By Rotimi Akinwunmi and Chesa Chesa:
• We Won’t Support It, Says PDP
• Report Unfounded –Presidency
Barely four years after Nigerians, through the deft moves of their representatives in the National Assembly (NASS) shot down former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s plot to have his tenure elongated, a similar agenda is being contemplated.
It emerged mid last week that this time around, associates of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan are said to be the ones pushing for the postponement of the 2011 general election.
Sources said they have started some covert moves aimed at ensuring that the poll is extended, thereby sending signal to those who are looking forward to next year’s general election to do so with caution.
Some powerful politicians, including those holding the levers of power in Aso Rock are said to be on top of the covert plot to get the 2011 election postponed.
Incidentally, Sunday Independent has got wind of how the major actors in the clamour for postponement of the much-anticipated 2011election want to carry out the agenda.
From the camp of the Acting President came feelers that there is not enough time to prepare for the election next year even though several politicians are warming up for the exercise.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the Acting President on Media, Imma Niboro, told Sunday Independent that any talk of tenure extension is unfounded and a wicked lie.
However, part of the grand plot to shift the poll is to get the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) chairman, Professor Maurice Iwu out of office and replace him with a former INEC top shot, Dr. Ishmael Igbani.
We gathered that on Igbani’s appointment, he would be compelled to make a statement that the time was too short to conduct credible election and that there was so much rot in the system which needed to be cleaned up.
The move has already caused a division among the governors.
While the governors serving their second term and are interested in the Presidency are said to be kicking against the plot, those in their first term in office seem to be supportive of the plan.
Sunday Independent gathered that although some National Assembly members seem also to have bought into the agenda, the Senate leadership is not disposed towards the idea, with the Senate President, David Mark, said to be strongly opposed to it. However, many of his colleagues, particularly those not sure of getting return ticket, are said to be signing on to the plot.
Sunday Independent gathered that the Acting President may have received the support of the international community, particularly the United States and Britain over this development. Both countries believe that tinkering with the election timetable, if only to make its outcome more credible and democracy enduring, would not be a bad idea.
Aso Rock, it was also learnt, was responsible for selling that idea to the international community, claiming it is part of its plan to strengthen democracy. Preparation of the agenda are also using the Electoral Reform Bill to push for the international community’s support.
Jonathan was livid and greatly upset when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently released its tentative time-table for the primaries and had openly complained that it would overheat the polity, source said.
However, sources said the real reason for the Acting President’s anger was that he feared that the time-table would affect the elongation gambit.
A two-term Northern governor who spoke with Sunday Independent at the weekend said they are watching. “The power game is becoming interesting. We have heard about the plan, but we are watching. When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. That is the much I can say now,” he said.
A senator from the Southeast who would not want to be named said the plot to sack Iwu is based on the fact that “he is unpredictable.”
His words: “In 2007, Obasanjo wanted him to postpone the election but Iwu refused. These people are afraid that if Iwu is still on the saddle he would truncate their plan. Afterall, if he can defy Obasanjo, who is Jonathan?”
But Aso Rock on Friday denied such plot.
Niboro added: “Any one talking about that wants to cause instability in the country. This administration will not take kindly to any such plan.”
Regardless, the ruling PDP has said that any plot to shift conduct of 2011 polls to suit the whims and caprices of some politicians, no matter how highly placed, will not receive the party’s support.
Investigations at the PDP secretariat on Friday revealed that the leadership had taken a decision that any attempt by any group to truncate or postpone the poll will not receive the support of the party.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Rufai Ahmed Alkali, said the party has commenced internal preparation towards winning the support of the electorate when the electoral umpire – INEC– gives its nod to parties to openly canvass for people’s vote.
He noted that the idea of using surreptitious means to disrupt the conduct of the election can only be contemplated by political parties that are unsure of what awaits them at the poll.
The PDP, he said, has a big stake in Nigeria, and therefore, will not take part in any act that will derail the democratic experience in the country.
He added that the PDP is poised to contest and win the next year’s election fairly, saying “any insinuation of confusion towards truncating the election can never come from the party.”
The PDP he said, is at the heart of the much canvassed Electoral Reform, saying the idea was put into motion by the PDP-led government and will be safely midwife and delivered to Nigerians even before the 2011 elections are held.
However, Sunday Independent gathered that moves are being made by some politicians to ensure that the 2011 general elections are not held on time to prevent the swearing-in of another President by May 29, 2011, preferring however, that a transition government be put in place to handle the conduct of the general election.
Reasons for the clamour for transitional government is not yet clear, but it was gathered that palpable fear is mounting among politicians over possibility of the ruling PDP using state power to perpetuate itself in power.
The INEC had on Tuesday announced that the 2011 elections could hold in January or April, depending on the take of the National Assembly (NASS) whose responsibility it is to amend the Electoral Law.
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