By Stephen Ubanna
Until last Sunday , February 17, 2019, Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had maintained his stand that political Campaigns and collection of Permanent voter’s card , PVC, has closed for good. Unknown to many, there had been an intense pressure on him from several political quarters including the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, to lift the ban , on Campaigns and further collections of PVCs, since the general elections , which was supposed to have commenced on Saturday, February 16, 2019, with the Presidential and National Assembly election and the governorship, state Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory , FCT, Council election on March 2, 2019, has been postponed by one week.
Political watchers had expected Yakubu, the INEC , boss, to keep to his words that political Campaigns which was closed at midnight on Thursday last week will remain closed notwithstanding the postponement of the general elections by one week.
The intensified pressure from the political class may have forced Yakubu , the INEC Chairman, to lift the ban on Campaigns and collection of PVCs. He said the decision to extend the Campaign period and the collections of PVCs by the electorate was taken after due consultations with the political parties. The INEC boss further disclosed that the Commission also reviewed the preparations for the re-scheduled election on Saturday, February 23, 2019 for the Presidential and National Assembly and March 9, for the governorship, state Assembly and FCT Area Council elections and found out that it need to be extended .
He may have gladdened the mind of stakeholders hen he said the Commission has approved that Campaigns by parties and the Candidates should resume but would be terminated by midnight of Thursday, February 21, 2019.
Recall, that Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross river state and Presidential Candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, had said that the oposition parties have been exhausted financially to resume futher Campaigns compared to Muhammadu Buhri, the APC , Candidate, who is seeking re-election , who has unlimited access to state funds.
Political watchers believe that the Commission may have lifted political Campaigns and collection of PVs to re-charge the atmosphere and put Nigerians back on the election mood. Sources at the PDP and APC , Presidential Council, said the C members have gone back to the drawing board To resume their Campaigns in states in the six geo-political Zones of the country where their chances of winning majority votes are shaky.
the Commission was said to have created 800 centers across the country for collection of PVCs for the electorate. Indeed, there are millions unclaimed PVCs in INEC offices across the country. Take for instance, in Lagos state, there are about one million unclaimed PVCs, Bayelsa, 186,798, Imo, 300,000, Kano, 1.4 million, Sokoto,132,091, among others. Investigation by the Value News show that the parties have embarked senisitisation Campaign to encourage to rush to any of the centers created by INEC in their respective states to collect their PVCs to be able to vote for Candidates of their choice in the Presidential and National Assembly Election on Saturday, February 23, 2019 and the governorship, state Assembly and FCT Council election on March 9, 2019.
Given the promised of the Katsina state born Nigeria President promise to organise a free, fair and credible election in the country, he was said to have directed Mohammed Abubakar Admu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, on Monday, February 19, 2019, to give a standing order to policemen that would be used to provide security during the election to be ruthless with anyone that dares to snatch ballot boxes during the election. This is a warning to politicians who think they have influence in their locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturb the voting system to watch it. The PDP and APC , have been trading words over over snatching of ballot boxes. The PDP had APC of snatching ballot boxes in past elections while the APC says the PDP have ”perfected plans to rig the elections and snatch ballot boxes”.
The retired Army General and Nigerian President was said to have made it clear that ballot boxes snatchers would be doing so at the” expense of their own life”. Yakubu, the INEC boss may differ with the President when he said ”ballot box snatchers would be punished according to the law”.
Bashir Ahmad, Personal Assistant to the President on New Media said Buhari gave the far reaching directive to the police because he wanted Nigerians to be ”respected after the elections”. Buhari who spoke at the APC national caucus meeting at the party secretariat at Abuja, may have sent a warning to party Chieftains who may want to move about with security operatives during the election to do whatever they like at polling booths to watch it before coming into confrontation with Adamu’s men .
When the Value News visited the Lagos state police Command today, (Tuesday, February 19), thousands of policemen have begun rehersal for the election at the instance of Zubairu Mu’azu, the state Commissioner of police in readiness for the elections. The situation was the same in other parts of the country. Note that 85 percent of the security for the general elections were said to have been provided by by the Force while the remaining 15 percent were provided by the military, Department of State Security, DSS and security agencies.
In the past, policemen had seen their deployment to the states to provide security during election as an opportunity to make cheap money by conniving with politicians to manipulate results But this may be unthinkable this time around with the strategies that was said to have been put in place by the acting IGP. Recall that he had set up a team to monitor the conduct of policemen during the elections.
Austin Braimoh, the Commissioner of police in-charge of the south-south, the region that produced Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and minister f Transportation , who is beating the drum of war in the state, the police monitoring team was necessary in order to ensure that ”policemen apolitical during the conduct of the elections”. This may have gladdened the heart of Nyesom Wike, the governor of the state who is seeking reelection on the platform of the PDP after a meeting with the police Commissioner at the state government House, popular , Brick House, last Thursday. The governor had raised alarm that the police may never be neutral during the election because of the over bearing influence of Amaechi, the minister of Transportation.
Wike has every reason to worry about the 2019 elections because of the negative contributions of the police to the electoral process in the state in the past.
In readiness for the Saturday Presidential and National Assembly elections, an elated Yakubu, the INEC Chairman said 95 percent of the smart card readers have been configured and electoral materials distributed to the states .
Reacting to the purported arrest of Okechukwu Ibeanu, a Professor and National Commissioner of the Commission,