Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Federal Government has given the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a marching order to ensure the rescheduled presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday hold.
The government also restated its warning to the international community not to interfere in the internal affairs of the country, noting that Nigeria is a sovereign nation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, gave the government’s position, yesterday, while briefing heads of diplomatic missions and international organisations accredited to Nigeria on conduct of the elections.
Onyeama said government was absolutely and extremely disappointed and as it could not understand why after three and half years, the country was still not able to deliver the process on time.
He noted that in the past, monies were taken from national coffers to fund elections, adding that it was not the case regarding the 2019 elections as resources were mobilized through regular channels as done in other climes.
Onyeama also said the process was a level playing field for all concerned and it was absolutely important that INEC interact directly with the world to know exactly what was going on.
“But most importantly, Mr. President and all Nigerians absolutely demand that on Saturday, elections should be held.
“And we cannot accept, and we will not accept any excuses or any other reason. They have to be held on Saturday and nothing less will be acceptable to government and indeed, I am sure, to Nigerians,” Onyeama said.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari had always insisted on transparent process and desired free, fair and credible elections and had never deviated from the objective.
Onyeama added that he had never seen the president so angry as when the elections were postponed at the last minute.
“He had travelled, as you all know, and had been watching to 36 different states. I accompanied him on some of those and his stamina was really impressive. And he, like everybody else, had really put a great deal into this. So, when at the last minute there was this decision to postpone by INEC, it was something that he couldn’t fathom.
“There had not been any government interference with the process or the way INEC worked. Once it was created, they were completely left alone to get on with the process of organising free, fair, credible elections in this country,” Onyeama stated.
On the issue of interference, Onyeama said in the past, he had met with some of the ambassadors to discuss issues regarding general narrative.
He said while government welcomed their engagement and appreciate their support, it would not tolerate any interferance.
“We acknowledge how important your engagement was in 2015 to help us to deliver, probably one of the freest elections, and the most transparent elections we have had in this country for a very long time.
“So, we welcome the international observers, your countries and all the other friends and maybe, not so friendly members, media, to be totally engaged.
“But what we have had cause to be concerned about, has also sometimes been just the way the engagement has been communicated. At the end of the day, we are a sovereign country and the line shouldn’t be crossed from exhorting us and wanting us to succeed and wanting this to be really democratic process, to dictating to us and really getting into the nitty-gritty of how we run the country, which is exclusively the responsibility of this government.
“And as friendly as countries may be, I think that people will be extremely surprised if countries were holding elections and we were telling you how to run your government and so forth,” Onyeama noted.
In attendance were the Inspector General of Police, Mohammad Abubakar Adamu; INEC Commissioner in charge of Planning, Monitoring and Strategy, Dr. Muhammed Mustapha Lecky, who represented the chairman, Mahmood Yakubu and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ahmed Abubakar.
Responding, Lecky said INEC would not fail in the dates it had given for the conduct of the elections.
“Perhaps, there is no better place to start by saying that we are committed and assuring that there would be elections this Saturday. That will happen.”
Lecky added that initially, INEC was committed to two main deliverables which were building and consolidating on progress made since 2011 and committed to openess, transparency and responsiveness.
He also said that was the reason INEC took responsibility for whatever happened and was engaging with key stakeholders to chart a way forward and address concerns that people may have.
He admitted that INEC may had underestimated the realities of preparing for such an extensive nationwide deployment for the 2019 general elections.
“We are taking on a number of things that other commission have not done before us. We started the progressive registration of Nigerians over 18 years old or those who may have missed the chance to register in previous elections since 2017.”
The Inspector General of Police assured the heads of diplomatic missions that there was nothing to worry about as far as the issue of security was concerned.
“The Nigeria Police and other security agencies, prepared for the election, we are ready for the election, we deployed for the election before the election was postponed,” Adamu said.