By Chukwudi Nweje Acting Features Editor
In recent times, there seems to be a widely held notion that the prevailing atmosphere in the country is not conducive for conducting the 2015 general elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed February 14, 2015 for next year’s Presidential and National Assembly elections and 28, February, 2015 for the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections.
The commission has also distributed the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) to eligible registered voters and also kicked off Continuous Voters’ Registration (CVR) for prospective voters who had attained the age of 18 since the last exercise in 2011 as well as those who did not register then.
But in spite of the preparations and assurances by INEC that it is ready for the elections, some people still argue that the current atmosphere will not be suitable for conducting free and fair elections and have subsequently called for a postponement.
Some weeks ago, during a thanksgiving service marking the end of the week-long ceremony to commemorate his 60th anniversary, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Senior Pastor of the Latter Rain Assembly, who was also Vice-Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 elections, had called for the postponement of the 2015 general elections and the setting up of a two-year transitional government to adopt the report of the last National Conference as a way to avoiding the crisis that might follow the polls.
While Bakare’s suggestion is still causing some disquiet, an elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, has re-echoed the call for the postponement of the 2015 elections. Like Bakare, Adebanjo believes that the current situation in the country was not ripe for conducting elections.
Although he did not give a time frame, Adebanjo advocated the setting up of a caretaker government, which President Goodluck Jonathan should lead. According to him, the caretaker government will afford the country the opportunity to implement the resolutions of the National Conference before the conduct of the 2015 election.
Adebanjo argued that there is the need to give room for President Jonathan to implement the resolutions of the National Conference, which he had pledged to implement before the country could go for any new election.
“To me if it will warrant the extension of tenure of Jonathan for six months, or for nine months, to get these things established, no problem. It is a sacrifice that is worth it. Whether you say it is an extension or whatever, you must have a Nigeria before you rule it… I am giving you my own idea, but my idea is not sacrosanct. That is how I am thinking aloud,” he stated.
However some other analysts disagree noting that there are some constitutional questions, which cannot be ignored. For instance, they point out that the incumbent administration was elected for a four-year mandate, which would terminate on May 29, 2015. The Electoral Act 2012 as amended, also states that elections are to be conducted not less than 90 days before that date. Thus postponing the election to give the administration more time is tantamount to shifting the goal post midway into the game.
Moreover, they note that there is no provision for either postponing the election or establishing any form of caretaker government in Nigeria’s constitution and thus any such endorsement would amount to a violation of the 1999 constitution.
They likened any caretaker government to the Interim National Government (ING) established by former Head of State, General Ibrahim Babangida after annulling the June 12, 1993 Presidential election but which was later declared illegal by a Federal High Court judge Dolapo Akinsanya on grounds that Babangida set it up illegally after he had stepped aside as military president.
They argue that the only conditions under which election could be postponed under the 1999 constitution is if the situation is in line with Section 135 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which states: “If the Federation is at war in which the territory of Nigeria is physically involved and the President considers that it is not practicable to hold elections, the National Assembly may by resolution extend the period of four years mentioned in subsection (2) of this section from time to time; but no such extension shall exceed a period of six months at any one time.”
There is no doubt that there is ongoing insurgency in the North East with the military deployed in three Sates of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. Nonetheless, Debo Adeniran, Executive Chairman Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) argued that despite the insurgency, the atmosphere is suitable for elections.
He said, “One thing is clear, many of those that are governing us now cannot come back after the general elections and because of that they don’t want the election to hold.”