Why I did not sack INEC Chairman
President Goodluck jonathan said yesterday that he was “in full support” of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, who came under attack for calling off last Saturday's National Assembly elections.
The President spoke at a photo exhibition on his campaign tour at the Yar'Adua Centre in Abuja.
“The day I no longer support him, I will of course raise the process of removing him. You know that of course, if he is no longer performing well, I will communicate to the National Assembly to terminate his appointment. Until I do that, I am fully in his support and I know that he will do well,'' the President said.
Jonathan said: “The country and the electoral body are totally committed to ensuring that they conduct credible elections''.
He said INEC had the alternative of going ahead with the polls last week without the result sheets to enter the results at the collation centres, but it declined.
Said Dr. Jonathan: “What arrived late were the results sheets. They could not have been distributed that night to everybody. That would have meant taking the materials to the collation centres where they would have entered the results on plain sheets of paper. This is what we are against, that is what INEC is against.
“We want to make sure that all results are entered there at the polling units and distributed to all the agents of the political parties and the candidates.
“So, if INEC wanted to conduct elections that could have been queried, it could have gone ahead to conduct the elections.
“What happened is another demonstration that the country and the electoral body are totally committed to ensuring that they conduct credible elections,'' he said.
The President asked Nigerians to remain unperturbed over last Saturday's botched polls.
“It is a sacrifice that all of us are paying. I was also in the village but I had to come back. We really regret what happened. A number of people spent money to go to their homes to vote. Unfortunately it was cancelled.''
Jonathan urged Nigerians to go out en masse to cast their votes in all the elections. He assured Nigerians of his commitment to ensuring that votes count.
The President praised Photo Journalist George Esiri, the exhibitor, for the sacrifice he made, going round with him to document his campaign tour. The exhibition displayed over 50 photographs of Jonathan during his campaign trips across the country.
Also yesterday, Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka said poor structure, the rigging syndrome and stubbornness of highly powerful politicians, are problems militating against credible elections in the country.
He said the Jega-led INEC has “a load of rubbish to clear off”, if it must organise free and fair elections.
Soyinka, who spoke on Aljazera in an interview aired last night, said: “Politicians who have looted the treasury in the past will do anything to continue with their evil actions.”
He said there had been “no election” since the military intervened in politics in Nigeria. According to him, “protection of votes” is one of the ways Nigerians could enforce credible elections.
Soyinka warned that the billion of dollars given to INEC alone cannot guarantee credible elections.
He said if re-elected, the PDP will continue to draw the nation backward.
He said it will be difficult to take over power from the PDP going by the alarming wages received by public functionaries especially members of the National Assembly.
An average lawmaker, he said earns far more than what Barrack Obama, the President of the United States' earns.
“Even the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has let the cat out of the bag. You can not have a good government unless we go back to the constitution and change the laws that give loopholes to corrupt politicians to loot the treasury.
“We don't have to do it the Egyptian way, we don't have to do the Libyan way but with determined youths, they can chase these corrupt leaders away with their votes,” he said.
He described the elections commencing Saturday as a watershed on if only Nigerians could sacrifice.
“This election is a watershed in the history. It is going to be an opportunity to demonstrate the peoples' will for change.
“It is an opportunity to change things for better. You cannot have meaningful democracy if you rely on party with financial muscles bribing their way into elective offices,” he said.
He threw his weight behind the presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, whom he said represents the idea of giving power to the youth.
Ribadu, Soyinka said, would stem the tide of corruption in the country going by his courageous feat as head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He enjoined Nigerians “to forget us – the old brigade and elect young people. We have had enough piloting the affairs of this country over these years. It is high time we let the youths take over mantle of leadership,” he said.
…Denies Buhari's claims
The Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says President Goodluck Jonathan is not mounting pressure on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the botched National Assembly elections.
Yinka Odumakin, spokesman of Muhammadu Buhari had alleged in a statement on Monday, that Mr Jonathan and the PDP hierarchy have been putting pressure on the electoral body to do their bidding.
Describing the allegation as "baseless", the council in a statement yesterday, said it is a further confirmation of the campaign of calumny and falsehood for which the CPC has come to be associated with.
The council expressed disappointment that as a former head of state, Mr Buhari could not see the high security threat posed by the sudden cancellation of the parliamentary elections.
"It is indeed baffling and even disturbing that a former head of state like Buhari, could not see the high security threat posed by the cancellation of the National Assembly elections, and the need for the National Security Council (NSC) to meet and deliberate on crucial security matters arising from the cancellation," the council's spokesman, Abba Dabo said in the statement.
The PCC said that the INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega does not have control over security agencies and that the president is the one who has a constitutional duty to ensure that a conducive environment is created for the election.
"His (Jonathan) convening of the Security Council meeting is therefore not only in order, but appropriate. It is, therefore, unfortunate that the CPC saw this as a partisan act to exploit for electoral gains." Mr Jonathan, the council stressed, has since the postponement of the elections, done everything possible to strengthen INEC's hand and authority to ensure the rescheduled elections are conducted peacefully and transparently.
"We are, however, looking ahead to the new dates. We call on our supporters, party faithful to again come out en mass as they did last week to cast their votes in a peaceful manner," the council said.
Meanwhile, the United States will tomorrow in Abuja unfold its official position on the cancellation and postponement of the parliamentary polls.
That country's ambassador to Nigeria, Terence McCulley is expected to speak on a subject, "Democracy and Elections in Nigeria."