In the last few days, pursuant to speculations about the shifting of the dates of the general elections, the PDP had restated its readiness for the polls and continued with our rallies whilst directing all our candidates to go on with their campaigns as only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has the powers to take decision on the matter.
Last night, the Chairman of INEC Prof. Attahiru Jega announced the postponement of the National and State elections to March 28 and April 11, 2015 respectively, relying as he said on the powers of the Commission as provided by section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended).
The INEC Chairman had cited an advisory from security forces that they are unable to provide adequate security for the election at the earlier scheduled dates due to the on-going anti-insurgency operations in the northeast part of the country.
Prof. Jega also said that this advisory was reinforced at the Council of State meeting on Thursday by the National Security Adviser and all the Armed Services and Intelligence Chief, who according to him stated "that they needed at least six weeks within which to conclude a major military operation against the insurgents in the northeast; and that during this operation, the military will be concentrating its attention in the theater of operations such that they may not be able to provide the traditional support they render to the Police and other agencies during elections."
This announcement has not come without the attendant cost of time and great expense to our party and candidates nationwide. However, on account of the reasons adduced by the security forces and INEC, we believe that this shift, which is still within the constitutionally allowed period, can be accommodated.
The thoughts and prayers of PDP members nationwide and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians remain with our security agencies as they confront this enormous challenge at this critical period.
However, while we understand and appreciate the security reasons given by INEC for the rescheduling of the elections, we hold the INEC Chairman, Prof. Jega to his promise when he said, "as for us in INEC, we'll endeavor to use the period of the extension to keep on perfecting our systems and processes for conducting the best elections in Nigeria's history. In particular, we believe that we will resolve all outstanding issues in relation to non-collection of PVCs which agitate the minds of Nigerians".
This is especially as the INEC Chairman himself acknowledged that only 45, 829, 808 representing 66.58 percent of the total number of registered voters have received their PVCs.
INEC itself has confirmed that as at last week, well over two million voter cards were either not yet delivered to INEC by its contractors, lost or stolen.
We demand that INEC should look inwards and thoroughly investigate the apparent involvement of some of its personnel including ad-hoc staff on the issue of the lopsided distribution of the PVCs. INEC must also use this period to attend to our earlier call to address the issue of denial of PVCs to non-indigenes in select states.
For instance, we are aware that in Borno state, 90 percent of the PVCs were handed over to state government officials, who distributed them by proxy contrary to laid-down procedures. Also, in Owerri North Local Government of Imo state, the LGA of our National Woman Leader, only new registered voters have received their PVCs. Citizens with old voters card have not had any replaced and this scenario abounds in other places.
We do hope that INEC will use the period to ensure that all identified irregularities are eliminated to guarantee that registered voters across the country receive their PVCs urgently.
Also, INEC ahead of the polls should adequately demonstrate to Nigerians the application and practicability of card readers to the allotted time for vote.
For the avoidance of doubt, we state clearly that the postponement neither confers advantage on our party and our candidates, nor can it ever be described as a set back to our democracy. The ultimate issue in this regard is the conduct of free, fair and credible elections.
Lastly, we restate that the PDP position on these issues remains our commitment to the sustenance of free, fair and credible elections, which is one of the greatest legacies of President Goodluck Jonathan.
At this historic period in our national life, let nobody irresponsibly politicise what is clearly a practical and administrative decision that affects everyone and all parties equally. At this present time, Nigeria needs men of history and not hysteria.