Monday, February 9, 2015 8:57 pm
The APC chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun chronicles the chain of events that led to last Saturday’s cancellation of the scheduled 14 February presidential election in Nigeria.
The chronicle contains startling disclosures of the alliance between PDP and President Jonathan on one hand, and Nigeria’s military chiefs and officers on the other. It’s an unholy alliance he says that culminated in the misuse of the military to rig the Ekiti governorship election last year June, according to revelations by a whistle blower.
He reveals the various assurances by the security chiefs about their readiness to offer policing services for the elections and their sudden turn around to deny their readiness.
Worrisome is Oyegun’s poser whether the military’s declaration that they would not be available for polls duty in February because of their engagement in North east Nigeria, actually means they would not be available to fulfil election intimidation cum rigging duties in APC states.
Here is the full statement:
· Thank you for being with us this afternoon. This is yet another critical moment in our history. We have gone through difficult moments like this in the past. Nigeria survived and came out stronger. We are confident that we shall survive this too; because no one, no matter how powerful, can subvert the collective will of the people.
·In our preliminary reaction to the postponement of the 2015 General Elections, we noted that the decision taken by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has thrown up so many questions, and that these questions will be reviewed by our party organs for a comprehensive response from the APC. Whilst consultation with the party organs is on-going, this briefing is to provide us opportunity to raise some pertinent questions and put some issues in their proper perspective.
· You will recall that on the 22nd of January 2015, Col. Sambo Dasuki(rtd) , the National Security Adviser (NSA) at Chatham House declared that INEC was not ready for the elections and he has therefore advised the electoral body to postpone the election. The reason he gave for his unsolicited advice was that substantial number of registered voters had not collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC). He did not say anything about security concern even though Boko Haram was an issue then as it is an issue now. So, at what point did concern over elections shift from PVC to security concern?
· When the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry visited on January 25th, he wanted a categorical commitment from President Jonathan that the elections would hold as scheduled. The President assured the American envoy that the elections would hold. Was it that his Security chiefs had not briefed him on the security situation in the country and how this would affect the election time table at the time he was making this promise?
· On the 2nd of February, at the National Peace Committee meeting in Abuja with the representatives of different political parties, the service chiefs gave assurances of their readiness for the elections. At the occasion, the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshall Alex Badeh gave assurances of the Armed Forces’s preparedness for the elections. According to him “even though we are busy in the North East, we also have capabilities across the nation.” Badeh also admitted that the role of the military is merely to support the police in providing security during elections. At the same event, Chief of Army Staff, General Kenneth Minimah said, “we are aware of the need for security, before, during and after the elections. We will deploy across the States of the Federation in areas we discover that have capacity for violence. We are prepared to ensure we have peaceful elections.”
· Also speaking at the event, the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosun said “we have commenced the air lift of the materials needed for the elections, starting from Abuja. We will continue with the elections.”
·The sum total of all these is that only 12 days before the elections and despite the state of insecurity in the North East, the entire military high command assured the nation of their readiness to provide security for the elections. However, only 3 days later on Friday February 6th, these same Service Chiefs wrote to INEC, in a letter, which by all practical purposes could be described as blackmail, saying that they would no longer be able to provide security for the elections? What happened in those 72 hours that brought about this complete volte face?
· It is also important to note that at the National Council of States meeting on Thursday February 5th, INEC reaffirmed its readiness and commitment to hold the elections as scheduled. Even though the Service Chiefs briefed the Council that they had security concerns, the consensus of opinion at this august body of eminent citizens was that elections should go ahead nationwide except the 14 LGAS identified as problematic by the security chiefs.
· After all, it was recalled that in 1999, elections were not held in Bayelsa State because of the activities of militants at the time, but it held all over the country. The activities of Boko Haram were clearly limited to 14 Local Governments in three States out of 774 Local Governments in 36 States and FCT. How would this then warrant the blanket postponement of elections in the entire country? Considering all factors building up to this postponement, it is difficult not to come to the obvious conclusion that the Military High Command is in an unholy and dangerous alliance with the ruling party, the PDP, to subvert the democratic will of the people. We have no doubts that the letter sent to the INEC, warning it not to proceed with the elections, emanated from the Service Chiefs’ hands of Esau and President Jonathan’s voice of Jacob. Isn’t it curious that only the PDP and its supporters are celebrating the postponement? We know that at the Council of State meeting, all the former Heads of State in attendance spoke against the postponement except in the 14 LGAs and all the former Chief Justices’ also concurred. And every non-PDP Governor present in the meeting spoke against postponement.
On PVC Collection
· Another issue that has been brought up is the distribution of Permanent Voter Cards. The Federal Government and the ruling party have made a song and dance of the challenges INEC has had with the distribution and sought to underplay the achievements of the electoral body in this respect. The truth is that average national collection of PVC is between 65-70%, which would increase in the remaining days. According to INEC, this level of collection actually reflect a better voter participation that in the previous election in 2011. The question we should ask is what threshold is acceptable? In any case, it is the democratic right of every citizen to pick up or refuse to pick up his or her PVC and if a citizen refuses to do so, should INEC be blamed for this?
The Role of Security Agencies
· The greatest threat to our democracy today is the way the ruling party has compromised the leadership of the Nigerian military to serve the personal agenda of President Jonathan. This is a dangerous game. A recent court judgment in Sokoto clearly ruled that the military had no role in the electoral process. What happened with this postponement is that Service Chiefs simply vetoed a democratic process on the directive of President Jonathan. We know what politicisation is doing to our once proud military institution.
· We are aware that the Presidency has forwarded a secret memo to all commanders of divisions and battalions of Nigerian Army for a 3-day strategy meeting in Kaduna from today on how to use the military to intimidate voters in APC States to rig election in favour of President Jonathan. Since recent revelations about the role of the military in Ekiti elections is demonstrable proof of how far this government will go to compromise the military as an institution, could it be that when the Service Chiefs said they would not have enough personnel to provide security for the elections, what they are actually saying is that they would not have enough soldiers to intimidate voters in favour of the ruling party if the elections had proceeded as scheduled?
Divided We Stand?
· Never in the history of our country had a Federal Government and the President of Nigeria so wantonly mobilized ethnic and religious sentiments to divide the people against themselves for selfish political reasons. By now, everyone is aware how a close confidant of President Jonathan, Chief Edwin Clark, called for the sack and arrest of the Chairman of the INEC because, according to him, the INEC Chairman is working for the interest of the North. He said this under aegis of a Southern Nigerian People’s Assembly.
· We are also aware of how the Vice President of Nigeria, Architect Namadi Sambo unfortunately invoked religious sentiment to campaign for his party in Niger State. The level of ethnic and religious baiting that we are currently witnessing is unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria. The road to Rwanda and other countries that have suffered tragic ethno-religious conflicts is not far from what PDP is currently invoking on our country.. We owe it a duty to stress the point that under our watch, Nigerians regardless of their ethnic origin or religious disposition would be free to operate without let or hindrance.
· Only few days ago, the Director of National Information Centre, Mr. Mike Omeri, claimed that government has uncovered a plan by Boko Haram to bomb polling centres without providing a single shred of evidence. The following day, President Jonathan declared in a church in Lagos that Boko Haram has planned to bomb the entire country. We see this as deliberate scare-mongering to discourage Nigerians from coming out to exercise their democratic right to vote. This is quite unfortunate. The President that should be protecting the people and assuring them of their safety is now the one scaring them.
The Making of a Constitutional Crisis
. It is important to note that the Service Chiefs’ letter to INEC demanded postponement for “at least” 6 weeks. This, we must note, is a booby trap. Embedded in that phrase “at least” is a window to push for another postponement. It is clear however, that any further postponement can only lead to a constitutional crisis. The constitution demands at least 30 days before the hand over date of May 29th . We have strong suspicions but hope this postponement is not part of an agenda to create a constitutional crisis in the country. We are just recently recovering from the crisis precipitated by the political crisis of 1993. We cannot afford another.
·We are all witnesses to the way INEC was intimidated into postponement of the elections despite repeated assurances of its readiness. We are aware of plans for worse intimidation in the days ahead. We are aware of plans to intimidate and orchestrate arrest of our leaders across the country on frivolous grounds. We are now aware of how PDP used intimidation and arrest to rig the last Governorship election in Ekiti State. We are aware that this is the plan of the PDP. But we have no doubt that Nigerians will stand up to this. We have no doubt that the international community is watching.
· This postponement comes with a huge cost to all Nigerians and every one involved, directly or indirectly, in this election, including international observers and journalists. However, we should see this as the sacrifice we need to make for the survival of democracy in Nigeria. We must remain steadfast and committed to the cause of change. Like our Presidential candidate, General Buhari said, “our desire for change must surpass their desperation to hold on to power at all cost. We have no other country other than Nigeria, and we must remain focused and salvage it.”
Gentlemen of the press, the contradictions we have pointed out in this briefing represent a clear and present danger to our democracy. It is clear that this is a surreptitious but badly disguised attempt to subvert the will of the people. But we must assure Nigerians and friends all over the world that the power of the people is greater than the people in power. These too shall pass and we shall overcome.
*John E.K. Odigie-Oyegun, CON
National Chairman, All Progressives’ Congress, APC.