Contrary to reports that the National Council of State on Thursday, February 5, 2015 gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the go-ahead to conduct the general election as earlier scheduled, new evidence shows that the opposite was actually the case.
Acoording to Olusegun Adeniyi, a columnist on Thisday and former Presidential Adviser to the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua on Media and Publicity, revealed that the council did not direct Attahiru Jega, the INEC Chairman to go ahead with the election, detailing statements by President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governors Liyel Imoke and Babatunde Fashola of Cross River and Lagos respectively, as well as former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida.
Adeniyi wrote: “At the meeting, Jega presented his report, reiterating that he was ready for the polls. The first person to speak after his presentation was the NSA, (Sambo) Dasuki, who harped on the renewed efforts by the Multinational Forces to dislodge the Boko Haram insurgents and the need to shift the elections forward. The service chiefs and the Director General of the Directorate of State Security (DSS) followed with similar presentations.
“With the floor now open for discussion, Buhari was the first to fire a salvo against the idea to have the elections rescheduled.He said all the reasons adduced by the military do not warrant postponing the elections, especially when, according to him, soldiers have minimal role to play in the election process.
“With Buhari done, the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN, presented what appeared a detailed position of the APC as to why the elections had to go ahead. He looked at the possible implications of such a postponement from both the legal and political prisms, with the conclusion that it would not bode well for the country and the president.
“However, the Cross River State Governor, Mr Liyel Imoke countered Fashola’s arguments with what also appeared the PDP position as he went beyond the issue of Boko Haram to that of the preparedness of INEC. Some of the issues he raised included the ‘lopsidedness’ in the distribution of PVCs nationwide, the fact that the Card Readers to be used by INEC had yet to be tested and that the electoral officials to use them have not even been trained.
“At that point, according to sources, Jega sought to respond and was given the floor. He explained that most of the misgivings being expressed have been factored into INEC plans. He, however, added that it was unrealistic to expect a hundred percent turn-out of voters at elections as there is no such thing anywhere in the world. To this, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr Godswill Akpabio, reportedly countered that Jega was
Adeniyi, a seasoned journalist in his own right added that Governor Akpabio said “there is a difference between people who may choose not to vote even if they have PVCs and those who cannot vote because they have been denied what ordinarily should be their rights. He said elections cannot be credible in situations where millions of people could not get what would enable them to exercise their franchise”.
“In asking INEC to go ahead with the polls since the commission said it was ready, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, added that the advisory role of the Council of State does not extend to election matters. To that, the president, who had evidently been well-briefed, drew the attention of Tambuwal and that of the meeting to the Third Schedule (Part 1) of the 1999 Constitution, especially Section B (6) which states that the Council of State ‘shall have the power to (A) advise the President in exercise of his powers with respect to the…(4) the Independent National Electoral Commission (including appointment of members of the commission).’
“In his own intervention, General Ibrahim Babangida argued that since INEC said it was ready for the polls, the real issue before the Council was on what to do about the four states where the security agencies said they needed more time to deal with the insurgency. Babangida now asked whether it was feasible to conduct elections only in 32 states.
“The president interjected quickly that such election would end in fiasco. I have it on good authority that some people in the administration had suggested this idea to Jega in November last year and he said any such election that excises a section of the country would not pass the test of credibility or even for that matter, legitimacy. So the president knew that succumbing to such an idea would be politically suicidal for him and he rejected it outright.
“However, from the way the meeting went, it was evident that positions had been taken along party lines. At the end, the responsibility as to what to decide was pushed to INEC but the real drama was announcing the ‘decision’ arrived at because for all practical purposes, nothing was decided as to whether or not the elections should go ahead or be postponed.
“With Governors Olusegun Mimiko, Rochas Okorocha and Bala Ngilari asked to brief the media by the president, the three rushed to the press room to grab the centre chair. Mimiko got there first and said no decision was taken and that INEC would consult and announce whether to postpone the elections or not which was the most accurate position as to what transpired. “However, immediately Mimiko stood up and they all appeared to be leaving, Okorocha grabbed the chair that the Ondo State Governor had been sitting on and also started to brief the State House correspondents. He said the Council had decided that the elections should go ahead. While that was not a true reflection of what happened, that was the slant reported in the media, which to be honest is a reflection of the mood of the public.”