Concerned Nigerians Protest Against Election Postponement In Abuja

February 5, 2015 11:19 am
This is strange and not really alright as concerned Nigerians began a peaceful protest march in Abuja today
calling on the chair of the Independent National Election Commission
), Prof. Attahiru Jega not to bow to pressures mounted on him by
President Goodluck Jonathan and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to
postpone the upcoming general elections slated for February 2015.  The
protest which started at the popular Unity Fountain across Transcorp
Hilton Hotel at the Federal capital Territory has moved towards the Aso
Rock Presidential Villa gate where protesters said that they are going
to tell members of the National Council of State which is billed to hold
a meeting in respect of the postponement of election not to dare shift
the date of the elections as Nigerians are fully ready for elections.
 
One of the protest leaders, Olatunde Daniels told reporters that the
group will resist any attempt by the government to postpone the
elections, saying that Nigerians are ready for election, and that no
amount of  propaganda will make   allow the ruling party truncate
Nigeria’s democracy.                      
Several of the protesters carried placards with inscriptions that
read: “No to election postponement”,  “Nigerians are ready for
elections”, “On Feb.14th we stand” ,”Democracy must survive, GEJ, you
claimed you have improved power sector and built 200 roads, why are you
afraid of election.”                                                    
          

As at the time of publishing this report the protesters have gathered
in sizable numbers in front of Eagle Square where well armed anti-riot
mobile policemen blocked them from going further. The protesters began
chanting anti-government songs.
Over the past five years, an insurgency led by the Islamist Boko Haram group has driven 1.6 million Nigerians
from their homes in the country’s northeast. So it comes as a bit of a
surprise that Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
is only now starting to voice concern about how those citizens will
vote in upcoming presidential elections, slated for Feb. 14. Incumbent
Goodluck Jonathan is facing a strong challenge from former general
Muhammadu Buhari.

On Feb. 4, just 10 days before the start of polling, INEC commissioner Amina Zachary told Reuters
that the elections may have to be delayed over fears that not enough
registered voters would actually be able to cast ballots. At issue is
the requirement that citizens vote where they are registered — difficult
enough when Boko Haram threatens to launch squads of suicide bombers
across the region in the run-up to the election; impossible when your
hometown is under militant occupation, as 20 out of 27 local
governorships are in the three northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and
Yobe.
The commission is also worried about the slow rollout of its
anti-fraud system. Each voter must have a Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in
order to cast a ballot. The cards are digitally embedded with the
voter’s fingerprint and can be read by a small battery-powered scanner.
If the voter’s fingerprint doesn’t match the information on the card, he
or she won’t be issued a ballot. This is designed to prevent
accusations of ballot-box stuffing that have marred past elections.
But the problem is that not all voters have their cards yet. Only 44
million out of 68.8 million registered voters have received their cards,
according to INEC, many of them in areas plagued by insurgency. In
theory, would-be voters can pick up their cards at government offices,
but not if fighting shuts those offices down. INEC has extended the
deadline for picking up voter cards to Feb. 8, but if the number of
cards distributed by then is too low, the commission may decide to
postpone the vote. “Let’s see how the PVC distribution goes,” Zachary
told Reuters. “Then maybe.”
It’s not just INEC that is concerned. In January, President Jonathan’s national security adviser Sambo Dasuki also suggested that the vote be delayed, for the same reason. And on Feb. 3, about 100 protesters
stormed INEC headquarters, brandishing placards demanding a delay.
“INEC, do the right thing,” they chanted. “We demand for the extension
of election to allow Nigerian exercise their franchise.”
Never one to pass up a good conspiracy story, Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper posited
that the protesters, and Dasuki, may have been put up by Jonathan
supporters who feel that their candidate might benefit from a longer
campaign season. An Afrobarometer opinion poll
released on Jan. 27 indicates that the election is too close to call, a
sharp change in fortunes for Jonathan, who was considered a clear front
runner as recently as early January, when campaigning started in
earnest.
But if Boko Haram continues with its campaign of deadly bombings — a
female suicide blew herself up in the northeastern state of Gombe
on Feb. 2 — a delay in elections might actually harm Jonathan’s
chances. Jonathan’s record on fighting Boko Haram is weak, and Buhari
has made security the cornerstone of his campaign. In the end, delaying
the elections could end up benefitting Boko Haram the most. More debate
on who should be the next President means less attention on what should
be done about militancy.

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