Resident electoral commissioners, [RECs], of INEC, whose spirited support for Attahiru Jega, their embattled chairman, has managed to fend off plans to truncate the nation’s electoral calendar through a postponement of the February 14 elections have now tabled two conditions to resolve what now appears to be a logjam in the management of the February polls, PREMIUM TIMES have learnt.
Saturday evening in Abuja, after marathon meetings with political parties and civil society leaders, Mr. Jega huddled with his resident commissioners asking for insight on what to do with a proposal from military and security chiefs who claim they could not provide statutory support for the election process on the presumed grounds that they are commencing a “special operations” on February 14 to wipe out the six-year old insurgency in the north east of the country.
Unimpressed, the resident commissioners dismissed the military and security demands, voting 21 to 16 to give a nod on the elections that most Nigerians appear to be highly enthusiastic about.
A recent political survey by NOI Polls revealed that “majority of residents in all the geo-political zones expressed optimism in voting in the 2015 general elections” adding that the “North-West (89%) and South-East (87%) regions accounted for the largest proportions of Nigerians who expressed optimism for voting in the 2015 general elections when compared to other regions, although a with a minimum 76% (North Central).
The position of the resident commissioners, however, tally with a civil society stance that characterised the military and security claims as a virtual coup against democracy.
The civil society leaders, under the aegis of what they dubbed the Situation Room, called for the resignation of the military chiefs and security heads including the Police “on account of their inability to exercise their constitutional responsibility to secure lives and property at all times including during the elections.”
In the light of the current logjam therefore, the RECs say they are “cautiously open” to support a poll shift on two conditions.
Firstly that Mr. Jega must extract commitment from the Presidency and security agencies that further extension would not be required after six weeks.
“RECs need a guarantee that there will not be further postponement after the six weeks they (the military) are demanding,” our source said.
This view appears directed to advertised claims from partisans close to president Jonathan that they do not want Mr. Jega to manage the election because of his supposed “inflexibility.” Many see the call to postpone the election in the first place as a ploy to buy time until Mr. Jega’s tenure as INEC chair runs out soon.
The second condition tabled by the RECs is that the commission [INEC] be allowed to decide how long the postponement should last.
“The feeling is that outside forces, especially the security agencies, should not be the ones to decide how long to shift the elections. That should be solely decided by INEC,” our source said.
To this end, it was agreed that Mr. Jega should consult with the presidency and security agencies, after which another meeting will hold to give a final stamp on the polls.
“The Chairman will then brief the RECs on the outcome of his consultations,” our said.