Dasuki: Enemy Or Friend?

Dasuki: Enemy Or Friend?

Monday, February 16, 2015 2:59 pm

Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja

The role played by Sambo Dasuki, the National Security Adviser, in the shift in dates of 2015 general elections, is at odds with promotion of democracy

As commander of Artillery Corp of the Nigerian Army, Colonel Sambo Dasuki played a critical role in the 27, August, 1985 coup d’état which led to the end of the military regime of General Muhammadu Buhari after just about 18 months in office. Indeed, Sambo, then a Major was, alongside four of his colleagues, assigned the job of arresting the then Head of State at his residence in Dodan Barracks in Lagos to facilitate easy ascension of General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, the then Chief of Army Staff to power. Now, about three decades later, and as the National Security Adviser, NSA, the Sokoto Prince who ironically is from the Buhari ruling House of the Caliphate, will seem to have anchored another sort of coup against the now 72-year old former Head of State and presidential candidate of opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.

At least, that was the perception about the series of actions initiated by Dasuki which led to postponement of the 2015 general elections which should have started off with the presidential poll last Saturday by the leadership of the opposition party.

•Dasuki: Started the election date shift idea

•Dasuki: Started the election date shift idea

However, taking a broader view of scenarios which forced the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to shift the dates of the elections which they believed were contrived by the NSA with the support of the service chiefs, critics and analysts believed that Dasuki’s action posed a danger not just to the opposition party, but to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission had, after a series of meetings with the leadership of registered political parties, civil society organizations and commissioners of the Commission which lasted virtually the whole day had, late on Saturday 7 February, announced the decision of the electoral body to shift the dates of the elections.

Jega told journalists that the Commission was ready to go ahead with the polls with a few loose ends remaining to be tightened in the area of distribution of Permanent Voter Cards and delivery of other materials needed for the election. The other variable that is not under the control of INEC, according to Jega, is security. He added that the election must be postponed because the country’s security chiefs, led by the NSA, said they could not guarantee the safety of voters and electoral officers. “The commission cannot lightly wave off the advice of the nation’s security chiefs,” Jega said at the press conference. “Calling people to exercise their democratic rights in a situation where their security cannot be guaranteed is a most onerous responsibility,” the INEC boss said while announcing the shift in the dates of the elections from 14 February for presidential and National Assembly polls and 28 February for the governorship and House of Assembly polls to 28 March and 11 April, 2015 respectively.

Jega said the shift followed the “strong advisory” and a warning from the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and military chiefs that they could not guarantee security if the polls go ahead February. According to him, the security chiefs had demanded at least six weeks to conclude a major operation against Boko Haram in the North East Region so that elections can also be held in the areas where the insurgents have taken over many villages and towns.

Jega told journalists that Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) which states that: “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date…, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable,” gave INEC power to postpone the elections.

Intrigues of Dasuki’s Election Delay Plot

The announcement of the shift in date of the election was a culmination of intrigues which began in far away London on 22 January. Dasuki had, at a lecture he delivered at Chatham House, asserted to the consternation of many Nigerians that INEC was not ready to conduct the 2015 elections because many potential voters had yet to get their PVCs. The NSA at the occasion, said he had advised the Chairman of INEC to shift the dates for the elections so that a substantial number of registered voters who have yet to get their PVCs can obtain them.

But INEC swiftly denied entertaining any thought of postponement of the election even as it vowed that every eligible voter would get his or her PVC before the commencement of the series of polls. The suggestion by Dasuki also attracted heavy criticisms from the opposition and the general public back at home. The world was also alarmed, and three days later, John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State, visited Nigeria and met with President Goodluck Jonathan and Buhari. Kerry had during the visit advised against shifting of the date for the polls. But rather than commit himself to fidelity with the election timetable as drawn up by INEC, President Jonathan had, in a statement he released after his meeting with Kerry, said he assured the visiting US diplomat that 29 May handover date was sacrosanct. Not many paid attention to the emphasis laid by the President on the ‘sacrosanctity’ of the handover date, different from the dates set by INEC for the elections then in the President’s statement.

•John Kerry: Advised against shifting of the date

•John Kerry: Advised against shifting of the date

This magazine learnt that after a meeting with his commissioners across the country on Tuesday, 3 February, INEC Chairman had begun setting the process for the conduct of the presidential election. But forces campaigning for the shift in the elections’ dates as set off by the NSA seemed determined. Different groups and associations, obviously propelled by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP continue their agitations to have the elections postponed while a suit was filed to stop the polls by four potential voters on the excuse that INEC has failed to make the, PVCs they will use to vote available.

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