24th November, 2010
By Akin Kuponiyi, Eromosele Ebhomele & Yisa Jamiu
Politicians, lawyers, activists and other prominent Nigerians this morning reacted to the elections timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, saying they are unimpressed. Mr. Yinka Odumakin of the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, expressed fears over the order of the elections, stressing that the presidential election can be manipulated to have a bandwagon effect on other polls.
Odumakin said: â€œI hope the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is not lending itself to manipulation. With the presidential election coming first, this may have a bandwagon effect on other elections.â€
The ARG spokesperson advised INEC to adopt the modified open ballot system used for the June 12, 1993 presidential election for a free and fair election.
â€œBut if the electoral umpire fail to conduct a free and fair election, then Nigerians will witness another round of election petitions. Only a free and fair election can resolve the problems.
â€œItâ€™s unfortunate that registration of voters will be coming in January, too close to the elections. But I can assure that Nigerians are eagerly waiting. Eligible voters are ready. I am sure they will troop out to register when INEC is ready,â€ Odumakin said.
In his own reaction, Hon. Toyin Aina, Special Assistant to Hon. Morufudeen Adefolabi, member, House of Representatives for Ifako-Ijaiye in Lagos State, condemned the way and manner INEC is handling the votersâ€™ registration exercise.
Aina asked: â€œIs Prof. Jega-led INEC serious about conductingÂ free and fair elections at all? As at now, INEC is still expecting the machines that will be used for the votersâ€™ registration. The staff who will use the machines need orientation and training. Consider also the time needed for display, claims and objections. Even in 2007, when registration was held many months before the elections, there were problems,â€ Aina noted.
Prof. Itse Sagay, a constitutional lawyer, said the release of the timetable by INEC does not make any difference since the constitutional amendment and the position of INEC on the issue are the same.
Prof. Sagay believes that the outcome of the situation would remain the same whether the National Assembly wins the case or not. He called on INEC to conduct the election with integrity.
In his reaction, Keyamo said: â€œLet me be sincere with you, there is a connivance that is going on between the President and Senate President, David Mark on one hand and between the President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, on the other hand.
â€œBeyond all these hypes about constitutional amendment and its controversies, there is a cordial relationship between Jonathan, Mark and Bankole, who are both campaigning for Jonathan.
â€œBut why is it that when it comes to the issue of allowing the president to assent to the bill, they make us feel there is problem? They want to plant a time bomb so that if elections donâ€™t go their way everything can be nullified by the court with just a statement that all the electoral activities were illegal.â€
He wondered why the National Asembly stubbornly refused to allow the President to assent to the amended constitution from where the Electoral Act gained its legality.
â€œThey case is before the Appeal Court and can still move to the Supreme Court. What if the Supreme Court says Jonathan needs to sign it. What will happen, considering the fact that the Supreme Court cannot give judgement before April when the elections are billed to be concluded?
â€œThere is something sinister happening. They are planting a time bomb and I am not fooled by what they are doing.â€
The coordinator of Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms, CODER, Chief Ayo Opadokun, said there was nothing wrong with what INEC has done considering that it has the responsibility of informing the political class of its plans.
â€œThe only problem is about the validity of the constitution. I am of the opinion that until there is assent, it does not become law,â€ he stated.
He advised the lawmakers to adhere to the provisions of the constitution in its amendment.
â€œThe Uwais Committee recommended that no sitting President should appoint an electoral umpire. It also said no sitting President should contest while still in office. All these have been ignored and nothing is enhancing free and fair election. We still continue to speak authoritatively,â€ he added.
Lagos lawyer, Allens Agbaka, said the position of the law is clear on such issues. He stated that any activity which is not in consonance with the law should be considered null and void.
â€œWhatever INEC is doing now should be in consonance with the Electoral Act which emanates from the constitution. Thus, it becomes a nullity if INEC is going on with its activities while the case of the constitution amendment is still pending before the court. They have come to the stage where they think the Presidentâ€™s assent is not needed, thereby leading us into constitutional crises.
â€œIf the House is not selfish and self-centred, why donâ€™t they do what the law says? The election timetable is an offshoot of the drama happening at the National Assembly,â€ he said.
Agbaka said the activities of the lawmakers were intended to frustrate the elections and lead the country to doom.
â€œIt is a build up to crises and we donâ€™t know which set of politicians are behind it. I will be shocked to find outÂ that Jega is dancing to their tune.
â€œDespite my respect for him, until a free and fair election is conducted, I cannot trust him,â€ he said.