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Nigerian Presidential Election at the Crossroads
By: Sly Edaghese

Published February 6th, 2015

We are all at it again! Nigeria truly has become a leopard that cannot change its spots. It all began this time around with what looked innoucously like a silly joke. But those behind the deadly scheme knew their assignment was everything but a joke. The National Security Adviser (NSO), Sambo Dasuki, dressed in his usually flowing attire, visited the INEC headquarters in Abuja to have a chart with Professor Attahiru Jega, the Commission's chairman. The visit was made to look ostensibly as ordinary as possible, just like that of a friend visiting a friend. That way, in line with the well rehearsed scheme, whatever the NSO suggested to his host or discussed with him would be seen or taken in the light of a friend talking to a friend. What that ultimately implies is that if the message Dasuki came to share with the INEC boss attracted public opprobrium, Dasuki and nobody else would take responsibility for it. And those on whose mission he came to the INEC, of course, would be shielded; in fact would distance themselves from Dasuki and even blame him.

Now, let me try to recall what I heard  transpired during Dasuki's interactive session with Jega. The meeting started with the normal exchange of pleasantries between the two public officers. Soon as the discussion deepened, the NSO jovially brought in the issue of the Permanent Voter's Card, PVC, which every voter needs to be eligible to cast their votes.

"Now, Prof., this issue of PVC or PCV or whatever you people call it; how far with the distribution?"

The INEC Chairman had a good laugh. "Sir, it is called PVC, that is, Permanent Voter's Card."

"OK, Prof., that's OK. Now back to my question. How is the distribution so far? The election is a few weeks away."

Jega scratched his long gray beard. "Oh, sir, on the PVC, so far so good! We have been able to distribute over 30 million of the cards to registered voters across the federation." Jega was all smiles as he said that to his august visitor. The way he smiled, you could tell he expected the NSO to give him a pat at his back for a job well done. Unfortunately, Dasuki had other ideas under his sleeves.

He said Jega, "Prof., don't you think with the large number of registered voters we have in the country, that 30 million you mentioned as the cards  given out, is just a miserable pittance?"

"No, no sir!," said Jega, standing up. "I can assure you that the Commission is working round the clock to ensure that between now and the 14th when the first election will hold, over 80% of registered voters will receive their PVC. That I can assure, sir."

Dasuki shook his head. "That can't be, Prof.  Between now and the 14th, I can't see any magic you're going to perform to meet that target you have set."

Jega looked intently into the eyes of Dasuki. "Sir, I know what I'm saying. Just wait and see. This is not a matter of guesswork. We shall meet the target," Professor Jega reassured the NSO.

Obviously, the NSO was not buying into all that Jega was labouring to  impress on him. He could not see the Commission handing PVC to 80% of registered voters before the first election day.

"Now listen to me, Professor Jega.  As a way out, have you considered the idea of postponing the elections, say,  for three months to allow your Commission to do a thorough job? You know failure in this election will spell doom for this country. Prof., I know you don't pray for that."

The INEC Chairman was nonplussed. He didn't know what to say to Dazuki's suggestion that the election be postponed! To him, that was suicide!

"Prof., I'll help you out since you appear confused," continued Dasuki. "You know the law, but you're afraid of what the public would say once you announce a postponement. I think you should rather err on the side of truth than to do nothing and allow the country to burn, all because you're afraid to act. You can postpone the election for three months to give you room to tidy up things. The law permits such limited postponement. So I leave you to consider what I have said." End of meeting.

The NSO had just flown a kite to see how it would go down well with the rest of the country. However he was sure Jega knew what to do with the very important issue he had come to discuss with him.

The main opposition party, APC, reading mischief to the idea of postponing the election, has cried foul! Even the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, in his recent visit to Nigeria has warned that for no reason should anyone contemplate on postponing the forthcoming elections. I agree with him. I can still remember how the June 12, 1993, presidential election was annulled even though the election was declared Nigeria's freest and fairest. I ask: How many rivers must we cross before we can learn our lesson? The answer is blowing in the air.  I think a word is enough for the wise.

‎Sly Edaghese, Lagos.



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