Guess who is unhappy with a transition time-table? The Maradona, Mr. Ibrahim Babangida! Babangida, former military dictator, who wants a second shot at power, whined that the schedule is not only unworkable but could deny voters the opportunity to have varied choices during the polls. Equally disgruntled are Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive change (CPC) and former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, who said they wish that the election date is extended to ensure transparency.
According to the timetable released on Tuesday by INEC, the National Assembly elections hold on January 15, the presidential election (January 22); and State Assembly/Governorship elections (January 29). The party primaries come up between September 11 and October 30 while voters registration holds between November 1st and 14th. But Kassim Afegbua, the media director of the Babangida Campaign Organisation, said the time table is an invitation to rigging because it would not allow the political parties enough time to plan for the elections.
“It is too tight. It is disturbing. We had all the time to plan but we just refused to plan. This is just an invitation to rigging,” Mr Afegbua said in a telephone interview.
He also wondered how the electoral body could register 70 million Nigerians within two weeks. “We wonder the kind of magic INEC will do to register 70 million Nigerians within 14 days given our terrain and topography. I don’t know that magic. Is it humanly possible? Of course, this will lead to election rigging.” Mr Afegbua demanded to know why INEC did not begin plans for the polls early enough by using the repealed Electoral Act 2006 instead of waiting for the National Assembly to commence and conclude the amendment of the Act. He argued that the action of the electoral umpire is questionable. Dennis Aghangha, spokesman of the CPC, said the timetable was not perfect and insisted that INEC should have given parties enough time to plan for the elections. He, however, noted that the CPC has no choice but to work with the timetable.
“We have seen the timetable and it shows that INEC is serious and prepared to conduct the election but the feasibility is doubtful. It is too clumsy,” he said. “Even INEC itself admitted during a meeting with the political parties that if given more time they would have perfect elections. That is to say INEC itself is not comfortable with these elections holding in January. If we are spending billions of naira on elections we must ensure that we get it right. If we don’t get it right then we will be compounding our problems. “
Not comfortable with timing
Asked if the party would ask for extension of time, Mr Aghanya said, “Let me say that we are ever prepared though the time is not perfect. Political parties have to be prepared. Now that we have got it (timetable) we will go back to the drawing board. But as it is now, it is difficult to have free and credible elections.” In a text message he sent to us, the spokesman of the Abubakar Atiku Campiagn Organisation, Garba Shehu said his principal is not comfortable with the timetable. According to him, the former vice president believes it is a threat to free and fair polls.
“Atiku is concerned that the timing and schedule are too tight and this can be a threat to free, fair and credible elections. He believes, for instance, that voters would not have a good opportunity to know the candidates and their programmes very well and would therefore find it difficult to make informed choices.
“Atiku blamed the lack of good leadership in the country for this logjam. He recalled that in the Social Democratic Party, they had one year to plan for the election which is in line with practices elsewhere. He expressed doubt about the ability of parties to cope well with the schedule.” National Chairman of Labour Party (LP), Dan Nwanyanwu, on his part, criticized the new timetable and canvassed the extension of the date of the general elections so that the swearing in of the winners can happen on October 1.
“Our position is that the elections should hold in April while the swearing in should be on October 1,” Mr Nwanyanwu said. “No doubt some bad legislators will stay; no doubt some bad governors will stay, but it will be in the overall interest of the country and that should be paramount in our minds. Law is made for man and not man for the law.”
The Labour Party boss said the party was still studying the new timetable.
“We are going to work towards it,” he said. “We are getting set for elections. We accept it even though we have reservation based on the actions of INEC. We wanted sometime to make sure the money approved for INEC does not go down the drain.”
To rush this election and have an election that will be worse than that of 2007 is capable of derailing the unity of this country.”