Following a grueling eight-hour meeting on Thursday,Nigeria’s National Council of State emphatically rejected a proposal by President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to postpone the 2015 general elections.
The meeting was Mr. Jonathan’s final open effort to rescue an election that seems to have got away from him very quickly.
Under the Nigerian constitution, the Council advises executive branch, and is chaired by the President. Other members are the Vice-President, who is the Deputy Chairman; all former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of the Government of the Federation; all former Chief Justices; the President of the Senate; the Speaker of the House of Representatives; all State Governors; and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Also at Thursday’s meeting was the chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
President Jonathan cited security concerns and lack of preparedness by INEC as his reasons for seeking postponement of the elections.
Our presidency sources at the meeting said that all the former Heads of State spoke in favor of holding the general elections on February 14th and February 28th 2015, as scheduled by the electoral commission. Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, also spoke calmly but firmly against the proposal.
However, when it was Jega’s time to speak, he shocked the meeting by disclosing that just before he entered the Council chambers, the president’s National Security Advisor, Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd), had handed him a report saying that the security services could not guarantee security during the elections. Dasuki, he stated, emphasized that 14 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the North East would be compromised.
Presidency sources inside the meeting tell SaharaReporters that Jega responded the security questions, stating “We are better off [more secure] than in 2011” elections. He also argued that the security situation in 14 LGAs should not interfere with acountry of over 700 such councils.
Professor Jega also said that all Permanent Voting Cards (PVCs) were ready for voters and that their availability should no longer be considered an issue. Our sources say that when Jega finishing giving his presentation, the majority of the room clapped in support and respect.
One source disclosed to SaharaReporters that after Jega’s presentation, aides to President Jonathan sent a signal to Ijaw leader, Edwin Clark, Alex Ekwueme and Senator Okunrounmu to release a “dossier” that was in the possession of the group against Jega. That group then quickly organized a press conference in Abuja to demand Jega’s removal from INEC and get himarrested and tried for “treason”.
Contrary to Jega’s positive reception at the Council of State, the group, in a fall-back strategy the president seemed to have approved of in advance, claimed that the INEC boss had colluded with some Northern “leaders” to cheat the South of the presidency.
After today’s meeting the Council of State decided that INEC and the security agencies must hold meetings leading to the elections in order to harmonize and coordinate their activities to ensure that all elections are free and fair starting this month.
The meeting then nominated Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State to brief the press about its decisions. Governor Rochas Okorocha strategically joined Mimiko at that event to ensure that nothing was added to, or taken away from what Nigerians needed to know.