In this report, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on how INEC calender will affect the 2019 general elections.
The present atmosphere does not suggest Nigeria is prepared for an electioneering campaign this year, when compared with the way it used to be in pre-election years
Although there have been secret alignments and realignments by some political gladiators in the country, prospective aspirants and political players are still playing the hide and seek game even as Nigeria enters the political campaign year.
Unlike the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who even when his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not zone its presidential ticket to his Southwest Georgia-political zone region still went ahead to declare his ambition to vie for the presidential ticket.
As that time, his other party men from the Northern part of the country where the ticket was zoned to, including former vice president Atiku Abubakar and Senator Ahmed Makarfi said they had not decided whether or not to contest for the top rated office.
But Alhaji Sule Lamido has publicly shown his ambition to contest for the PDP’s presidential ticket.
Some APC members are also playing the hide and seek game, it was gathered. According to some political analysts, the hide and seek game is informed by the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari has not made a categorical statement on whether to recontest or not.
On the time table released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last year, the Presidential and National Assembly elections will hold on February 16, 2019. The Governorship and State House of Assembly elections were also fixed for March 2, 2019.
According to INEC, the notice was to allow for proper planning by both the commission and other stakeholders involved in the electioneering process.
While speaking to Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) at a retreat in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State last December, the INEC National chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu told them to prepare themselves for possible alignment and realignment of politicians.
LEADERSHIP gathered that from this month, the secret alignments and realignments that have been embarked upon by politicians will be made public.
According to the pioneer North East National Vice Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Umar Duhu, INEC being an independent body as created by the laws of the land, has the right to set out timetables for their stated roles under the constitution but advised that the commission should always consult adequately with the critical stakeholders (political parties), to galvanize and cross fertilize ideas.
While speaking on why there are no serious political activities barely a year to the general elections, Duhu said it was largely due to apathy of the political class towards the processes and the dwindling economic situation in the land.
“It is also gratifying to state that the polity will no longer be too greatly monetized, as Nigeria is rapidly developing and is fast evolving in-line with the best democracy practices obtained in other developed economies in the World.”
“Let me equally enjoin all peace loving Nigerians make it as a matter of priority to henceforth present sound and visionary leaders devoid of religion and ethnicity to represent them with efficacy at all levels of governance as the panacea to entrench good governance in the land. Nigerians most also continue to love one another peaceful in love and brotherliness,” Duhu added.
The national publicity secretary of newly registered Rebuild Nigeria Party (RNP), Isuma Mark, said the atmosphere is informed by the poor performance of other political parties, adding that some Nigerians are waiting for RNP. He said RNP will shock many political parties is the electioneering campaigns started proper.
But INEC has insisted that the announcement of Saturday 16th February 2019 for the Presidential and National Assembly elections and 2nd March of the same year for the Governorship and State Assembly/Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Council elections have been widely applauded by many Nigerians as a wise decision which is also unprecedented.
According to INEC, the process should be about certainty and not just for 2019.
INEC wants the timetable to be fixed for all future elections just like the United States holds its presidential election in November of every election year and Ghana, for every December of their election year.
It was gathered that INEC wants Nigerians to predict when the general elections will hold in 2019, 2023, 2027, 2031, 2034 and so on.
It was gathered that the certainty will give all stakeholders connected to INEC to prepare.
But some political analysts are of the view that 2018 is a year in which INEC will be assessed on its working relationship with the political parties and other stakeholders.
The commission has said that it remained neutral in the whole process despite few misgivings in its time table by some political players.
“We hold our regular quarterly consultative meetings where issues are discussed frankly and holistically. I believe this has been partly responsible for the significant reduction in litigation over election outcomes. Political parties can see the transparency and integrity of our processes. Nigerians are also cooperating with and advising us and we are humbled by the faith they repose in us,” INEC spokesman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi said while reacting to insinuations that its timetable might affect the 2019 election conduct.
The commission, however, evisaged the problems that might arise from the 2019 general elections to come from the masses.
“We have observed that the level of participation in elections is quite low in relation to the actual number of registered voters. In some instances, less than 20 percent of registered voters turn up on election day. In 2015, about 28 million Nigerians voted out of over 69 million on the voters’ registered.”
“We would like to see an improvement in 2019. We are putting more measures in place to ensure that all uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in our custody are collected by their rightful owners.”
“But I want to implore all political parties to put in more efforts to mobilise their members to come out and vote in all elections. I also want to implore all Nigerians – 18 years and above – to exercise their right to vote and elect their desired leaders. Voting on the election day is a joyful activity. We should all partake in it,” Oyekanmi said.
On the political campaigns, INEC said the Electoral Act has clearly spelt out the procedure involved.
“Let me give you an example. The Commission has fixed 14th July, 2018 for the Ekiti state governorship election. We issued the time table and schedule of activities for that on 5th October last year.”
“In that schedule, political parties are to commence their campaign activities on 15th April and end on 12th July 2018. They have approximately 90 days to hold campaign rallies. So, it is an established procedure.”
“Political parties are aware of the code of conduct governing their participation in the electoral process. They are also aware of the penalties applicable when laws are flouted or disobeyed. One of the fundamental benchmarks for the successful conduct of any election is early preparation.”
“The commission has been preparing for the 2019 polls and will continue to put adequate measures in place. We are privileged to have, since November 2015, conducted elections into 175 constituencies and all these have helped to improve our processes. Happily, only two out of all these elections were overturned by the Election Petition Tribunals, but even at that, we were not ordered to conduct fresh elections but only told to issue Certificates of Return to candidates other than those earlier declared winners. Happily, litigation over election outcomes has reduced significantly in recent time and this, to me, is a confirmation that majority of Nigerians, especially the political actors have confidence in the credibility of our electoral process.”
The INEC spokesman said contrary to what people say, that the country is already in election mode.
“The 2017 – 2021 Strategic Plan is in place. The Strategic Plan of Action and the Election Project Plan are also in place. The Commission rolled out the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise in April 2017 and so far, over 3.6 million new voters have been registered. If you check our website and online newspaper as I speak, the countdown to the D-Day is there, as a constant reminder of the tasks ahead. We take our responsibility very, very seriously,” Oyekanmi said.
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