By Umar Sa’ad Hassan —
A couple of days ago, an INEC commissioner, Amina Zachary, said the general elections could be postponed if PVC collection hadn’t improved by February 8.That was the only reason many of us envisaged would be cited if ever the elections were to be postponed to a later date.
But we witnessed a dramatic turn. From the NSA came a letter advising INEC to shift the polls due to security challenges to the Nigerian Army, stating that security won’t be provided if the elections held on February 14.
As a well-meaning Nigerian with no political affiliations, I am privileged to still have my objectivity and rationality intact; I say this at the risk of sounding immodest. Security, quite frankly, shouldn’t have been our problem at the moment. Reason: elections in the troubled states of the north-east should never have been contemplated in the first place. A lot of people put undue pressure on the INEC chairman when he hinted the elections might not hold in those states. We had the APC faithful who thought it would be unfair to them — all three at that time being the states on one hand and a president very eager to prove to the world (to borrow his popular phrase) he “had things under control”.
INEC chairman Attahiru Jega succumbed to pressure and I’m sure he has some handy mumbo-jumbo about liaising always with security chiefs to support his position. I ask: From that moment till the day postponement of the elections was announced, did anyone actually think the areas were safe? Even before the military cited a major operation to restore normalcy as its reason for not guaranteeing security, we all knew they were not. The obvious truth is, we would be making our brothers and sisters over there sitting ducks in long queues across hundreds of polling centres.
It is baseless to suggest an ulterior motive on the part of the president. His reputation before the outside world is in a shambles. Never have personalities as eminent as John Kerry and Hilary Clinton made a go at our corrupt system in one fell swoop until the kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls afforded them that opportunity. His self-esteem was so battered that his NSA reportedly refused an offer to help just prior to the AU’s deployment of 8,750 troops to help combat the Boko Haram insurgency.
If ever anyone wanted to find a scapegoat, it had to be Prof. Attahiru Jega. The thing with scapegoats is they don’t necessarily perpetrate the real or perceived wrong but they just happen to be unlucky to be in the best position to take all the blame. We all as concerned citizens have been observing happenings in the north-east. I have seen figures of outstanding PVCs but am yet to lay my hands on the number of PVCs disbursed in the affected states. And it makes you doubt INEC’s integrity.
There can’t possibly be an effective disbursement in those parts; this ought to have necessitated a move as drastic as cancelling elections there or everywhere until it was safe to do so a long time ago. It didn’t have to be a week before. Now we are faced with a problem capable of unnecessarily heating up the polity. Declaring the troubled states unsafe maybe five or six months ago would have prevented all the confusion around us now. His critics and that of the president would bite as hard as they can but there is no running away from the truth. Maybe we would have got concrete foreign help like a lot of us had been advocating before, and not just help in surveillance and monitoring our negotiations with the insurgents.
We are in an era where Asari Dokubo and company are threatening to wage war if Jonathan loses. The opposition’s supporters have stoned the president during some of his campaign trips and even burnt some of his campaign vehicles. These are very trying times for all security agencies. Whichever way the elections go, there is a high chance of post-election violence, and, with Boko Haram trying really hard to own the north-east (for now maybe), it is important they set their priorities straight.
The military has promised to conclude a major operation against the insurgents in the next six weeks and only then would it be able to render its traditional support to the police and other agencies during elections. At this stage one can’t help but hope things go well. The reinforcements from our African brothers make that very possible but we have had so many false hopes as far this war is concerned we are scared of setting our expectations high.
If, God forbid, things don’t change substantially in the next six weeks, I’m afraid the best possible option open to us would be to exclude the troubled states. I don’t see any other way. They were never safe and we have deceived ourselves for too long.
Political parties and critics of government can rant all they want but the truth remains we were never safe enough to conduct elections all across the country.
Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.
By Umar Sa’ad Hassan —