The country’s political atmosphere was charged Tuesday following the statement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that this year’s general elections face the threat of cancellation and postponement if the waves of insecurity in parts of the country are not addressed,Dailytrust report.
Opposition political parties, civil society organisations and regional groups, Tuesday, expressed mixed feelings over the statement of the electoral body. This is just as the federal government allayed the fears being expressed by stakeholders saying there is no cause for alarm.
On Monday, INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by the chairman of the Board of Electoral Institute (BEI), Prof. Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, gave the warning that elections might not hold during the Validation of Election Security Training Resources in Abuja.
“If the insecurity is not monitored and dealt with decisively, it could ultimately culminate in the cancellation and/or postponement of elections in sufficient constituencies to hinder the declaration of election results and precipitate a constitutional crisis. This must not be allowed to happen and shall not be allowed to happen,” he said.
The alarm raised by the electoral body came 46 days before the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections. Already, candidates and their political parties have gone far on the campaigns, which began on September 28, last year.
Daily Trust reports that from February 3, 2019, the country’s electoral body had recorded 53 attacks on its offices and facilities with the South East geopolitical zone topping the chart.
PDP, LP warn against postponement, APC mum
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the whole world and Nigerians will hold President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) responsible if the election is cancelled or postponed.
Debo Ologunagba, National Publicity Secretary of the PDP told Daily Trust that they were already seeing the signs that the APC might scuttle the polls.
“APC is at the head of the government today, they control the security agencies, they control all arms of government, they have the responsibility to the Nigerian people, that is what they swore to do, not only us, the whole world will hold President Muhammadu Buhari responsible, accountable if there is no free, fair and credible election. Nigeria is too dangerous to fail if there is instability in Nigeria, the whole West African sub-region will be in trouble, the whole world must ensure that Buhari is held to account,” he said.
Similarly, the Labour Party (LP) has warned INEC not to cave in.
A spokesperson for the LP Presidential Campaign Committee, Dr Yunusa Tanko, said, “The attacks are targeted at weakening their resolve to organise free and fair elections. And it is high time security agencies explained to Nigerians how they would stop the incessant attacks on INEC facilities.
“For Nigerians, we should not cave into those who want to hold us to ransom not to have free and fair elections. So, INEC should be resolute to conduct a free and fair election. Speaking on the matter, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr Victor Ike Oye, said that the 2023 general election will hold, despite the prevailing trepidation.
“The current hullabaloo about the election is the handiwork of scaremongers and fifth columnists bent on truncating the process. I expect INEC to be determined and focused in its avowed commitment to deliver a flawless and credible election,” Oye said.
On his part, the National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Okey Nwosu, said that he understood the concerns of INEC, as the insecurity in the land and the fact that INEC facilities have become targets of daily attacks and destruction say much.
“The environmental condition is murky. However, I am sure that agencies responsible for national security are very much aware and they have their plans. The electoral body INEC has sounded the alarm,” he said.
APC failed to react to INEC’s position
The APC’s National Publicity Secretary, Barrister Felix Morka neither answered his phone calls nor responded to a text message sent to his phone.
Similarly, the Director of Public Affairs and Chief Spokesman for the APC Presidential Campaign Council who is also the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN) did not answer a WhatsApp message nor SMS sent to his phone for comment on the matter.
Afenifere: We’ll not accept election postponement
The Pan-Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere, Tuesday warned that every effort must be made to ensure that the general elections slated for February and March this year not only hold successfully but that winners emerge and are sworn in on May 29, 2023, as stipulated by relevant laws.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Comrade Jare Ajayi warned that whoever may be thinking of postponing or altering the elections’ calendar should know that such a thing would not be accepted.
He, however, welcomed the assurance by the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed that the elections would hold in all parts of Nigeria.
He said, “But we feel that there is the need to let anyone thinking of postponement or cancellation of the elections that such a thing is and will remain unacceptable, no matter the reason. We recall that in 2015, there was insecurity too to the extent that some local government areas, specifically in Borno State, were in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists. Yet elections were held. There was also insecurity in 2019 and elections were not stopped.
“In Nigeria, there is often the tendency to fly a kite. Most of the time, such kites are on policies or steps that were usually not in the best interest of the Nigerian public. This is why it is very important to sound this note of warning without any ambiguity. This is why we are stating clearly that Nigerians are prepared for the elections just as the whole world is awaiting the elections. Nothing whatsoever should alter the schedule or cause postponement let alone cancellation”.
Afenifere noted that INEC had given its commitment to conduct the best elections in line with the demand of President Muhammadu Buhari.
We warned that insecurity may jeopardise elections- ACF
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) says it warned that the security situation in the country could jeopardise the 2023 general election if not decisively addressed and wondered why INEC was just realising the enormity of the situation. The ACF Secretary General, Alhaji Murtala Aliyu, told Daily Trust in a phone conversation that with the insecurity in parts of northern Nigeria and the South East, there is a likelihood that elections may not take place.
“The most important thing is that we have been talking about this issue since last year and we warned that unless the security situation improves, elections may not take place in some northern states such as Zamfara, Katsina, parts of Kaduna and Niger State and even almost every part of the South East,” he said.
He said though President Muhammadu Buhari has given assurances to end the security, it is unlikely this will happen before February 25th when Nigerians will go to the polls.
“They may try, but I doubt if they can bring the insecurity to an end before the elections,” he said.
It’s a call for action – CSOs
Civil Society Organisations Tuesday said the statement by the electoral body was a call for action to the country’s security agencies to address the situation.
The Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Dr Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, said that it is most unfortunate that 46 days to the commencement of the 2023 general elections, the country is dealing with uncertainty over the conduct of the elections.
“However, we cannot run away from the fact that the insecurity and breakdown of law and order in parts of the country is a reality that has to be addressed. What INEC has simply said is that insecurity in some parts of the country would not allow elections to hold there and that is the fact,” he said.
On her part, the Director Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said that the INEC’s calling of attention to insecurity ravaging the country and the challenges for the election is a call to action for the federal government to restore security in all the parts of the country.
Equally, the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Chairman, Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that there may be more chaos than the current security threat if the 2023 general election is postponed, urging security agencies to go after elements working against the success of the elections.
“Security agencies must rise and prevent those who are working hard to stop the election from holding. If they postponed this election, the chaos would be more,” the CSOs said.
No cause for alarm over 2023 elections – FG
Responding to the INEC’s alarm, the federal government on Tuesday assured that the 2023 general elections will be held as planned.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave the assurance in Abuja during the 17th edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari Administration’s Scorecard Series (2015-2023). He was responding to a question on INEC’s statement on insecurity. The minister said the position of the federal government remained that the 2023 elections would be held as planned.
“Nothing has happened to change that position. We are aware that INEC is working with security agencies to ensure that the elections are successfully held across the country.
“The security agencies have also continued to assure Nigerians that they are working tirelessly to ensure that the elections are held in a peaceful atmosphere. Therefore, there is no cause for alarm,” he said.