Whatever anyone would say, the postponement of general elections from February 14, 28 to March 28, April 11, 2015 is not only a draw-back in the nation’s march to perfect the 16 year-old unbroken democracy but a shame on the nation in general and the nation’s security forces in particular..
The INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega confirmed to a group of over 60 Civil Society Organizations, (CSOs), under the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, while announcing the postponement last night, that it was the military that caused the postponement via a letter it addressed to him. In the letter, the military leadership indicated that troops would have to concentrate on fighting Boko Haram insurgents in the North East and therefore, would not be available for security duties during the elections at the earlier scheduled dates. The military, in the letter, advised INEC to reschedule the elections by “at least six weeks in the first instance.”
The military made it clear in the letter that its men and officers will begin their full operations against Boko Haram on February 14, the date originally set for the Presidential election.
The Nigeria military, apart from showing that it has gone deep into partisan politicking, doing the bidding of the ruling political party, has also obviously, thrown the country into a big shame by coming out as the single factor that has sought to threaten the survival of the 16-year-old democracy on such flimsy excuse.
It is obviously a shame for the military to tie its “morbid desire” for the postponement of the elections to the battle with Boko Haram, the Boko Haram its men and officers have been fighting since 2009. And that, co-incidentally, they would launch the new offensive on the recalcitrant Boko Haram on the same day the election was originally fixed. Why that day?
What the Nigeria military has succeeded in doing is throw dirty sand into its integrity, respect and reputation, because apart from indicating that Boko Haram has been winning the battle all these while, it has also succeeded in putting smiles into the members of Boko Haram for being so powerful as to be able to put a stop to the democratic movement of the nation. Boko Haram now has cause to laugh that one of its aims, of disrupting the major national political activities, has been achieved.
The Situation Room, made up of Civil Society Organizations working in support of credible and transparent elections in Nigeria, expressed disappointment with the letter from the security agencies pointing out that this amounted to the military’s abdication of its constitutional duties to provide security to citizens and to the Electoral Commission to enable it conduct elections. The group accused the military of an act that appears to show contrivance to truncate the democratic process in Nigeria.
The group is made up of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough Nigeria and Wangonet, Partners for Electoral Reform and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), Development Dynamics, Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and several others.
Situation Room expressed worry that “the military’s position also aims to blackmail and arm-twist the Election Management Body (EMB) away from its constitutional guaranteed function of conducting elections.
“Situation Room also condemns this advisory by security agents that they cannot guarantee the security of citizens, election officials and materials during the election.”
It also called for the resignation of military chiefs and security heads, including the Police, on account of their inability to exercise their constitutional responsibility to secure lives and property at all times, including during the elections.
Indeed, the military and the masters it is fronting for, may not have taken into consideration the provision of the electoral Act which makes it abundantly clear that except where (Nigeria) federation is at war, there can be no blanket shift of all elections across the whole federation.
Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (amended) states: “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”
The Act, for emphasis, does not envisage where elections would be postponed all at the same time across the country as if it is the whole country that is at war.
And, in any case, what the military is implying by its “first instance” in its letter to Professor Jega is that if it cannot defeat Boko Haram in six weeks it asked for (and there is no likelihood that it will), Nigeria should wait for it until it is able to do so.
And, that of course means that Nigeria should forget about elections for now, until the military defeats Boko Haram, for only God knows how long. [myad]