The calls for the postponement of this month’s general elections may be discussed during Thursday’s(tomorrow) Council of State meeting convened by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The council consists of the President, the Vice-President, all former Presidents or ex-Heads of State, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, the President of the Senate, all state governors and the Attorney-General of the Federation.
One of the key responsibilities of the body is to advise the President in the exercise of his powers with respect to the Independent National Electoral Commission, including the appointments of members of the commission.
Proponents of the polls’ shift had hinged it on the inability of INEC to distribute enough Permanent Voter Cards to registered voters. The call is widely believed to be engineered by the Presidency, which though had denied the charge.
INEC had however insisted that there would be no postponement of the elections.
The PUNCH however learnt from a Presidency official in Abuja on Tuesday that the Council of State would review the preparations for the elections by INEC and the relevant security agencies.
He said that information available to the government showed that contrary to the claims by the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, the commission was not yet ready for the elections.
For example, the official claimed that INEC only awarded the contract for the printing of ballot papers for the February 14 presidential election last Monday.
He wondered how the ballot papers would be made ready before February 14 which is the first day of the polls.
The official said, “The truth of the matter is that if urgent step is not taken, Prof. Jega may end up ridiculing this country.
“Available information shows that the commission is not set for this election contrary to Jega’s claim.
“We learnt he actually summoned a meeting recently with a view to postponing the election but he is scared of the opposition who have been kicking against such.
“This Thursday (tomorrow) meeting will definitely review INEC’s preparations and take a stand.”
Another Presidency source also informed The PUNCH that Jonathan might use the opportunity provided by the meeting to garner support for the postponement of the polls.
“The Presidency is not resting on its oars concerning the plan to shift the elections. It is already in talks with some members of the council,” he said.
On what the Presidency would do if the plan fails, he replied, “we would opt for another plan, which is to return to the drawing board; plan a new strategy on how to deal with our opponents.”
To underscore the importance Jonathan attaches to the meeting, his re-election campaign rally earlier billed to hold on Thursday in Yenagoa, the capital of his home state, Bayelsa, has been put on hold.
It was gathered that the rally might hold later in the day if the meeting ended on time or be shifted to Friday.
The PUNCH has however learnt that some of the proponents of election postponement might have perfected plan to ensure that Jega did not return as INEC chairman if their plan materialises.
A week-long investigation by one of our correspondents showed that the Presidency was waiting patiently for INEC to yield to the pressure before coming out with its real plan for Jega.
It was gathered that the Presidency and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party were not ready for the elections and believed that their chances could be affected if the elections were held as scheduled.
Because of this, the Presidency, backed by some hawks in the PDP, are said to be waiting for an auspicious time to ask the INEC chairman to proceed on terminal leave. His tenure ends on June 9, 2015.
The PDP source said, “The plan is to discredit the election by forcing postponement. When this is done, sponsored people and groups would start asking for the sack of Jega.
“At this point, the government would then say because of this, he should proceed on terminal leave and then ask the most senior national commissioner to take over and conduct the election.”
Jega’s nomination as INEC chairman followed approval by a meeting of the Council of State.
Jonathan had said then that he had never known Jega, a former chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Jega’s candidature for the job was said to have been facilitated by a presidency top official, Hassan Tukur, who is from Adamawa State.