Ruling party: We are not against it, insists on test-run
US ambassador backs use of card readers as Odinkalu backs deployment of troops
Chuks Okocha , Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Damilola Oyedele in Abujaâ€¨
The All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday said the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) public avowal to oppose the use of Card Readers in this month’s rescheduled election has justified its accusations that the ruling party was doing all in its powers to either prevent the election from holding or to rig it.
In a swift reaction, the PDP said it was not against the use of the Card Readers, but wants it tested to avoid mass disenfranchisement of eligible voters and Nigerians being used as guinea pig.
The APC in a statement issued in Lagos on Thursday and signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, described as very curious the fact that the PDP that rushed to the press to deny it claims quickly turned around to confirm them.
‘’At the press conference we addressed on Wednesday, which rattled the PDP and the Jonathan administration so much, we listed the conditionalities of the PDP/Jonathan administration for holding the election: No PVCs, No Card Readers, No Jega and the fact that they want the military deployed to harass and intimidate voters.
‘’We mentioned ‘Card Readers’ at least three times during the press conference, and said they (PDP/Jonathan administration are doing everything possible to sabotage the machine and prevent its use.
‘’Both the spokesmen for the PDP and the Jonathan campaign organisation rushed to the press to deny any such ‘reprehensible’ plan. But a few hours later, the spokesman for the campaign organisation told an incredulous country that they would oppose the use of Card Reader, apparently after the spokesmen were overruled by their party. Obviously, these men are outsiders in their own party and it is now obvious that the opposition knows more about the inner workings of their party than they do,’’ it said.
It said contrary to the claim by the PDP, Nigerians are ready for a free, fair and credible elections to be made possible by the use of the Card Readers, and will massively resist any move to dump the machine.
‘’Nigerians have sacrificed all they can to obtain their PVCs, which is now their most-prized possession. They have also hailed the plan by INEC to use the Card Reader to give Nigeria credible polls. Only dishonest politicians, those who plan to rig, those who have engaged in a massive purchase of PVCs and those who have something to hide are opposed to the use of the machine.’’
“For the avoidance of doubt, our party is ready for any tool, including the Card Reader, that will ensure that the votes of Nigerians will count in the forthcoming election. In this regard, we sincerely hope that the nationwide tests of the Card Reader to be carried out this week by INEC will not be sabotaged by those opposed to the machine. The Card Reader has been demonstrated to work, including at the Senate, and no one must come out to tell Nigerians anything to the contrary.
APC thanked Nigerians, both within and outside the government, for their efforts in keeping a close eye on those planning to sabotage the forthcoming polls, imploring them not to relent since eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
However, the PDP said because of its structures and presence in the 9,572 wards and 774 local governments in the country that it would not engage in buying of the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) and that President Goodluck Jonathan would not bribe voters or buy the PVCs to enable it win the March 28 presidential elections.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, the Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said: “The PDP position as a party as regards the Card Readers is that it must be tested and perfected before being deployed for the elections.”
Continuing on the PDP’s position on the card readers, he said: “ Not at all. You know this is the first time that INEC is going to try this technology. I think that this misinformation by APC must be corrected. The PDP is not against Card Readers. The PDP believes that INEC should test it and it should be in perfect condition. So that we don’t run into problems. So that on that day we don’t have problems of it working in some areas and in other areas it won’t work. I mean these are human feelings across not just PDP but the entire country.
“Since it is the first time we will adopt this technology, it should be in perfect condition so that people will not have cause to complain. This is the position of the party and I want to make it clear to Nigerians that the PDP is not against the Card Reader but we urge INEC to test run them so that they will be in perfect condition on the day of election,” Secondus explained.
On the position of the party on INEC’s claim that over 80 per cent of the PVCs had been distributed, Secondus said: “It is a welcome development and it shows that many peoples would have been disenfranchised if the elections were held before rescheduling. What it means now is that more eligible voters would have the opportunity to vote during the elections.
“This is in support of our earlier position that INEC was not quite ready for the elections,” he said, while expressing the party’s confidence on Prof. Attahiru Jega’s leadership of INEC.
Secondus who advised voters not to sell their PVCs, said it would be against their fundamental rights and conscience to sell their PVCs during the elections.
He expressed optimism that the PDP and its presidential candidate, President Jonathan, would emerge victorious during the March 28 presidential elections because the party has a well mobilised wards throughout the 9,572 wards of the federation and 774 local government areas.
Meanwhile, the Ambassador of the United States to Nigeria, Mr. James F. Entwistle, has lauded the anticipated use of Card Readers for the elections by INEC.
Entwistle, speaking at a conference on Promoting Peaceful and Credible 2015 Elections organised by the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association in Abuja yesterday, said INEC had the support of America on the use of Card Readers for the election.
Entwistle noted that he had been vocal on the need for peaceful and credible polls because of Nigeria’s strategic importance in the US-Africa policy. He added that Nigeria and the US also share the characteristic of being huge democracies.
“Nigerians should ask the candidates to take the non-violence pledge. Genuine change of the electoral process is possible in Nigeria because it happened in America. 50 years ago, African-Americans protested to have the right to vote. Today, an African-American is the President of America,” he said.
The envoy emphasised that violence does not play a positive role in the democratic process, rather issue-based campaign would strengthen the process.
He called on all the contestants in the forthcoming elections to accept the outcomes in good faith and seek redress for their grievances through the courts instead of resorting to or encouraging violence.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Professor Chidi Odinkalu, again backed the deployment of soldiers to provide security during the elections.
Odinkalu, who delivered the keynote address at the occasion, berated those calling for the exclusion of soldiers from ensuring peace during the polls.
The presence of soldiers, he explained, would be necessary to forestall the breakdown of law and order in all parts of the country.
“Soldiers must be part of the elections because Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have gone off in 24 states of the country. The security situation in the country is not limited to the North. The soldiers are there to protect the people, not to be part of elections. We must have a ground rule as to their work, but shutting soldiers in the barracks is not an option’, Odinkalu said.
He also cautioned against further postponement of the polls noting that such development can degenerate into an unmanageable conflict which would pitch the people against the state.
He appealed to politicians to stop the attacks on INEC through anti-INEC advertorials which he described as part of a groundwork to discredit the elections.
Odinkalu lamented that there has been violence ahead of the 2015 polls, which have been adjudged the most vibrant.
He, however, noted that the country has made appreciable progress in its democratic processes.
“In 2007, 86 per cent of the results were contested in court. This figure reduced to 51 per cent in 2011, representing a 35 per cent progress. We have to be a little more confident and positive because we are making progress,” he said.