….CUPP Gives INEC Praises INEC for the Election Stay
.Police Ban Vigilante Groups from Polls Monitoring
From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja and Ayo Kehinde, Lagos
Millions of Nigerians are expressing rage over the unexpected stay of the 2019 election by a week by the Independent Nigeria Electoral Commission. Though some news outlet had hinted of a possible postponement during the week, people were obviously taken unawares by the eleventh hour reschedule.
The INEC has decided to shift Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections till next week 23 February and the governorship and state assembly elections will take place on 9 March, instead of 2 March as initially scheduled.
Many are however keeping their fingers crossed until the electoral umpire reveals the main reasons for its action after it stakeholders meeting scheduled for 2:pm, Saturday. Its press release on the issue, attached below, is vague and bland on the election delay.
According the Atiku Abubakar, Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Nigerians should remain peaceful In face of provocation
“The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.
“This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively.
“As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.
Maintain the peace and be law abiding. Do not react to this provocation with anger, violence or any action that might be exploited by those who do not want this election to hold. Remain calm. We will overcome this. You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny.
Meanwhile, ahead of next Saturday’s rescheduled general elections in the country, the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) in charge of elections in the North Central geo-political zone, Godwin Chijioke Nwobodo, has disclosed that vigilante groups would not be allowed to participate in security duty during the elections.
He gave the warning at the state Police Command headquarters in Lokoja after an expanded stakeholders meeting over the weekend.
Speaking against the background that vigilante groups in the state were used for the Lokoja/Kotokarfe by-election late last year, Nwobodo added: “I want to say right away that the Police and other security agencies are adequate enough to perform their duties in the State.
“No vigilante will patrol. I am the DIG Election in North Central. That is my firm decision that vigilante would not patrol. I know the AIG and CP have heard me clearly.
“We have men in the Force headquarters, everybody is going to participate in this election. If a DIG can come to Kogi State, it is just because the IGP cannot be here.”
Nwobodo urged the people not to hesitate to report when they see any fake policemen.
The national elections are expected to hold at 119,973 polling units across the country while collation of results will take place in 8,809 Registration Areas or Wards, 774 Local Government Areas and 36 States and the FCT.
It will not be the first time that the commission would postpone a scheduled general election.
In 2015, the presidential election was shifted from February 14 to March 28th, 2015; while the governorship and assembly elections scheduled for 28 February were shifted to 11 April.
In its reaction the President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation condemned the postponement. According to Mr. Festus Keyamo, spokesman of APC Presidential Campaign Council in a statement on Saturday said; “We condemn and deprecate this tardiness of the electoral umpire in the strongest terms possible.
“President Muhammadu Buhari had since cooperated fully with INEC by ensuring everything it demanded to conduct free and fair elections were promptly made available to it.
“This news is therefore a huge disappointment to us and to our teeming supporters nationwide and around the world, many of whom have come into the country to exercise their franchise.
“We do hope that INEC will remain neutral and impartial in this process as the rumour mill is agog with the suggestion that this postponement has been orchestrated in collusion with the main opposition, the PDP, that was never ready for this election.
“We note that all the major credible demographic projections have predicted a defeat of the PDP and it seriously needed this breather to orchestrate more devious strategies to try and halt President Buhari’s momentum.
“It did the same as the ruling Party in 2015, when it realized the game was up, by orchestrating the postponement of the 2015 elections by six weeks. Now, it may be up to its old trick again.
“We have earlier raised the alarm that the PDP is bent on discrediting this process the moment it realized it cannot make up the numbers to win this election.
“We are only urging INEC not to collude with the PDP on this. We are truly worried because as early as Friday morning, some known PDP Social Media influencers unwittingly announced this postponement, but quickly deleted the message and apologized to the public that it was fake news.
“We do not want to be forced to a situation of announcing our total loss of confidence in INEC, because we know where that would leave our democracy.
“Let us not give anyone, especially the PDP, the opportunity to plunge this nation into a crises, which is what they earnestly desire. Its imminent defeat is just a few days away.’’
The National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Uche Secondus in a statement his spokesperson, Ike Abonyi.
The PDP Chairman urged INEC to get its acts together and deliver a “well organised electoral process devoid of manipulation, harassment and intimidation of voters and the opposition particularly members of the PDP.”
Drawing attention to the tense atmosphere created by pre-election burning down of INEC offices and destroying of electoral materials in some states as well as remarks by Kaduna Governor, Mallam Nasri el-Rufia in his now controversial, “They will go back in body bags”, remarks, Secondus said; “Having failed in all their nefarious options to enable them cling on to power, the APC and the INEC came up with the idea of shifting election, an action that is dangerous to our democracy and is therefore unacceptable.”
Victor Ohai, Presidential candidate of the Providence Peoples Congress, PPC, said “You had four years to prepare for an election, you already knew the electoral calendar, I mean INEC Chairman set the calendar, money had been released and then in the last hour. We just want Nigerians to be calm and go to vote.
Another Nigerian said: INEC must clear doubt they are not working to a particular agenda, because if you leave people in a fog, people may have room to doubt your integrity and sincerity.
Muyiwa Akintunde, a veteran journalist takes a critical look at the content of the statement:
“Not even a hint or a word of apology to the public from the electoral commission for disrupting the citizens’ schedule. Some firms closed early yesterday. Many travelled to where they registered. Social events postponed because of the election. And all we got is a statement that lacks feeling. Haba!”
Many rejected attempts to draw a similarity with the 2015 elections postponement by six weeks from February 13 to March 28 and 29 by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, stating that even if that was the case, INEC ought to have learnt its lessons. The Jonathan government rescheduled that poll to allow secirity agencies guarantee participation of many voters in parts of the North east where Boko Haram terrorists had siezed control of nine local governments.
Surprisingly the only pass mark for the polls postponement has come from the Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, which praised the INEC for heeding what it called several warning on the alleged plans by the ruling APC to compromise the elections in 15 states of the federation..
CUPP Spokesperson, Ikenga Ugochinyere, is a statement, said, in part:
“We have raised the alarm many times that agents of the government were working hard to ensure that elections are not held or are declared inconclusive in areas they know that the All Progressives Congress will never win. We have been vindicated.
“We blame the international embarrassment this last minute postponement has caused the nation on the President, the desperate leaders of his party, APC, and the nation’s security agencies who failed woefully in their duties to protect electoral materials and INEC offices from attacks by these enemies of the nation.”
“INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has shown courage by shifting the election to avert national bloodshed because we are aware that APC wanted to proceed with election after compromising distribution and destroying materials in over 15 states.”
“We make bold to say that with the postponement, President Buhari’s judgement day with the people has just been shifted,” he concluded.