Impatience has remained one major weakness in the life of man. Man is always in a hurry to achieve results, not minding if it is properly or improperly done. This flaw is mainly common with the black man, especially of the sub-saharan region.
The Independent National Election Commission had, in January 2014; released a time-table for Nigeria’s General election for 2015. According to the table, Presidential and National Assembly elections were scheduled for February 14, 2015 while Governorship and House of Assembly elections were meant to take place on February 28, 2015.
True to the tenets of democracy, certain conditions were expected to be fulfilled before the elections would take place. One of such conditions is that Nigerians who have attained the constitutional age of eighteen years and above should be duly registered as to be eligible for the polls. It was also stipulated that between January 2014 and February 26, 2015, every participating political party would have concluded her primary elections and campaigns.
It has to be stated that it is the inalienable right of any Nigerian citizen that has attained, at least, the age of eighteen and is of sound mind to freely choose who governs or represents him or her. To do otherwise, would amount, unacceptedly, to disenfranchisement of such a citizen.
On Saturday, 7th February, 2015, merely seven days to the February 2015 Presidential and National Assembly elections, the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Body; Prof Attahiru Jega, in a well publicized and attended meeting with political stakeholders, members of the civil society and the press, announced that it had become imperative to postpone the February 14 and 28 elections.
As Prof Jega put it, the shift in date was contingent upon two reasons. The first is the state of insecurity in three North-Eastern States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, where the Islamist Fundamentalist gang; Boko Haram, had held sway for some time and which activities in the recent past and, even currently have become extremely dastardly and, therefore, would not allow enough time and attention to be paid by the security Agencies to election matters. The second reason the electoral umpire adduced for the postponement bordered on challenges arising from distribution of Permanent Voter’s Card; P.V.C. Before the official announcement of the postponement, it had been severally speculated that about thirty-four percent of eligible voters had not been able to collect their permanent Voter’s Card. This short-fall in collection was touted to be above twenty million voters. This, if it were to be left unaddressed, would have amounted to unwarranted, unlawful and unpardonable aberration of the fundamental right of the affected Nigerians as they would have sufferred disenfranchisement.
Arising therefrom and justifiably too, the INEC Boss, having consulted appropriately, informed Nigerians that the elections will now take place on Saturday 28th March, 2015 and Saturday 11th April, 2015. It is believed that this extension, by six weeks, would give ample opportunity to both the Nigerian Security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission to make up their perceived areas of inadequacies and deficiencies.
It has to be relocated that the National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan; Col sambo Dasuki (rtd), had on Thursday 22nd January,2015, in far away London, advised the Independent National Electoral Commission to postpone the February 2015 General election to allow Nigerians access their voter’s card.
Apart from the professional advice by the National Security Adviser, the constitution of the Federal republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, provides that elections could be conducted as long as they are not less than thirty days to May 29th of the year of the elections, which is the constitutional date for the swearing of both the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Governors.
Based on this constitutional provision, it is crystal clear that the postponement under review has not, in any way, run fowl of Nigeria’s constitution. Rather, it will save the nation from expensive embarrassment as any election in which citizens, by no fault of theirs, are disenfranchised, can not qualify as a credible election.
Since the announcement of the postponement of February 2015 election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, some prominent members of the main opposition political Party, the All Progressive Congress, A.P.C, have gone to town with all manner of misinterpretation and, even, threats. They have, as usual, accused the People’s Democratic Party; P.D.P of being the architect of the postponement. Interestingly, the A.P.C. tries to pretend to have forgotten that during the consultative meeting that the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission had with principal political stakeholders on the question of postponement, nineteen registered political Parties favoured postponement while only six spoke against it. This is, therefore, a clear manifestation of the disposition of a very high majority of political Parties in Nigeria that postponement of the February 2015 election is an option that is good for the health of Nigeria’s democracy.
In any case, the hullaballoo the main opposition Party in Nigeria is making over the election postponement is entirely baseless. This is simply because the postponement by the Independent National Electoral Commission is not, in any way, at variance with both the Electoral Act and the constitution itself. Besides, the President has assured that May 29th 2015 remains sacrosanct for the inauguration of the next administration.
At this juncture, it has to be pointed out that postponement of the election dates has been an age-long development in the history of democracy. In 1848, the French government had to postpone its federal election just because many of her citizens had just been enfranchised but were not properly enlightened on the implications of such a civic attainment and, therefore, needed some time to be so enlightened. In Canada, a general election into the House of Commons had been billed to take place in 1916 but was shifted to December 17, 1917. The Canadian authorities had cited the emergence of First World War as their reason for the postponement.
In the two instances of both French and Canadian postponements, no opposition party in either of the countries threatened fire and brimstone because the interest of their father-land was uppermost in all their considerations and calculations. Ironically and embarrassingly, more than one hundred years after the French and Canadian experiences, Nigerians, who are having their own experience for the first time in a democratic setting, are conducting themselves in such a manner that is completely bereft of understanding, patriotism and decorum.
The time has come when the opposition in Nigeria should learn to conduct itself and affairs in a way that depicts discipline and patriotism. It should also appreciate the inalienable rights of the Nigerian citizen and should, therefore, desist from encouraging the disenfranchisement of the Nigerian citizen, which could lead to circumstances which end result could be unto ward.
Chief (Sir) Don Ubani; KSC, JP
(Okwubunka of Asa)