The need to have peaceful polls, forestall crisis both during and after the 2015 general elections and ensure the continuity of a united Nigeria continues to generate concerns among stakeholders in the Nigerian project.
The latest call is coming from Project Nigeria Movement, a body comprising several civil society organisations, led by eminent jurist and elder statesman, Professor Ben Nwabueze.
At a press briefing held on Tuesday, March 10, 2015, at the FRA Williams Chambers, Ilupeju, Lagos, the group tasked the media, the masses, politicians and leaders of opinion to work towards ensuring peaceful polls.
The octogenarian noted that the forthcoming elections which have been shifted from February to March and April “confront the Nigerian people with a difficult and perplexing task, that of choosing between the two main contestants in the presidential election, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, to be given the mandate to govern our affairs and lives for four years.”
He expressed worry over public comments that “elections might not be practicable by March 28 and April 11, 2015.” The elder statesman noted that it was this same concern for Nigeria that motivated the group to join the protest in January 2012 to force government’s hand when it announced the removal of subsidy from premium motor spirit, to which government responded by deploying the military.
On the controversy surrounding the use of smart card readers during the polls, he announced the body’s support for the card readers as, according to him, this would help eliminate rigging which had become an albatross to the country before now.
“In the past, we were oppressed and embarrassed by all methods of rigging that had been progressively perfected in this country, from the first post-independence election,” he explained, adding that the “card reader therefore seems to us a good innovation. So, we support it.”
It was not only the card readers that attracted the attention of the group. Concerning the insistence of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on the use of only permanent voters’ cards, Olisa Agbakoba, chairman, Action Committee, Project Nigeria, urged the electoral umpire to use both the temporary voters cards and PVCs, to avoid disenfranchising millions of Nigerians who have not been able to collect their PVCs due to relocation and similar challenges.
The group also lent its support to the various individuals and bodies urging the government not to deploy the military during the election.
“In an article I wrote after I was tear-gassed by the military during the 2012 fuel subsidy protest, I noted that according to section 197 of the Constitution, which defines the role of the military in civil matters, I clearly showed that the provisions do not cover the use of the military for rallies and also for election purposes.”
The body which insists it is non-partisan maintains it has set parameters and whoever meets those parameters should be Nigeria’s President come May 29, 2015.
“What we consider to be our duty is to define the national parameters and criteria, leaving the electorate to decide,” he said, wishing President Jonathan had accepted his January 2012 advice not to seek re-election.
That notwithstanding, Project Nigeria, according to its members who were present in large number at the briefing, remains committed to its objective, which is to save Nigeria, a task that has become more daunting as the nation makes the crucial decision of choosing its leaders in the next few weeks.
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