PROJECT RESCUE DEMOCRACY (PRD)
10, Afolabi Lesi Street, Ilupeju, Lagos.
THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW.
Being the text of a World Press Conference held on Saturday 21/02/2015.
THEME: State of the Nation…The 2015 General Elections, Matters arising.
Good morning, Gentlemen of the Press, Comrades, Compatriots, esteemed Countrymen and women, This press conference is the initiative of Project Rescue Democracy (PRD) a coalition of over 60 Civil Society, Self-determination, Ethnic and Professional Groups, who, compelled by the recent happenings in our country regarding particularly the 2015 General Elections have elected a concerted collaborative effort as patriotic and public spirited groups desirous of rescuing our democracy and country from the abyss, yes we cannot fold our hands and watch politicians attempt tenure elongation under any guise or means. We cannot allow the musings of same, nor shall we watch unaddressed any attempt to further postpone the 2015 General Elections.
The signs are ominous as a very dark cloud hung over the Nigerian political horizon as a result of the impending violations of the tenets of democracy and the constitution by forces of evil who are determined to plunge the country into unwarranted chaos whose consequence portends grave danger to our collective peace and security.
There is a general rule of engagement in this trade which is known all over the world, it is definite that there will be a handover date because there is tenure for political office and as such, it is the responsibility of the elections management body to start preparing for the next general elections immediately after a general election and government has a responsibility to providing an enabling environment for the elections management body to perform its statutory responsibility. Then the dates are fixed, wherein all efforts are put in place in ensuring that the dates for the election and swearing of a new government remains sacrosanct.
But what we are seeing today is that all the known values of transparency, fairness and credibility of the electoral system are about to be compromised. We have observed that the principle of one man, one vote is about to be imperilled. The E-card reader which the electoral management body has introduced to promote the sanctity of one man, one vote is about to be circumvented by political actors. Or what do we make of the attempt by some members of the Senate to discredit the use of E-card reader during the presentation of the INEC Chairman on Wednesday 18th February, 2015?
For a government to be legitimate in a democracy its, power must derive from the people through the ballot box which must be seen to be free, fair, transparent and credible, which are all under threat in the unfolding Nigeria’s case.
A whole lot of issues have been thrown up and are going to be thrown up to stop, derail, circumvent, discredit and frustrate the whole electoral process, from the issue of PVC, E-card reader to eligibility, security, threats of war, violence, intimidation, mudslinging, character assassination and so many other mundane issues which have no bearing with elections and sound democratic values.
The following are issues which we want to present to the whole world so as to call to order, anti democratic elements and forces of evil.
Free, fair, transparent and credible elections, a must!
For a long time, Nigeria has basked in the embarrassment of controversial elections, but we have come of age with the introduction of the E-card reader by the electoral management body that will forestall any form of rigging and manipulation which the Nigeria electoral system is known for. Unfortunately, we are shocked and disappointed that major political stakeholders are up in arms against the use of E-card reader which we all know will eliminate multiple voting, because the number of accredited voters will not be more than the number that will cast their votes as recorded by the E-card reader.
Small arms and arms proliferation:
The threats of war and violence have no place in democracy and must be condemned. Thus, we are surprised that some characters in utter violation of democratic and civilized tenets have resorted to threatiocracy, that unless a particular candidate wins, there will be war and one would expect the security agencies to have responded to the threat by calling them to order, but we are not surprised that boko haram have been emboldened by such official negligence to issue threats against the conduct of the 2015 general elections. More so, we are disturbed by the proliferation of arms, small, big and deadly weapons. We are worried by the use of explosives in Okrika, Rivers State only recently which is a frightening dimension in electoral violence in our land. We use this opportunity to call on the security agencies to be alive to their responsibilities and urge them to further strengthen their intelligence gathering units to mop up all arms, ammunitions and explosives for us to have a violent free pre, during and post elections environment.
No to militarization of elections:
The constitution is very clear and explicit as to the duties and responsibilities of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as provided for in Section 217 and 218 of the 1999 constitution which states explicitly the role of the military and nowhere is it provided for in the aforementioned section of the constitution where the military is given powers to be involved in election matters. The Court of Appeal recently held that the military has no business in election matters. We want to add that election matters are purely civil matters which is called the festival of the voters, it is not a day of war, it is the day the voters through the ballot paper award a pass mark to a government or rejects it, that is the practice all over the world and Nigeria cannot be an exemption. So the use of the military to conduct elections, suppress voters, intimidate political opponents is an aberration and unconstitutional. However, we are surprised that Mr. Femi Fani Kayode is asserting that they are going to use the military irrespective of what the law says and we wonder, if he is a court of superior jurisdiction?
No to extension of election dates
We are opposed to any extension of the 2015 general elections by any means whatsoever. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 in Section 135 (2) is clear as to the tenure of the government which is the handover date and any move or step taken against the actualisation of this date, will lead to serious constitutional crisis.
Transparency from the National Assembly
We shall continuously demand transparency and responsibility from the National Assembly regarding their actions and or inactions targeted at compromising the electoral process as Nigerians shall demand for open voting at the floor of both Houses should any such matter come before the National Assembly.
Strict adherence to constitutionalism
We demand that Prof. Jega adhere strictly to the provisions of the Electoral Act and the 1999 constitution empowering him to uphold the sanctity of March 28th and April 11th 2015 general elections dates without the interference of the Security Agencies, and to only postpone election in the places directly embroiled in uncontrollable crisis or war. We call on Professor Attahiru Jega to affirm his constitutional responsibility and refuse to be teleguided to carry out his statutory functions without fear or favour.
No to interim government
It is important to warn that Nigerians are opposed to any tinkering with the current electoral process either by way of an illegal Interim National Government or military intervention and that March 28th and April 11th 2015 elections dates and May 29th Handover dates remain sacrosanct because any deviation will result in constitutional crisis that may implode the system.
We are not unaware of the proliferation of arms, armed conflict and orchestrated crisis to heat up the polity and give plausible reasons for the intended six months tenure elongation of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
We demand that the National Security Adviser (NSA) and service chiefs concentrate on their constitutional responsibility of defending and protecting the territorial integrity of the nation and hands off matters of election and electoral matters as recently upheld by the Court of Appeal because acting contrary for political expediency will be tantamount to violating the constitution.
Collection of PVC
We call on all Nigerians to ensure that they collect their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) which is the only guaranteed passport to vote on Election Day for a candidate of their choice devoid of intimidation, inducements, ethnic, religious and other mundane sentiments.
Gentlemen of the press, it is said by Frantz Fanon that every generation out of relative obscurity must discover its mission and either fulfil or betray it.
We are not unmindful of the pains and tragedy of the June 12, 1993 debacle and that we may not walk that path again, we insist that the government and INEC make March 28th and April 11th, 2015 and May 29th 2015 sacrosanct, immutable and definite.
We want it placed on record that times have changed and that what Nigerians permitted with little or no resistance in 1993, will not be allowed to repeat itself anymore as it’s obvious that the groundswell of public opinion is for the conduct of free, fair, transparent and credible polls come March 28th and April 11th 2015, no more, no less.
Ms Titilope Akosa