According to an unnamed Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), the Independent National Electoral Commission was ill-prepared to conduct the Feb 14 2015 elections.
He said the advice by the security chiefs and the National Security Adviser (NSA) to defer the elections because of the security situation in the North-East gave INEC, a breather to prepare adequately for the polls.
He also said contrary to reports that 21 of the RECs had opposed the postponement of the polls during their meeting at the weekend with the INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, all they did was to give him situational reports on each of the 36 states of the federation and Abuja.
The REC further said that the training and simulation exercises for INEC officials and thousands of ad hoc staff on how to use the card readers for the permanent voters’ cards during the polls had not been conducted. ‘’The training manual is not ready while simulations for the card readers have not been conducted. Our personnel and ad hoc staff do not know how to use the card readers, and some that have been tested were not working’’.
“Apart from this, over 23 million registered voters had not picked up their cards, that is about 34 per cent of registered voters. So were we going to disenfranchise them under the pretext that not all of them would vote? “It is not INEC’s responsibility to dwell on voter apathy. Ours is to ensure that all cards get to the voters. Whether they turn out to vote or not is their prerogative and not that of INEC”.
The REC accused Jega of not been entirely honest when he made his presentation to the Council of State on the preparedness of the electoral commission for the polls. “We were far from being ready and had we proceeded with our state of unpreparedness in February, we would have faced greater challenges than what we encountered during the 2011 general election when we were forced to postpone the elections by two weeks.
The insecurity in the North-east has offered INEC a lifeline to get its act together and sort out most, if not all, pending issues before the polls start on March 28,” he said.
The Chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in Cross River State, Mr. Cletus Obunm has stated that the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega is incompetent to do the job his office demands.The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republic Institute (IRI) have shown how the Election Management Board made bleak preparations for the elections.
This is coming as the Coalition of Progressive Political Parties (COP3) warned against further shift in dates of the general elections, while faulting the security reasons adduced by INEC for shifting the dates of the general elections.
A joint report by the NDI and IRI Pre Election Assessment Mission to Nigeria dated January 20, 2015 showed how the two United States institutions faulted INEC’s preparation for the general elections. The joint report was also submitted to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega.
The report was compiled by: US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs and the Vice Chairman of the US Institute of Peace, Regalia Bam; former Chairperson of Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, Hon. Patrick Muyaya; member of Parliament, Democratic Republic of Congo, Paulina Baker; former President of the Fund for Peace, Michael Bratton; distinguished professor of political science and African studies at Michigan State University, Robert Lloyd; professor of international relations at Pepperdine University, and senior fellow at the Atlantic councils African Centre, Christopher Fomunyoh; senior associate and regional director for Central and West Africa at NDI; and Gretchen Birkle, regional director for Africa at IRI.
According to the report, “The delegation is concerned that millions of permanent voter cards (PVCs) have not yet been distributed by INEC. Although INEC plans to move the distribution of the PVCs from the LGA level to the level of wards (which are similar units under the LGA level down to the polling points), that exercise has not started in all the states.
What exactly does America really want from Nigeria?
U.S. Secretary of State,John Kerry, “The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone Nigeria’s presidential election, which had been scheduled for February 14.
Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process. The international community will be watching closely as the Nigerian government prepares for elections on the newly scheduled dates. The United States underscores the importance of ensuring that there are no further delays. . .”
Mfon Akpabio a political analyst based in Abuja Nigeria, says that even without carefully considering the background and motivations behind this statement, you would think Nigeria has suddenly become a colonial outpost of the United States of America! All the same, ‘’he suggest we remain calm, and give this fellow the benefit of doubt, however undeserving, by dispassionately considering if he’s justified in his condescending message concerning an entity I’ve always assumed to be an autonomous sovereign nation – THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA.
First, it is true that America has been a major trading partner to Nigeria, and the leading buyer of our oil over the years, peaking at 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) in February 2006. However, the USA reduced its purchase of oil from Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer, to about 100,000 bpd early 2014, and then to zero in July 2014, for the first time ever, since records of oil trade between both countries began in 1973. This has resulted in a trade balance in favour of the USA for the first time in 2014, to the tune of $2.1bn. Previous balances in our favour since the current democratic dispensation fluctuated between the lowest level of $3.8bn in 1999 to a peak of $34bn in 2008!
The question then is, what does America really want from Nigeria? Is the attitude of the U.S. premised on idealistic considerations in the interest of Nigerians? If not, what is Nigeria doing to threaten American interests, which has resulted in the antagonistic posture of the USA?
In addition to his recent whistle-stop visit to Nigeria to “warn” the key political actors against acts of violence during the upcoming elections, John Kerry has expressed the disappointment of his country to the shift of dates for the polls. One really wonders what their real grouse is – is it that we have no right as a country to change the date of our elections if we so wish? Does the US have a fetish for Valentine’s Day, for which they insist our polls hold on that day? Or do we expect citizens of Mr Kerry’s country to participate in the voting, whose plans are now disrupted by the change of dates?
Is John Kerry oblivious of the fact that, a week to the presidential elections, INEC is yet to distribute two-thirds of permanent voters’ cards to its 69 million registered voters, as admitted by its Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega while announcing the postponement? Is he also unaware that the Commission is yet to conclude training of its ad hoc staff a few days to the initial election date?
Can John Kerry also feign ignorance of the recent successes of the Nigerian military in securing a broad-based regional collaboration to more meaningfully engage the insurgents? Is he also not aware that the military is at a critical stage of the operations, which cannot be abandoned halfway for its personnel to be deployed to supporting INEC electoral activities at their required locations nationwide? Can someone please ask John Kerry if he hasn’t noticed the successes of the recent joint military onslaught on the terrorists, climaxing in their invasion of their dreaded Sambisa Forest operational stronghold, and the flight of the murderers to neighbouring countries?
Has America not been in the forefront of criticising the Nigerian government for not doing enough to fight the Boko Haram menace all this while? If their nonchalant attitude towards supporting Nigeria in this fight is related to their complaint of corruption against this administration, what is it that explains their support for such countries as Iraq, Syria and Yemen? Are they suggesting they have statistics showing us to be more corrupt than those countries? What exactly does America really want from Nigeria?
I would have felt that, if they had no ulterior motive, the questions John Kerry and his countrymen would have asked themselves if they insisted on leaving their own problems including an embarrassing race relations crisis, to meddle into our affairs, should have been: Is INEC truly and fully ready to conduct a free and fair election as of the 14th of February 2015? or Are Jega and his INEC colleagues only trying to hide conveniently behind the notice of the security chiefs? If they’re not, for whatever reasons, are they empowered by law to change the date of the polls? Where such a change is advisable and legal, would it in any way compromise the outcome of the elections?
The answer to the first question is obvious to any right-thinking watcher, Nigerian or otherwise, and whether he or she is ready to admit it or not – INEC is simply not prepared for any credible poll as of February 14th, 2015, irrespective of their diversionary resort to the security advisory as alibi. Jega himself noted at the briefing that the rescheduling “falls within the constitutional framework for the conduct of the elections, notably, Sections 76(2), 116(2), 132(2) and 178(2) and also Section 25 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).” Importantly, and in simply put, the law requires that elections hold at least 30 days to the handover date of May 29th, which translates to the 29th of April 2015, at the latest. Lastly, in what way would the credibility of an election change after all prerequisite activities are completed, as opposed to before? For better or for worse? Your guess is as good as mine.
Let’s even take a look at the precedent before us. Beginning from the first civilian-to-civilian election held in recent times, and spanning three different chairmen of the electoral body, presidential polls have held in Nigeria on the 19th, 27th and 16thof April in 2003, 2007 and 2011, respectively, with the incoming president being sworn in on the 29th of May in every case. As a matter of FACT, this year would mark the first time we’re casting our presidential ballot as early as March! More so, it is on record that INEC itself pushed forward the presidential polls of 2011 by over 100 days, for reasons including amendments to the electoral act, voters’ registration and verification, as well as training of its ad hoc staff.
So that brings us back to the question, what does America really want? Who is really guilty of the “political interference” referred to by John Kerry? What “further delays” is John Kerry talking about? Are we running a joint programme with the US on our elections? What is this talk of “watching closely”, as though Nigeria is about to steal something belonging to the US?
What do INEC, the main opposition party and the USA share in common that makes them determined to hold elections that would disenfranchise at least a third of the registered voters of Nigeria? Is it a coincidence that some people have suggested the incredible proposition that the entire processes of INEC have been skewed in favour of a particular section of the country, which subscribes more to this opposition party? Or does this have anything to do with the conspiracy theory that the opposition is adamant on a hasty and flawed exercise, so they’ll have material with which to protest their expected defeat, and to justify the promise of mayhem credited to their flag bearer?
Or could there be a more sinister twist to this body language that on the surface only resembles meddlesomeness? Could recent US posture and actions towards Nigeria have anything to do with a 2010 report on the Wikileaks website identifying the US embassy in Nigeria as a forward operating base for wide and far reaching acts of subversion against Nigeria including, but not limited to, eavesdropping on Nigerian government communication, financial espionage on leading Nigerians, support and funding of subversive groups and insurgents, sponsoring of divisive propaganda among the disparate groups of Nigeria and the use of visa blackmail to induce and coerce high ranking Nigerians into acting in favour of US interests?
Contents of this report align with the belief in certain quarters of the existence of a well camouflaged long term policy of containment of the US government against Nigeria, the ultimate goal of which is to eliminate Nigeria as a potential strategic rival to the US in the African continent. The report portrays the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) of the USA as a counterweight and a parallel organisation which was surreptitiously set up to neutralise the ECOWAS Monitoring Group, ECOMOG, by which Nigeria, without support from the west or the United Nations, successfully led the first ever African intervention force on peacekeeping missions, spearheaded by the then head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
It also recalled Nigeria’s role in helping to liberate the southern African countries in the 70s and 80s in clear opposition and defiance to the interests of the United States and its western allies which resulted in a setback for western initiatives and objectives in Africa at the time. The report feared that, should ECOMOG be allowed to go the whole hog, the major beneficiary would be Nigeria, whose influence would eclipse that of the former colonial powers of France and Britain, and compromise US strategic interests in such countries in the region as Liberia.
The US thus set this parallel body up with entreaties of military and humanitarian aid to the participating countries in the region, and to the exclusion of Nigeria. The final result is the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, which came to being on October 1, 2008, programmed to serve US military-strategic interests especially with regards to the ever expanding global reach and influence of China in direct competition with the United States.
The goal of AFRICOM is to seize key strategic areas in Africa and bring them under US control in order to block China’s access to vital energy and mineral resources for its expanding economy. To effectively carry this out, such African countries of strategic importance must first of all be weakened internally and made to feel so vulnerable that they would have to inevitably seek US protection or intervention. A spur to this interventionist programme provides that any targeted African country that does not see the wisdom or resists the need to seek US “protection” will then have to suffer dismemberment with the pliant area carved out of the supposedly hostile area and given US “protection”, as in the case of Sudan, where El-Bashir dared to side-track American oil interests
The greatest prize for AFRICOM would however come when it succeeds in the most strategic African country, NIGERIA. This is where the raging issue of BOKO HARAM and the widely reported prediction by an American ‘’think thank’’ on the disintegration of Nigeria by 2015 comes into perspective.
The Greenwhite Coalition, a citizen’s volunteer watchdog made up of Nigerians across ethnic and religious persuasions, further alert to plans by the US to dismember the country.
According to the group, the whole goal of the destabilisation campaign was said to be to ensure that Nigeria is weakened internally by intractable crises leading up to the upcoming elections, by which time there would be so much mutual suspicion among Nigerians that the elections itself might either not hold, or would finally set the stage for full intervention and break up.
The main beneficiary would of course be the United States which started it all in the first place and which would be there to profit at the end. They would have eliminated a potential continental rival, and limited its main global strategic rival China from direct access to badly needed energy and other mineral resources on the resource rich African continent. From Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan and Latin America, America’s track record around the world has been nothing but ugly.
In the words of its own statesmen, America has no permanent friends, but permanents interests, which translates into an utter disregard to the sensitivities and interests of other countries. That has pretty much formed the basis of US interaction around the world. The same situation would play itself out if we allow them into Nigeria.
The tragedy of our situation, if any of this were true, is the way some people seem to have offered themselves as willing tools and accomplices towards the actualisation of these sinister predictions. Rather than suspend all partisanship and rally round the government in containing an obvious urgent and long-term threat to national security, the opposition party has rather milked it for its electoral value; controverting military successes and demoralising the security forces. From fanning the embers of discord through divisive propaganda, to sounding a call to arms in the name of protesting electoral outcomes, and outright acts of violence against campaign rally teams, they leave little room for hope of escape from these predictions.
At no other time in the history of Nigeria have electioneering campaigns generated such heat, bitterness and desperation between two main rival parties as they are at the moment. The question is, in our bid to outdo one another, could we actually be walking into a trap we’re not mindful of?
What does America really want?
Contributors Mfon Akpabio, Agency Report
(Editing by Kede Aihie)