The Presidency on Friday released a document tagged “Field Report” to back some of the reasons it feels why conducting the February 14 and 28 general elections as scheduled by the Independent National Electoral Commission can “throw the country into turmoil and confusion”.
Before reading the report, the Presidency yesterday explained President Goodluck Jonathan’s disposition to a shift in the February poll dates, saying in 2003, 2007 and 2011, the elections were held in April and the May 29 hand over date was not affected.
Therefore, President Jonathan was more concerned about the credibility of the outcome of the general election rather than any sinister intentions as speculated in some quarters, the Presidency said.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, who made the Presidency’s position known, challenged the opposition to tell Nigerians in clear terms, what dangers the change of the February 14th date portends to the electoral process or to the electorates, saying “It will also be good if the opposition tells us who stands to benefit or be disadvantaged from any shifting of date and how”.
Giving a detailed account of Thursday’s Council of State meeting presided over by the president, Okupe said: “President Jonathan is not interested, neither is he engaged in any form of subterfuge to pressure INEC to change the dates of the 2015 elections.
“Secondly, I wish to state categorically here that at no time during the entire seven-hour meeting did the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, insist that the elections must hold on February 14th and 28th 2015 as published by some electronic/print media.
“Rather, Prof. Jega gave the Council a report on the progress so far made by the INEC on its preparedness for the 2015 elections.
“In all its submissions, the only process that was 100% concluded was the preparation and availability of the voters register.
“All other processes including provision, distribution and collection of PVCs, printing of ballot papers, distribution of verification machines and other non–sensitive materials, recruitment and training of ad hoc staff, were as at 5th Feb 2015, all works in progress; with some assurance that all will be ready on or before 14th of February 2015.
“The Chairman also mentioned clearly that given a little more time, INEC would be in a better position to perfect these processes and its readiness for the 2015 elections”.
The presidential aide also quoted the INEC Chairman to have told the Council that for the electoral process to be free, fair and credible, there are other matters which were not under the control of the electoral body.
“Principal among which is the issue of provision and guarantee of security of lives and property.
“The Security Chiefs were unanimous in their advice to the Council that it will be impossible for now for them to guarantee security of electoral materials, INEC Staff, and the voting population in the areas currently engulfed by the war against insurgency”, Okupe added.
He stated further that some suggestions were made that elections may be allowed to hold on the February 14 in the 32 states not affected by the ongoing counter-insurgency campaign; while local elections may thereafter hold in those areas after the security situation would have improved.
He continued: “The President made it clear that he cannot in good conscience endorse an electoral arrangement where people from a section of the country would be excluded from the electoral process, due to no fault of theirs, or by virtue of just being unfortunate residents of an area under siege of terrorism.
“According to Mr President, this situation will tend to confirm the deliberate falsehood already being propagated in some parts of the country that he was encouraging the war in the North East to ensure that voters in the APC states of the North East were not allowed to vote in the 2015 elections.
“The final conclusion was that INEC should in view of the several submissions made in the Council by the former presidents, state governors and the security agencies, go and consult further after which they should communicate their decisions to the Nigerian people on the suitability or otherwise of the February 14thand 28th dates.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Nigerians are hereby re-assured that there has never been, and never shall be any plan to cancel the 2015 elections, for any reasons whatsoever.
“It will not happen, and the May 29th date for the swearing-in is sacrosanct. All talks about interim government arrangement is pure fiction.
“The consideration behind the possibility of change of date is to allow those who may be disfranchised from voting on the 14th February to have an opportunity to exercise their lawful rights to vote and participate in the general elections.
“The new wave of successes being recorded by the military in the war against insurgency, especially with the arrival of new effective combatant equipment and machinery, plus the newly revamped cross-border co-operation with Niger, Chad and Cameroonian military, offer a very genuine hope that in a very short while, the situation in the affected states will be brought under such reasonable control that will guarantee safety of the electoral process and electorate in the war front region of the North–East at a no distant future”.
The Presidency insisted that the only set of people who stand to benefit from a shift in election dates are Nigerians who desire to vote and have not been able to collect their permanent voters cards (PVCs) and other innocent citizens living in the war zone who may not be able to vote on the 14th February.
“This administration remains committed to a transparent, credible all inclusive free and fair elections, and will ensure that it employs all powers available to it to guarantee that this happens without any infringement on our sacred constitutional provisions”, Okupe stated.