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US Comment On Inec's Rescheduled Elections: Preposterous, And Need For Vigilance As Nigerians Go To The Polls!

Source: Steven Ejebe Esq.
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"The US is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone Nigeria's presidential election, which had been scheduled for February 14. Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretest for impeding the democratic process. The international community will be watching closely as the Nigerian government prepares for elections on the newly scheduled dates. The US underscores the importance of ensuring there are no further delays.

As I reaffirmed when I visited Lagos last month, we support a free, transparent, and credible electoral process in Nigeria and renew our calls on all candidates, their supporters, and Nigerian citizens to maintain calm and reject election-related violence".

This was the official response of the US - as presented by Secretary John Kerry - to the rescheduling of the general elections in Nigeria by the Independent National Electoral Commission - referred hereafter as INEC. In doing this, the INEC chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega gave security issues as expressed by the nation's security chiefs as reason. There have been hues and cries about this postponement. While this discourse is not primarily about the local discussions on the subject, it is however pertinent to consider these in order to fully appreciate the issues involved. While the main opposition party - the APC - and its sympathisers have been vociferous in their condemnation of the postponement and have given it all manner of interpretations, the ruling party - the PDP - and a good number of Nigerians have however commended it, saying it will give opportunity for credible elections to be held for Nigerians.

It is instructive at this juncture to state that the INEC chairman in his world press conference seemed to give as the sole reason for the postponement; the advice from the security chiefs that considering the heightened military onslaught against the boko haram insurgents in the North East, there could not be guaranteed provision of security for the elections - election materials, election officials and voters - across the country. A reason given by those who oppose the postponement and have read all sort of conspiratorial theories to it: even the absurd, is that a few days before the postponement, Prof. Jega had said INEC was ready to conduct the elections as scheduled. He was held to have said whatever challenges that still existed at the time would be surmounted before - the original date of - 14th February, 2015. In this regard, the distribution/collection of Permanent Voters Cards - PVCs - comes topmost. It is public knowledge that about one third - about 24 million - of registered voters had not collected their PVCs and would thus have been disenfranchised had the elections held as scheduled! Issues have also been raised about the efficacy of the INEC card readers and the preparedness as regards training of INEC's staff - both permanent and ad hoc - to effectively manage the card readers. These are very salient issues which go to the root of free, fair and credible elections and cannot be wished away. Some persons have tried to play down these critical issues for inexplicable reasons. Gov Oshiomole of Edo State in speaking against the then anticipated postponement of the polls said it could not be expected that everyone should vote and that the elections should go as planned irrespective of the PVC collection statistics at the time. The impression was given that the non-collection was a result of apathy on the part of the electorate. This was most disingenious to say as the madia was awash with - graphic - reports of the electorate trooping to PVC colection centres desperate to collect theirs with little success. It is interesting to note that Gov. Fashola of Lzgos State only succeeded in collecting his on Monday 9th February, while going by INEC's original timetable, deadline for collection of the cards had been fixed for 8th February, 2015. Maybe Gov. Fashola had not been interested in voting, going by Oshiomole's postulation. It is on record that Fashola had made previous attempts at collecting it and had even expressed his frustrations and disappointment at the process on air. INEC subsequently owned up saying Fashola' s case was caused by inefficiency of some of its staff! The only other possible explanation to give to Oshiomole's statement is that if it is not the electorate's apathy, then he was only suggesting that this large number of electorate should have been blatantly disenfranchised. Whichever interpretation is taken, it is despicable and negatives the nation's democracy. There were also repeated complaints from prospective voters that certain groups were being systematically schemed out of the voting process by deliberate denial of their PVCs. These were usually on ethnic grounds with speculations of intentions to tilt the elections in a particular predertimed way. With these challenges touching on critical aspects affecting the holding of fair and credible elections, could the INEC chairman have been sincere when he gave as the sole reason for postponing the elections, security advice? Or it was a case of being economical with the truth? In any event, about two weeks after the initial election date, Prof. Jega told the senate that 1.1 million PVCs were still being printed in China! Reports were also rife about southerners relocating from some parts of the North prior to the elections due to fears for their personal safety. These were persons who had been registered to vote in the northern states now fleeing. It follows that they will not vote and thus be disenfranchised. This cannot be ruled out as crying wolf where there is none as it has since been declared that the North was under siege because of Buhari as observed by Gov. Lamido of Jigawa State. That non-supporters of Buhari are referred to as infidels is common knowledge and the implication of this should be obvious to all. The daring acts of pelting Jonathan's entourage and wanton destruction of his campaign billboards in the North lend credence to these fears. As Lai Mohammed, the APC spokesman had consistently said in the past; credibility of elections was not about the election day alone but entailed very importantly the entire process leading to the elections. It is curious however that the APC pushed for the elections to hold with all these inadequacies and even issued threats against any proposed postponement. The APC has expectedly not been shortcoming in its barrage of condemnations of the rescheduling and making all sorts of accusations against the ruling party with its several contrived conspiracy theories. While not holding brief for the ruling party , one would have thought that anyone with a dispassionate and objective assessment of the entire scenario who is realy desirous of a credible poll that is fair to all sides and especially to Nigerians, would applaud the rescheduling. This is so, as aside the security concerns put forward by the INEC, the other indices some of which are discussed above warrant, and indeed demand a rescheduling of the elections! Subsequent events have vindicated this.

The security reasons as raised by the INEC chairman are not any less important to having a credible election. Jega said the military high command told him that due to the special operation ongoing in the North East against the boko haram which has necessitated the concentration of military human resources there, the traditional security support which the military gives during elections could not be made available were the elections to have held as scheduled. This security is for election officials, election materials and the electorate. With the history of ballot box snatching, general voter intimidation and even fatal violence during elections, it beats the imagination that anyone would question the need or rationale for such security. That the police exist to handle this security challenge does not suffice as history has shown the inability to so do. A recent case in point was the APC primaries for the Ovia Federal Constituency - in Edo State - where persons who will be fittingly decribed as thugs violently upturned ballot boxes with cast votes in the full glare of the police who stood idly by as shown on the electronic media. Why the police has gotten to the level where it is unable to, or why the security challenge during elections in Nigeria are such that cannot be left to the police alone is not a subject for this discourse. Suffice however that these facts are within the public domain. Aside the protection of election materials and personnel in transit and at polling booths, also very important is the confidence given to voters to come out and exercise their civic responsibility when there is some assurance of their personal safety. It should be noted clearly that these fears are not restricted to the North as highlighted above but obtain in other parts of the country with certain areas however being more prone to violence than others. It is in bearing in mind this dire position on the ground that one begins to wonder why the opposition APC has always accused the PDP led central government of 'over militarisation of elections.' Whatever that means. One would think that anyone who has no untoward plans to execute at the polling booths will be encouraged to come out and vote with the assurances of his/her safety hinged on adequate provision of security. Only those with clandestine cum illegal plots to hatch should worry about, and make efforts at preventing such uptight security at the polling stations! Assuming, without conceding that the 'Ekiti Tape' is genuine, does it suffice for keeping the army away from the elections in juxtaposition to the advantages of having them around? If the crux of the tape is the arrest of a handful of APC members the night before the Ekiti gubernatorial elections, how did that affect - in the least substantial way - the party's fortunes at the polls? It has been said somewhere that the arrest had to do with key members of the party. Such key members could not at that time lawfully engage in any form of campaign as the electoral law clearly stipulates when campaigns should end prior to the elections. The alleged tape had nothing about the army forcing voters to vote in any particular direction or otherwise harrasing the voters in any way. It must be stated unequivocally though that one is completely against false imprisonment or unlawful detention of any kind at any time and urge the victims to seek legal redress in form of substantial damages from the army and any other person or entity, if they have their facts to prove their case. That said, it is however unconscionable to hide under this to stall the deployment of military men to bolster voters confidence of their safety to encourage them to come out and vote. In any event, the Nigerian Police is also a federal institution and if one is to take the arguments of those objecting seriously, it will then follow that the police too can be manipulated for such unlawful arrests as that alleged by the APC in Ekiti elections. Does it folow then that the APC would ask for the police not to be involved during the general elections? Unfortunately, as explained above, the police for now does not appear to be capable of instilling the necessary decorium for violence-free elections. It is intriguing though that the same Governor Oshiomole who cried wolf about PDP top notchers from Edo State plotting to employ their connections to keep the military from the streets during the 2012 gubernatorial elections in order for the PDP to cause anarchy towards rigging the elections - though this allegation was not substantiated in any way - and who was full of praises for the military at the end of the elections is now vociferous in opposing their deployment. Why would he clamour for the presence of the military whèn he believed he was popular and would win in a free and fair electiion, hence he sought the military presence to prevent violence marring the conduct of the elections, but now staunchly oppose same military presence? Does it have to do with any doubt of his party's success at the polls arising from a free and fair election? One of APC's advert running on the airwaves shows its disapproval of the supposedly huge number of security personnel including soldiers deployed for the Ekiti elections and the number intended for the general elections as indicated by the advert sponsors. This thus flies in the face of the condemnation and allegation of ultrior motives as postulated by Tinubu against the PDP government wherein he wondered why the "sudden talk of soldiers providing security during the elections!" In light of this analysis, the rants about "how would the military do in 6 weeks what it could not do in 6 years" becomes clearly misplaced as Jega's talk was not primarily about postponing the elections to definitely make the boko haram strongholds in Adamawa, Yobe and Bornu states completely free of terrorists so the elections can hold in these places. While unfolding events have shown that the shift in elections has given the military time to take back almost all of the territories captured by the boko haram terrorists, it must be stated emphatically that at no time did Jega give the holding of elections in the troubled areas as his primary reason for the postponement. One would not delve into the litigious aspect of the military's security support for the elections here, save to say public policy doctrine ought to be borne in mind by anyone trying to interpret the constitutional provisions in this regard as opposed to a rigid self - defeating one.

Talking about the boko haram menace, it is reported that the US has been hesitant in cooperating with the Nigerian government in its fight against the boko haram because of allegations of abuse of human rights by the Nigerian military. This stance was reechoed in a recent interview granted by Johnie Carson, the former US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs wherein he said the US was not likely to provide - sell - any lethal weapons to the Nigerian military due to the latter's - alleged - record concerning human rights issues. While one is a strong advocate for the protection/preservation of human rights even during times of armed conflict as provided for in the Laws of War, such grounds being given by the US as reason for refusing to sell required weapons to aid the fight against boko haram is quite suspect. This is so as the US lacks any moral justification to accuse another nation in this regard. The US in its fight against terrorism has paid little - if any - attention to such issues as human rights. The US used unconventional weapons on civilian population in Fallujah in its war against Iraq which in the first place was begun on false claim of Saddam Hussein possessing WMDs. Till date, there are still birth defects as a result of the chemicals used on the population by the US. The same sanctimonious US on 23/07/14 cast the sole vote against establishing an investigation by the UN into war crimes committed in Gaza by Isreal. The UN's top human rights offcial, Navi Pillay had said that "there seems to be strong possibility that international law has been violated in a manner that could amount to war crimes." The Isreali armed forces go as far as deliberately launching rocket attacks directed at UN facilities - like schools - where civilians, of course mostly women and children are taking refuge from the fighting! And the US being the unconditional ally it is to Isreal would do everything to shield it from international probe or condemnation. That these innocent civilians are not Americans does not make them any less human. President Obama's recent verbal indication that the US woukd "reassess" its relationship with Isreal as a result of Prime Minister Netanyahu's election campaign promise of ensuring that he would see to the non - fruition of a Palestinian state cannot be taken seriously by any close watcher. On Monday, 2nd March, 2015 Secretary John Kerry actually went overboard in his defence of Isreal before the UN Human Rights Council all in a bid to shield Isreal from proper investigation by the international community as relate Isreal's wanton violations of the Laws of War in the Gaza conflict. While Obama was addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on 25th September, 2013 and sounding sanctimonious, American drones were carrying out indiscrimàte attacks in North West Pakistan with high civilian casualties. A study on the US Drone Attacks in Pakistan termed "Living under the Drones" conducted by the Stanford Law School and the New York University revealed very gruesome details. It showed more civilian deaths than the CIA admit and that only a minute 2% of those killed came within the "High Value Target" group as coined by the Americans. It also showed that while the populace was generally traumatized, children had dropped out of school because of trauma. Of particular worry was the unusually painful effects on the victims as some were incinerated while the bodies of others were destroyed beyond recognition. Matters are made worse for the innocent civilians because of the US policy of "secondary attack" which prevents rescuers from assisting the injured for fear of being hit by further drones! In a separate development, Al Jazeera News of 13/01/13 reported that 11 civilians were killed and 60 injured in the first night of the French aerial attack on al Qaeda linked rebels in Mali. The casualties included three children who jumped into the river to escape bombardment. While this may not be as careles as that of the American drones, it is still irking that when it emanates from the US or any of its western allies, it is simply termed collateral damage but otherwise, it is human rights abuses. Indeed, the US violations of human rights during its wars and those of its allies like Isreal would make for series of editions if documented. While any violations of human rights by the Nigerian military is totally condemned here and ought to be duly investigated with appropriate sanctions meted on those found culpable, the US excuse is obviously a smokescreen! The real intention of the US is yet to be unravelled.

Still in trying to justify the ascription of sinister motives on the part of the PDP central government with regard to the rescheduling of the general elections by the INEC, some persons and groups have asked why it was only close to the elections that the Nigerian military decided to intensify its war against boko haram thus limiting its ability to provide its traditional security for the elections. The word 'traditional' as used by the INEC chairman, Prof. Jega. While one cannot put anything beyond these politicians - both PDP and APC - the particular facts surrounding this claim make it worth the benefit of the doubt. The joint military onslaught with neighbouring countries such as Cameron, Chad and Niger which only begun about the time of the postponement has indeed yielded very positive results. For the critics to say the timing of this joint military action with these neighbouring nations was orchestrated by the PDP government will indeed be taking the 'politicking' one step too far!

The statement by Kerry insinuating ulterior motives in postponement of elections and seemingly casting aspersions on the PDP led central government along with a veiled warning smacks of utter disregard for sovereignty of the Nigerian nation. It is also an open cheque for violence to those who are ordinarily violence prone. Though the APC did not carry out any of its threats as relate the postponement, indices point to the fact this position was more out of its perception that such violence based on the postponement could boomerang with some of its sympathisers having a rethink and some undecided voters taking their votes to the PDP as between the APC and the PDP. Kerry's remarks were on all fronts ungarded. It is manifestly against all diplomatic norms for one sovereign nation to make such unguarded statement about another sovereign nation's domestic affairs. This fact remains sacrosanct in this circumstance despite the 'friendly' relations. This much has been said by certain informed public affairs analysts. This proposition that having friendly diplomatic relations does not authorise interference by one state in the internal affairs of another state finds footing in the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

While a show of genuine concern with the right approach may ordinarily be a welçome development, the wordings of Kerry's statement clearly creates the impression of a servitude relationship. It is anything but a talk between two sovereign nations! While the US is known to do that and continue in that trend with any nation which allows itself to be so treated, one cannot gloss over the fact that successive Nigerian governments have through their actions or inactions reduced this nation to one without reckoning in the comity of nations. What with among other factors, the high level of corruption and mismanagement of the nation's resources that has reduced a nation like Nigeria to relying on handouts from donor agencies, individuals and groups from the West for the handling of very basic national issues such as HIV, infant and maternal mortality, etc. How about the nation giong cap in hand asking for debt relief? This malaise is not at the national level alone as the states are equally guilty of same corruption and mismanagement of public funds with their subsequent groveling to these so called foreing donors to fund issues of basic governance for which such states ordinarily would have the funds to execute but for their chief executive's profligacy which trickles down the line of governance. Just to mention that as has been the trend, the UK foreign department followed in the step of the US in condemning the election shift. Our focus here however remains the US as in any event, the UK and others usually tag along with the US taking lead in obnoxious actions as this meted on Nigeria.

Aside the undermining of our sovereignty, of grave concern to any discerning and objective mind is the propensity to promote violence on a large scale which the statement by Kerry holds. In a situation as we have here where the opposition APC had already been - officially as a party - threatening violence, in addition to the crop of miscreants in the North who unleash violence as was in the post 2011 elections, Kerry's comment can only serve as an invigorating elixir to such violence! Amaechi's infamous statement about the APC forming a parralel government if it was rigged out was adopted by the party. The attempt to justify the statement by the "if it was rigged out" clause does not stand as the APC has by consistent words and actions made it clear to Nigerians and the international community that the elections - presidential - is already won by the APC - even before tbe conduct of the said elections. It is realised there is what is called "speaking your belief", "talking confidently towards inspiring confidence in your followers and suppoters", etc and other political parties, even including those that a good number of Nigerians do not know the names of their presidential candidates have been involved in such talks of being sure of the electorate's support towards victory at the polls. However, save for the use of these exact words, the APC has made it clear that its take and stance on these is that - irrespective of whatever happens - so long as their presidential candidate is not declared the winner, then it means the election has been rigged. That is to say, the only proof that a credible presidential election has been conducted is for its candidate - General Buhari - to be declared the winner! One would have to look far and wide to find anything more preposterous! The rhetoric of the APC coupled with its constant threat of violence should it 'lose' the presidential elections sure calls for grave concern. Now, from Secretary Kerry's speech, it is clear the US is insinuating already that the ruling PDP is tampering with the electoral process. This position of the US is despite the hydra-headed subsisting - at the time - problems as highlighted above that would have made any polls conducted on the original date a complete mockery of what credible polls should be! Kerry's statement is capable of propelling the already violent-prone APC and its supporters to cause anarchy as they will be quick to justify their accusations of the ruling party based on the 'corroboration' of the US. Regrettably, the US is seen by not a few as all-knowing and a role model and such persons may be wont to take in whatever position is postulated by the US lock, stock and barrel, and this may include persons who are not traditionally in the APC fold. It is quite obvious the APC did not call its supporters out on protests - which inevitably would have been violent - in response to the postponement as they had threatened to do not because it suddenly felt trepidation for the law enforcement agencies or for any patriotic reasons but simply that it had figured that any such violent acts at the time could boomerang.

That the actions of the US and some of its western allies have caused escalation of political upheavals which have degenerated into humanitarian crises in a number of nations is not in doubt. While in most instances, the crises are covertly instigated, there are instances where such instigation are done overtly. While one acknowledges the high-wired nature of international politics wherein the interests of a nation is usually placed on a pedestal above other considerations, it is however despicable when such self-interest is taken to the level where other nations and their residents are put in perilous state. An extant instance is the Ukraine crises. The political crises in Ukraine which has snowballed into grave unrest in Eastern Ukraine was to a large extent propelled by the West. The crisis started with the decision of the then President Yanukovych led government to forge closer economic ties with the Russian Federation as against the European Union. This was an economic policy decision of a democratically elected government which some Ukranian citizens objected to and public protests were commenced. The protesters seized public buildings and completely disrupted public life with, as should be expected, serious infractions on private lives of non-protesting citizens. This same Secretary Kerry on 01/02/14 described the protests as "a fight for democracy." US Republican Senator John McCain who went off board - was it realy off board as he has never had any decorium - to refer to President Goodluck Jonathan as "some guy called Goodluck Jonathan" was in Kiev on 15/12/13 to give support to the protesters were led by the Ukraine's political opposition. Apart from the obvious slap on Ukraine's integrity and sovereignty by this unmasked support and call by alien nations and nationals for disgruntled citizens - even with no proof of being in the majority - to topple a duly elected government, it is instructive to avert ones mind to how the US and its allies handle such citizens' misgivings in their territories. The Occupy Wall Street protesters in US as peaceful as they were, were finally dispersed with pepper spray and through other violent means. While Ukraine government subsequently made a lot of concessions giving in to some of the opposition's demands, the opposition with support from US and allies upped their game demanding the resignation of President Yanukovych. How would the US have taken it if the Republican Party had cashed in on the misgivings of US citizens during the Occupy Wall Street protests to excalate it to complete grounding of government and subsequent demand for Obama to resign? Would the Obama administration have succumbed to such blackmail?! According to James Jatras of the American Institute of Ukraine who is also a former US Diplomat, the demand of the opposition in Ukraine that the government must resign before it will call off mass protests in Kiev is an unreasonable request to make and will create a dangerous precedent. It could not have been more succinctly put!

The Russian envoy to the UN, Vitaly Churkin put it succinctly and most logically and legally when the raised issues about EU member states being present and supporting protesters in Ukraine. He made the point - and correctly I believe - that President Yanukovych's decision on economic deal with the EU was clearly within his powers and it was for the electorate to vote him out in 2015 if they felt uncomfortable with his leadership style and decisions. That it was not for protesters supported by the West - even indiscreetly at that - to oust a democratically elected government! While the cause for the 2013/2014 political crises in Thailand which led to the outser of the Prime Minister Yingluck Shinauatra may not be as hollow as that of Ukraine, it is still worrisome the way and manner the West supports opposition-led destabilizing protests that would not be tolerated by the same Western leaders in their territories. There is the Hong Kong protests too. The U.K as expected towed the support line of the U.S in the Ukraine crisis. However, the same U.K authorities in June, 2003 had the British police lay heavy siege around a disused building in London where anti-G8 Summit - which was then upcoming in Northern Ireland - intending protesters were using as command office. The doors were sawed open and the prospective peaceful demonstrators were arrested. This is the same 'West' that would scream and preach 'freedom to demonstrate peacefully' sermons to other nations governments and would even encourage such protests cum uprisings no matter the cause, so long as it serves the interests of these Western governments. Fifty eight of these prospective protesters were arrested on 11/06/2013 with some real violent wrestles from the police. As was asked rhetorically by the Al Jazera correspondent; “Are they now criminalizing peaceful protests?" The incessant killings by the police of unarmed black young men in the US - Brown, Travon, etc - and the accompanying street protests shows clearly how the US treats protesters who in the course of such protests block roads obstructing other citizens or do other acts inimical to the freedom of others, while playing double standard by berating other nations over the same actions they - the US and its allies - do not condone from their citizens! The janus-faced attitude of the US is further exhibited when one even considers the genuine reason which is race-based extral-judicial killings premising the U.S protests for which the law enforcement authorities still seem to have a very short tolerance.

That the U.S in the midst of the several reasons adduced above why the postponement should be seen as justified will take the stance it has taken is quite preposterous. It obviously cannot be blamed on ignorance as the U.S in its usual style has 'its ears to the ground' wherever it has presence and so all the shortcomings of INEC at the time vis-a-vis the huge deficit of PVCs yet to be collected inadequate training of INEC staff to handle new technology being deployed, amongst other logistics - the INEC had only just in the week of 16th February, 2015 procured 20,000 back up card readers and 35,000 spare batteries to meet exigencies - must have been within the knowledge of the U.S authorities when Kerry made his unguarded statement. Well, this is not unexpected when one considers the statement of Hans Blix - former IAEA Head and UN Chief Weapons Inspector - during an interview with Al Jazera's Sam Zeidan on 19/08/12 wherein in reference to the US foreign policy, Hans Blix said "if the US can use the IAEA reports to their interests, they will use it, otherwise they will discard it. Washington picks and chooses. They did it Iraq." Hans Blix was referring to the war on Iraq which the US and allies hinged on Iraq's possession of WMDs against the IAEA's informed advice that there were no such. As usual Britain and other kowtow western nations followed suit with the statement by Secretary Kerry. The western media joined the fray with the Economist and the New York Times publishing jaundiced reports. While President Obama's recent message purportedly addressed to Nigerians on need for peaceful elections should ordinarily be seen as a welcome development, the overall picture does not connote same. In the words of F.W. Clarke - former South African President - at the Nobel Laureate s' meeting in Chicago on 25/04/12 "The US as only superpower should not see itself as police of the world." The reason for the U.S obnoxious role in the Ukraine crisis is obviously not unconnected with the continued power play between the U.S and the Russian Federation. The U.S will be glad to see any government that is pro-Kremlin kicked out of office as alliances and counter alliances play out in the international sphere. But what the underlying motive in the case of Nigeria is, is still open to conjecture. Whatever it is however, it does not look nice. This is how it starts. Every patriotic Nigerian ought to be worried. Such unguarded statements from these quarters would only fuel and embolden the opposition no matter how unreasonable or untenable the reason for their intended violent actions may ordinarily be. When one considers the seeming stance from the opposition APC that they have already won the presidential election and nothing short of rigging by the PDP can make it - APC - lose, and what it would do if it loses, then the fear of violence becomes really palpable. This is so as from the utterances of the US and its allies, the position the US would take in such circumstance is quite obvious - to encourage the opposition in its illegal acts under the false toga of 'the people's will' which the US and allies will not tolerate on their own soils. Going by the antecedents of the US and allies in situations where they have made such untoward intrusions into the domestic affairs of a sovereign state not as an unbiased mediator but with vested interest, the outcomes have never been in the overriding interest of the receiving nations. It is only for such concerned nations to realise this on time and set the boundaries in ascertainment of its sovereignty. While there have been some calls from Nigeria's diplomats on these foreign nations to exercise restraint and cease from undue interference in the country's domestic affairs, such calls have been rather lame. China actually had to ban British MPs from entering Hong Kong when it was obvious their mission was to go and fuel the protests and aggravate the unrest.

The 2015 general elections must be conducted in a way that it would not only be free, fair and credible but in a manner that it would so be seen. All genuine issues raised like issuance of PVCs to eligible registered voters, persistent complaints about non-indigenes being systematically denied their PVCs in places like Lagos and Kano, alleged mass 'importaation' of Nigeriens into Lagos for purpose of voting - over 200 Nigeriens were arrested by the Nigerian Immigration Service in Katsina State on17/02/15 with Nigerian National ID Cards, Temporary Voters Cards and Permanent Voters Cards -, the use of underaged voters alleged to be rampant in the North, etc deserved grave attention and not the seeming wave of the hand with which opponents of the elections shift tried to sideline them. State institutions must be completely neutral in the discharge of their duties, while at the same time remaining firm in dealing - within the dictates of the law - ALL mischief makers cum electoral offenders irrespective of party affilations. When all these have been done and the elections are held, candidates and their political parties should abide by the outcome and challenge it as deemed necessary within the provisions of the law. There should be no taking of laws into one's hands. There should be no resort to self help which is tantamount to violence. We then expect the judiciary to play its role as it should, impartially.

Very importantly, the US and its Western allies must desist from fanning the embers of discord and promoting or encouraging violence and other illegalities through its actions and utterances while claiming to be pursuing a peaceful transition. This is not a plea but should be made a stern demand by all well-meaning Nigerians irrespective of political party leanings. In any event, there must first be a nation before anyone can preside over it. Doing second term as the occupier of any elective political office is not the prerogative of such office holder but rather that of the electorate and so it should be from a credible election. The occupier must accept the outcome without prejudice to recourse to the constitutional right to challenge such outcome through the judicial process. Same applies to those contenders seeking to occupy the office. However, all said and done, anyone who decides to break the law and cause mayhem as a result of the outcome of the elections should be dealt with appropriately as provided for by the applicable law - both domestic and international. Such mayhem and killings must also be prevented by the security agencies vide the application of all lawful means, using proportionate force where necessary; after all, one citizen's liberty and rights end where those of the other citizen begins. Even the so-called bastions of democracy and self acclaimed upholders of human rights who endlessly mouth 'freedom' set their own limits to citizens' expression of such rights and freedom within their territories!

All well-meaning Nigerians must rise up to the challenge of ensuring that neither disgruntled Nigerians nor foreign nations or their nationals are allowed to cause humanitarian crisis from these elections. Nigeria is ours to keep devoid of such avoidable crises and both the ruling party - whose supporters have also issued their threats in response to the opposition's - and the opposition must bear this in mind. The government of the day must assert its sovereignty and live up to its duty of dispassionately protecting lives and properties in its territory from election-related violence, no matter whose ox is gored.

Steven Ejebe Esq.
[email protected]
8.05am 28th March, 2015.