• APC warns against lobby by presidency for proposed shift at Council of State meeting tomorrow
• Opposition party alleges foreign journalists are being denied visas
Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The plot continued to thicken for a postponement of the elections on Tuesday, when 16 out of the 26 registered political parties endorsed calls for a shift of dates for the polls slated for February 14 and 28, citing insecurity, issues with the distribution of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) and the exodus of people from the cities to their villages.
Also, five of the 14 presidential candidates signed a statement urging the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the elections to a more appropriate date.
The parties are the United Democratic Party (UDP), Citizen Peoples Party (CPP), Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Action Alliance (AA), Peoples Democratic Congress (PDC), Allied Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Labour Party (LP), Mega Progressive People’s Party (MPPP), United Party of Nigeria (UPN), Alliance for Democracy (AD), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) and Independent Democrat (ID).
The five presidential candidates who endorsed the postponement are Godson Okoye (UDP), Chief Sam Okoye (CPP), Prince C.O Allagoe (PPN), Tunde Anifowose (AA) and Ganiu Galadima (ACPN).
The political parties, in a resolution calling for the postponement, said: “Fellow Nigerians, we the concerned leaders of political parties, in the run up to the 2015 February general election, have observed some dangerous trends, which if not checked may negatively and adversely affect our democracy.”
The parties hinged their call for the postponement on security, distribution of PVCs and people deserting their residences for their villages.
They also threatened to boycott the elections if their position was not respected.
The leaders of the 16 parties called on the federal government to take the necessary steps to provide adequate security for Nigerians to go out and collect their PVCs in order to be able to exercise their civic and constitutional duty.
The parties said INEC should seriously consider shifting the date of elections to sometime in March or April, which would still not be against the provisions of Sections 25 and 26 of the Electoral Act.
“We are not urging INEC to do anything that is unlawful, illegal or unconstitutional. It is unfortunately becoming clear by the day that most Nigerians appear not to be ready for election but are ready for violence,” the parties said.
On what the shift in date would achieve, the parties said: “This shift in date, which does not in any way contravene the provisions of Section 25 and 26 of the Electoral Act will afford INEC enough time to distribute the remaining PVCs so that at least more than 98 per cent of the registered voters in the country would have collected their PVCs.
“In this regard the concerned political leaders should offer to assist the INEC in all necessary ways to ensure that these PVCs are collected on time for the rescheduled election.”
One of the representatives of the political parties said they took the decision against the position of the chairman of Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC).
According to him, the IPAC Chairman, Dr. Tanko Yunusa, had overruled them at the last meeting with INEC. The party chieftain alleged that because the IPAC chairman has an alliance with the All Progressives Congress (APC), he insisted that the elections must hold as scheduled.
Okoye, who read the statement on behalf of the political parties, also expressed disappointment over the visit of the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, to only two presidential candidates and that the presidential debate centred on the APC presidential candidate, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan.
However, the presidential candidate of the United Progressive Party, Chief Chekwas Okorie, has condemned the call for the postponement of the elections.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, Okorie said: “I condemn in the strongest terms the recent mischievously contrived clamour for the postponement of the 2015 general election to another date outside the dates and timetable announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in February 2014, over twelve months ago.
“The reasons given by the proponents of the postponement that a great number of Nigerians will be disenfranchised having not been given their permanent voters’ cards which will enable them to participate in the election is a contrived reason and to a large extent pedestrian.
“As we speak, over 80 per cent of registered voters have received their PVCs, according to the latest figures released by INEC and this may increase to 90 per cent or above after the close of distribution of PVCs on February 8, 2015, as planned by INEC.”
Also kicking against the postponement of the polls, the APC yesterday warned of a plot by President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to precipitate a constitutional crisis that would forestall the elections this month and pave the way for an interim government.
This idea, the APC alleged, would be broached tomorrow by the president at the Council of State meeting in Abuja, urging the elder statesmen (Nigerian ex-presidents and heads of state) to live up to their billings.
The party alleged that some elements in the country were trying to manipulate the courts and tribunals to achieve the devilish plot.
APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, told reporters in Lagos that the agents of darkness may procure “pliant judges” to give outrageous and unpopular judgments at the election tribunals and courts to destabilise the polity.
He warned that any outrageous and unpopular judgment would trigger massive violence, which they would cite as an excuse to scuttle the elections and form an interim government.
Mohammed said: “At the last count, six cases had been filed by the agents of those working to scuttle the elections, and we expect more. In one of the cases, Justice Ademola of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday gave the order for a substituted service in the case instituted by Max Uzoaka against our candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
“The Jonathan administration and the PDP do not want elections despite their deceitful statements that they are ready for the polls, and they will stop at nothing to ensure that the polls do not hold as scheduled, if at all.
“This is why they have not been asking Nigerians to go and collect their PVCs, even when the INEC has said the cards for all registered voters are now ready for collection, putting a lie to the campaign that the cards will not be ready before the elections.
“That is why they have refused hordes of foreign journalists visas to come to Nigeria. The denial of visas to foreign journalists is systemic, aimed at preventing the international community from seeing or watching the desperate plots to scuttle the elections.
“An administration that has nothing to hide will not embark on a deliberate move to shut foreign journalists out of what is definitely one of the most important elections in the world this year.”
Mohammed alleged that apart from manipulating the courts, unpatriotic elements have resorted to lobbying some members of the Council of State to support their clamour for election postponement.
He urged the council, which is expected to meet tomorrow, to put the national interest above narrow, partisan considerations by rejecting the calls for postponement.
Mohammed also urged local and foreign observers to take note of the scheming by the election-postponement campaigners, adding that if they succeed, they would have no elections to observe.
He said since the elections are a process and not restricted to the election day, all the steps leading to the elections are as important as the actual voting.
“We call on Nigerians to remain vigilant, especially in the days ahead, and to continue to reject all attempts by anti-democratic forces to cling to or get power through means that are not democratic.
“We urge our members and supporters in particular to eschew violence under any guise, even in the face of the most egregious provocations, so as not to play into the hands of those working to scuttle the elections.
“If the Jonathan administration and the PDP are indeed committed to the February 14 and 28 dates for the elections, as they have said, we challenge them to heed our call for a two-day public holiday so that working class Nigerians who have yet to collect their PVCs can do so. By the way, APC states will declare two public holidays for this purpose.
“We will also like to repeat our appeal to the judiciary to act as a bulwark against any attempt to truncate our nation’s hard-earned democracy by refusing to be used to scuttle the elections.
“We consider it an insult to the judiciary for the advocates of election-shift to believe they can use their dirty funds to influence the course of justice. We believe the judiciary will not take this bait.
“We will not relent in speaking out against ongoing efforts to scuttle the elections. The APC is ready for the elections as scheduled. The PDP and the Jonathan administration should stop their scheming and get themselves ready for the elections too. Nigerians have seen through them and have rejected their evil plots.
“The elections dates of February 14 and 28 are sacrosanct,” he said.