenaline pumping, especially in a goal-less match, the players become tired, many irritated, tempers rising and the frequency of fouling rising, the referee blows the whistle to indicate half time and there is immediate relief. Calm is restored and the players and coaches March off the field to the dressing room, to rest, debrief and restrategise for the 2nd half. I really thank God for this shift in date. The tempo of the campaigns was in a crescendo, tension was rising everyday and it looked as if we were heading to cataclysm. Many Nigerians had relocated their families( some abroad) and many had stockpiled food. It was as if a war was imminent! This break for me is a welcome release, a blessing indeed and I believe it must be for many Nigerians who wish and pray that these elections will be free, fair, credible and violence free and that on May 29th 2015,only those chosen by the majority of the voting constituents according to the constitution and by the will of the Almighty God will be inaugurated into the different political offices in the States and at the centre. So help us God.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR