Elections everywhere, please – Vanguard

By The Citizen

Elections next year without the tumultuous crisis-ridden six North-East States of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe will bear grave consequences for the constitutional directions of the country.

Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega had at a presentation to the Senate last year made the remarks that have been creating doubts about the chances of elections holding in the States.

The key challenge is security, too obvious that it should be tackled, and thoroughly too, if the elections are to hold. Security is not under Jega's portfolio. He is concerned about the safety of election personnel and voters.

Yobe State has provided some of the answers to the questions about security. Though Yobe is one of the most volatile states, it held its local government election last month. It passed without security challenges. The same federal security for the 2015 elections is what Yobe State used successfully in its local election.

We, however, have to admit that Prof Jega had a point in raising the matter early enough. In 2011, when the security situation was not at this level, INEC staff, including members of the National Youth Service Corps, were killed on election duties. Assurances that security would improve in those States have been mere promises.

The North East is not the only part of the country with pre-election security concerns. Attacks in Kano, Kaduna, Kogi and Niger States put them under the same radar with areas where elections could be problematic. The concerns are serious enough that the authorities should start tackling them immediately.

Prof Jega spoke without considering the implications of the possibility he mentioned. Without the six States, would the elections then be restricted to 30 States and Abuja? There are constitutional implications of excluding some States from the elections. Would the States run without governors and Houses of Assembly? How would they produce their representatives in the National Assembly?

If elections are not held in some States, it would be the best way to escalate the insecurity in those places. Residents of the States are Nigerians and have the same constitutional rights to choose their leaders as other Nigerians.

A decision to exclude any part of Nigeria from participation in the elections is a constitutional breach with vast implications for the results of the elections. The Constitution expects the President to win 25 per cent votes cast in at least two-third of the 36 States, that is 30 States.

It is imperative for the elections to hold nationwide. The security challenges should be managed to achieve this, otherwise Nigeria would be the country to agents of terror, it is a position too dangerous to contemplate.