It is now official. The presidential election will hold on February 14, 2015 as planned as far as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is concerned.
On Monday, Attahiru Jega, a professor and chairman of the commission, met his 12 national commissioners “for the first time in a long while” and the subject of whether or not the election should be postponed was discussed.
According to a highly-placed source who spoke with TheCable, Jega was of the opinion that postponing the election would give INEC the time to organise a better election. Although he admitted that a postponement would trigger backlash from the public, he told them he was willing to take the risk in order to have a more credible election.
“Jega was convinced that postponing the election was the best option in light of the big challenge of Permanent Voter Card (PVC) distribution confronting INEC. He reckoned that there would be backlash from the public, but he was willing to address the media, beg members of the public for the disappointment, and take whatever criticism that comes his way, in the hope that Nigerians would appreciate the commissions efforts when the election is finally conducted,” the insider said.
THE PVC PROBLEM
INEC has had a torrid time managing the production and distribution of PVCs to eligible voters. In Lagos, just last week, Akin Orebiyi, the Lagos state resident electoral commissioner, lamented that 1.7 million voters had still not received their PVCs and were susceptible to disenfranchisement.
Sambo Dasuki, the national security adviser, cited this challenge last month when he said in London during a talk at think-tank Chatham House that he had suggested that the election should be postponed because it made no sense for it to hold three months early when 30 million voter cards were still with INEC.
There had been complaints that time allotted to the distribution was not enough, while many intending voters have complained of being told that their PVCs were unavailable.
In December, Kano declared a public holiday to allow citizens collect their cards. Back in January, the All Progressives Congress (APC) announced that all states under its control would declare two days of public holiday for members of the public to collect their cards.
After initially toying with “a few days of registration” for those with Temporary Voter Card (TVC) and PVC issues, INEC finally extended the deadline for PVC collection on Sunday. Originally scheduled to end on January 31, PVC collection would now run on to February 8.
ELECTION AT ALL COSTS
But at the Monday meeting, the national commissioners argued against postponing the election.
“They were opposed to it, especially based on the implications of postponement on national peace and unity. There is a lot of partisan tension in the air and the national commissioners did not want to risk the consequences of postponing the election.
“At the end of the meeting, it was decided – and Jega agreed – that rather than postpone the poll, INEC should intensify efforts (and in fact push itself to the limits) in ensuring that PVCs get to all deserving and intending voters.”
INEC IS NOT READY
According to the source, Jega’s preparedness to weather the backlash of postponing to election had nothing to do with bias for or against the presidency/PDP or APC. Instead, it was about his personal integrity and the integrity of the electoral process.
Only three months ago, Jega had said that he was “absolutely sure” that all validly registered voters would receive their PVCs before the election.
“People have been very anxious and many have been disappointed – not just by the change in the timetable for distribution of the cards but also by the logistical challenges and operational delays experienced in the field,” he had said.
“But these are minor challenges as far as we are concerned. We are absolutely sure that before the February elections, every validly registered Nigerian will have his/her PVC to be able to exercise their voting right. And we are doing everything possible to ensure that happens.”
Seeing that he could no longer guarantee that promise, he attempted to seek another alternative.
“You see, INEC is not ready, and Jega knows. It is sad but the truth is that INEC is not ready,” the source concluded.
“However, we will have to wait and see how much lost ground the commission can recover between now and February 14.”