Posted by News Express | 26 January 2014 | 3,769 times
Political pressure groups from the north have rejected staggered elections as contained in the timetable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released for the 2015 polls on Friday. They want all the elections to be conducted in one day.
In rejecting the sequence of the planned elections, the north’s apex bodies – the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and the Prof. Ango Abdulahi-led Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) – said the timetable prepared by INEC was designed to encourage electoral irregularities. They expressed fears that an attendant bandwagon effect was likely after the presidential election, which is the first. The two groups prefer the elections to be conducted the same day to ensure credibility.
But their Yoruba counterpart, Afenifere, said the ACF and NEF’s demand is not in the interest of the system.
INEC had on Friday released the timetable for the 2015 elections, fixing the presidential and National Assembly elections for February 14, while the governorship and state houses of assembly polls will hold two weeks later.
Also yesterday, INEC released the details of the processes leading to the conduct of the general elections next year. The timetable showed that primary elections to fill positions within political parties would commence in October.
The commission specifically fixed October 2, 2014, for the beginning of party primaries and December 11, 2014, as the end of primaries including the resolution of disputes arising from the primaries of all political parties.
In a statement, ACF said it was uncomfortable with the sequence of the election. Through its publicity secretary, Anthony Sanni, ACF said: “We prefer all elections to hold the same day in order to reduce cost and avoid bandwagon effect. But INEC has said there is no enabling law by the National Assembly that will make it possible for the elections to hold the same day; and we have also called on the legislature to make that possible.
“ACF prefers electoral disputes in courts to be disposed of before inauguration, but now INEC timetable is too close to inauguration. As a result, inaugurated winners will still use government resources to fight electoral disputes in tribunals and courts. That will be most unfair to the alleged losers in the elections and Nigerians.”
While expressing reservations about INEC’s preparedness for the 2015 general elections, NEF’s Abdullahi said there was nothing sacrosanct about the dates the electoral body had outlined for the polls.
“There is nothing so significant about the dates that have been reeled out by INEC; however, I do not see any reason for INEC’s inability to conduct the elections the same day because it is possible and this is done all over the world, so Nigeria cannot be an exception in this case.
“Apart from the possible bandwagon effect that is likely to be associated with the current outline as enunciated by INEC, the likelihood of a winning presidential candidate in the February 14 poll manipulating the subsequent elections cannot be ruled out,” he said.
In his comment, the coordinator of the Northern Professionals, Academics and Businessmen Forum (NOPABF), Dr Junaid Mohammed, described INEC chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega as “an incompetent electoral umpire”.
Mohammed called for Jega’s sack, saying there was nothing to show that the INEC boss would follow the timetable as released.
“The issue is not whether or not the polls should hold same day; the issue is, how competent is Jega and his team of compromised INEC men and women? In my own opinion, INEC is partisan.
“You will recall that Jega himself had called for the amendment of the Electoral Act before the 2015 elections; as at the last time I checked, the National Assembly had not touched any issue relating to the amendment of the Electoral Act.
“So, who is fooling who in this country? The truth is that Jega is missing the point as far as this election timetable is concerned because he has done nothing to justify his continued stay as INEC chairman. You should remember that the same Jega released a timetable in 2011 but he bungled it. Registration was postponed several times and the election itself suffered serious logistical challenges owing to the incompetence of Jega and his team,” he said.
The northern leaders’ position notwithstanding, Afenifere’s spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, said Nigeria does not have the capacity to conduct all elections in one day.
“It is clear that Nigeria does not have the capacity to conduct elections same day. We saw what happened in Anambra State as regards the whole logistics challenges and the poll was bungled by INEC itself.
“Imagine what will happen if elections were to hold the same day; this is more so that Nigeria will witness a state of insecurity with the deployment of thugs by candidates on the same day,” Odumakin said.
•Excerpted from LEADERSHIP Sunday. Photo shows INEC Chaiman, Prof. Jega.
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