13th January, 2015
With the prevailing insecurity occasioned by relentless gruesome attacks by Boko Haram in North-Eastern states in the country, many Nigerians are bothered that the general elections might not hold in that region. The havoc wreaked by Boko Haram terrorists has displaced thousands of Nigerians from their territories. Consequently, chances are that these Nigerians might be disenfranchised during the elections.
In order to ensure that these Nigerians of voting age in the affected region exercise their rights at the polls, the Federal Government must provide adequate security for them, officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and election observers.
Prof. Attahiru Jega, Chairman of INEC at a forum in Abuja on Monday raised the alarm that election might not hold in the North-East region of the country. He is bothered that the persistent insecurity in states like Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, might prevent electoral officials from conducting the polls there. Under the circumstances, he expressed concern that those displaced might not return to their homes before the election kicks off, hence it is nearly impossible to hold elections in various local governments /constituencies in those states.
Jega’s dilemma is compounded by the fact that Boko Haram members are occupying at least 13 local government areas in the three volatile states. How would elections be conduted there as being canvassed by governors of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states? The three governors at an emergency security meeting with the President Goodluck Jonathan last Tuesday unanimously took this position and told the Federal Government to do all it can to restore normalcy to those areas so that elections could hold in their states.
If all spirited attempts by Jonathan’s administration to end the insurgency in the last two years have been futile, what is the assurance that the expected miracle would happen a month to the elections? If elections could be conducted in countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq that are plagued by similar challenges, what stops the Nigerian government from doing same? INEC might not want to expose its officials to danger if adequate security is not provided in those areas. But failure to hold elections in those places will send a wrong signal that the Jonathan administration has given in to the territorial conquest of the terrorists.
However, postponing elections might not be the best option. But given the present situation, INEC might need to site polling units in refugees’ camps while the Jonathan-led government, in collaboration with INEC and all the security agencies, devise strategies on how to ensure elections are held in that region and lives of the electorate, INEC officials and election observers are not put at risk unnecessarily.