Nigerian elections should be postponed, says Dasuki

Col. Sambo Dasuki 2

Col. Sambo Dasuki, National Security Adviser: linked with rigging plot

Col. Sambo Dasuki
Col. Sambo Dasuki

Nigeria’s national security adviser said on Thursday that next month’s presidential and parliamentary elections should be postponed because not all voter cards had been distributed.

Col. Sambo Dasuki’s (rtd) suggestion came just three weeks ahead of the polling date, during a question and answer session at a conference at the Chatham House international affairs think-tank in London.

“We said (to the Independent National Electoral Commission), look, there is a problem… We still have about 30 million… (voter) cards to distribute,” he said.

“Look at the possibility of shifting this thing and doing it when everybody has a card because it doesn’t cost you anything, is still within the law and it is safer for all of us.

“So, that is what we are encouraging. They (INEC) keep assuring us that everybody will have his card but I doubt it.”

Voting for a new president and parliament in Africa’s most populous nation and leading economy has been set for February 14, with gubernatorial and state assembly elections to follow two weeks later.

The run-up to the election has already been clouded by security fears with swathes of the northeast in the control of Boko Haram militants.

INEC has been scrambling for a solution to allow hundreds of thousands of displaced people to vote in the area, which is an opposition stronghold.

INEC said that 68.8 million people have registered to vote so far out of the 170 million population. There was no immediate response to Dasuki’s assertion about voter cards.

– ‘Clandestine plot’ –

The main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has voiced concern that if voters in the region controlled by Boko Haram are disenfranchised, then the validity of the overall result of the election will be in doubt.

The APC is seen as having its best chance of dumping the ruling party of President Goodluck Jonathan out of power since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.

It said that Dasuki’s suggestion “has exposed the hitherto clandestine plot by the Jonathan administration to push for the postponement of the polls, using all sorts of cheap tricks”.

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Any postponement could trigger a constitutional crisis and is “capable of undermining the nation’s democracy”, the party added in a statement.

The international community should now get a commitment from Jonathan that the elections will take place and that he will respect the result, the APC concluded.

The United States last week urged Nigeria to go ahead with the vote, despite an upsurge in Boko Haram-linked violence, including a massive attack on the northeastern town of Baga on January 3.

Election monitors from the European Union have already arrived in the country, while the political campaigns of all parties and the 14 presidential candidates are in full swing.

-Making excuses –

Dasuki, a former soldier, last year unveiled a “soft power” approach to tackling Boko Haram, including measures to prevent radicalisation in the impoverished Muslim-majority north.

The plan was seen as a tacit recognition that the use of military might alone would not end the bloody, six-year conflict.

Since then, there have been repeated complaints from soldiers about inadequate weapons and equipment to fight the better-armed rebels, and reports that many fled in the face of the enemy.

Some, including the APC, have blamed corruption, as a massive 20 percent of last year’s $30-billion federal budget went on defence — the highest since the 1967-1970 civil war.

The government rejects the claims and Dasuki told the London conference that soldiers who made excuses about not being able to take on the insurgents were guilty of cowardice.

“Unfortunately we had a lot of cowards. We have people who use every excuse in this world not to fight,” he said.

“If you don’t want to fight it’s not your fault. Get out of the army… If you don’t want to fight, don’t make excuses and say, ‘We are not armed, we are not equipped’.”