Election Postponement: Period of Short Nights and Long Knives By Steve Ayorinde

imageIt’s been more than two weeks since the shift in the election days and four weeks before Nigerians proceed to the polls, but little has changed other than the strategies on both sides of the political divide and in the general preparations. If there was any break at all, it was only in the intensity of the rallies by the two leading political parties – the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. For a postponement that will only require a little rest and regurgitation, neither of the big parties can afford to lose momentum. As the days go by within the six additional weeks, the nights have grown shorter for the big players. It will shrink more as we enter the 30-day countdown to the March 28 Presidential poll. The short nights are definitely a blessing in disguise for the Independent National Electoral Commission, whose readiness for the poll should rank as ‘very good’ in the next couple of weeks. It would have been disastrous if it had proceeded with the elections earlier as many would have been disenfranchised. With this extension, however, INEC most likely would have recorded 80 per cent in the distribution of PVCs by March 8. If the One million cards still being expected from China can be delivered next week, then there is nothing stopping INEC from granting additional 10-day extension in order to satisfy its conscience that reluctant voters have been given the opportunity to collect their cards. To be fair, there is no way INEC can record 100 per cent in this exercise. Success in collection rate will depend more on voters’ willingness than the commission’s readiness to distribute. Those who have died, relocated abroad, become internally displaced, or are just not interested will still account for a good chunk of the cards that will be left uncollected. What INEC needs is to ensure that those who are duly registered and eager to collect their PVCs are not disenfranchised. The short nights are, however, more felt within the military, as the Army goes on the offensive against the insurgents in the North-East zone of Nigeria. In a spectacular display of valour, the Nigerian soldiers appear to have suddenly woken up to the need to secure the land of their birth, as if to prove critics wrong about their competence. Thankfully, we are now being told that the military has got its groove back, and not only is it determined to weed out Boko Haram members from Bornu, Yobe and Adamawa states and reclaim lost lands, it is equally determined to ensure that the March 30 and April 11 dates for the election are sacrosanct. It is a remarkable promise for the Army to make, given the fact that the main reason for the postponement of the election is the insecurity in a few states in the North. The National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, got what he wanted – that the military could not secure the country if the elections held on February 14 and 28 and would therefore require a six-week extension to retool and firm up. But it is a promise that should be taken with caution. The Army has not really explained the reason for this new-found stamina and ‘success’ of the past few days. Is it the $1bn loan to rebuild the Army’s arsenal and the Russian weaponry that are doing the magic? Could it be the cooperation from the Chadian army and those of the other ‘coalition of the willing’ along the North-East of the Nigerian border? Or could it just be the personal burden of the soldiers to redeem their image and a patriotic zeal to rescue their fatherland from the pangs of those hiding under subversive tenets to wreck havoc on the nation that have suddenly galvanized them into action? What really has changed by a military which did not consider it necessary to consult with the Commander-in-Chief before demanding a postponement and which once declared a ceasefire with terrorists when there was none? As our soldiers attempt to rewrite their names in gold, it is not an apology that they should be offered, as some are saying. What they deserve at this point are our prayers and encouragement in the fervent hope that the war against the enemy of the state is being prosecuted solely with the interest of the country at heart. The military cannot ignore the intelligence aspect of warfare. That is what could have stopped Monday’s bombings in Kano and Potiskum. Yet, soldiers must not allow politicians to draw them into the ring where they have already unsheathed the swords, in spite of the peace accords being signed here and there. The type of violence that erupted at the APC rally in Okrika, Rivers State, last week is condemnable. It is worrisome if we are headed in the direction of allowing thugs to disperse rallies with gun shots and killing a policeman in the process. Granted that in a very keen contest like this, perhaps the closest race in the history of elections in Nigeria, it will be unusual not to expect politicians to bring out the long knives. It is part of the game if they stay within the realm of verbal invectives such as the one between Governor Rotimi Amaechi and Femi Fani-Kayode on Channels TV last Sunday. But viewers are better informed on what is required in choosing their leaders than being carried away by empty eloquence that thrives on insults and abuses every sense of propriety. As bad as the diatribe between Amaechi and Fani-Kayode was, it was still tolerable than the degenerate vitriolic that the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose keeps heaping on General Muhamadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate. Astonishing does not describe it. Indeed, it must be odd, odious and alarming that a governor would make a fetish of demonizing a Presidential candidate whose fate, political or medical, he has no way of determining. It is because of inciting words from the likes of Fayose that there is apprehension in the land. But, interestingly, the sudden turn-around of some ex-Niger Delta militants to canvass for votes for President Jonathan rather than threaten violence should delight civil Nigerians and draw them to the fact that the truth, no matter how suppressed, has a way of imposing itself.

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