YES, FOR THE SAKE OF PEACE
BY OSHO SAMUEL
In less than a month, Nigerians will head to the polls to participate in the fifth general election since the return of democracy in 1999. There are however complaints from different quarters about the insurgency up North as it threatens the possibility of have nationwide election. For now INEC says the election will go on as planned, but looking at the challenges ahead of the nation, I am of the opinion that the elections should be postponed.
The first talk of postponement
There have been mumblings of postponement of the general elections before now. It came to the fore of discussion panels when the Head Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare made a public plea to the Federal Government on Sunday, January 4, 2015 to postpone the forthcoming elections. He made mention of a section of the constitution which stipulated that elections should be postponed if the nation is at war. He suggested a transitional government which will be a form of coalition to take over the leadership of the nation for a maximum of 2 years till the challenge of terrorism is conquered.
Critics and political dons especially from the North who felt there was no need for such have since responded to Bakare. But since then, there has been a divide in opinions about the way forward.
Why the postponement?
There are two cogent reasons which makes postponement of elections sensible.
First is the uneven distribution of the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC).
The second reason is the insurgency in three North Eastern States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
On January 8, 2015, INEC made a public statement about the distribution of the PVCs; no fewer than 38,774,391 Nigerians were reported to have collected their cards which represents 71.35 percent of the 54,341,610 registered voters across the country. The final list of voters is expected to be published very soon. There are concerns that the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) might not be able to successfully distribute the cards before the commencement of elections. This will lead to disenfranchisement of eligible voters which is uncalled for.
According to the section 135(3) of the 1999 constitution states that; “If the Federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time”. It will be an oversight to say that the Nigerian Federation is not at war.
With the recent annexation of Nigerian territories by terrorists in the North Eastern part of Nigeria, it shows clearly that Nigeria is at war with Boko Haram.
While delivering his speech meant for the declaration of emergency in Yobe, Borno and Adamawa States on May 14, 2013, the President admitted that the nation is at war and that was what prompted his action. If Nigeria was at war as at May 14, 2013; matters have gone worse at the moment with the deadly sect ravaging the North with attacks. Ever since the emergency declaration, Boko Haram has carried out no fewer than 40 attacks on different parts of the North and killed tens of thousands of innocent people. We also cannot forget the Chibok girls’ kidnapping, the recent massacre in Baga and several bomb blasts.
Eligible voters in these states will be disenfranchised due to the ongoing crises and lack of peace. There is a need to postpone elections till there is peace in those areas.
NO, WHY POSTPONE THE “EVIL” DAY?
by Tijani Mayowa
Many have begun to call upon the influencers in government and power to postpone the February elections to avert violence and chaos for the days to come. As much as these threats are genuine and the fear is based on fact, it is not enough reason to postpone an election.
The major reasons given for the postponement of the election are: possible post election violence if one party loses, a free and fair election in Nigeria’s hotspot, the northeast and finally to give time for the absolute distribution of permanent voter cards.
As much as I would like to align my thoughts with those clamouring for postponement, few questions have made that impossible for me.
The unanswered questions
If elections are postponed, for how long would they be postponed? During the period of postponement, who rules the nation? Who battles insurgency, capable of compromising the election? What becomes of the people’s zeal and the political consciousness to elect a leader? All of these questions have been left thoroughly unanswered by those making a case for postponement.
Possible answers and implications
For how long would the election be postponed?
According to the constitution, in time of war as this, when the sovereignty of the nation is called into question, they can be a postponement for 6 months. If elections are postponed for 6 months, it is likely a great percentage of voter cards would have been collected, but would insurgency in the north east have been curbed? The face of insurgency in Nigeria, as one of the deadliest in world history doesn’t seem as one that can be curbed in 6 months.
Who rules the nation in that time?
Tunde Bakare is a cerebral leader who proffers solutions to most of the problems he raises as battling Nigeria. This time around, he has this to say:
“This coalition (transitional government), headed by the President, will constitute a combined force that will tackle terrorism and address what I have earlier referred to as the fundamentals, within a time-frame of two years or less.”
This is brilliant in theory, but the expression of this would be practically impossible considering our political clime. Any attempt by the president to extend his stay in office by one day would lead to an uproar in the opposition who would likely not understand the intent of the president’s decision. Hence the violence we try to avoid may erupt on the account of “tenure elongation”.
What if battle against insurgency fails?
God forbid we continue to lose the battle against insurgency. Peradventure we actually don’t win the war against insurgency within the elongated time frame, what next? Another postponement, definitely not! So we would have wasted 6 months or more only to come back where we left of as a nation, grappling with the same problems that plunged us into postponing the elections.
According to the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, elections should not be postponed on the grounds of insurgency, as countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan can conduct elections amidst insurgency then Nigeria can. And yes I believe we can.
Political Consciousness and Electoral Zeal
Nigerian in the fourth republic and perhaps in its entire history has never witnessed the kind of political zeal we see in the formidable opposition and the entire nation to get to the polls. The zeal is there, the will is there, the consciousness is not missing, and the people are ready. Nigerians thirst and hunger for an opportunity as this to make their votes count at the polls and their voices heard beyond the poll. It’s a beautiful time for the electorate and a time when they are the captain of their own ship.
A postponement of any length would affect their zeal as the wait would seem endless for them. A 6 month postponement would batter their resolve to fully participate in the forthcoming elections. Hence, these elections cannot be postponed.
An American businessman, David Joseph Schwartz once said, to fight fear, act. To increase fear – wait, put off postpone. Nigeria, fight your fears, don’t increase it; say no to postponement!