The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that the shift in dates of the general elections from February to March saved the nation and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a monumental embarrassment.
The party in a statement yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, added that rather than condemnation, initiators of the shift in the dates for the elections out to be commended.
According to the ruling party, if held in February as initially scheduled, “the elections would have been chaotic and far from fair and credible, as over 23 million registered voters would have been disenfranchised for no fault of theirs”.
The statement continued: “The prevalent huge deficit in the distribution of the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) has shown that the development rather saved the nation and the INEC a huge embarrassment.
“The fact that millions of Nigerians are still struggling to receive their PVCs a week after the February 14 date clearly shows that the commission would have been thoroughly embarrassed had it gone ahead with the elections on that day.
“As at February 7, a week to the rescheduled elections, the Chairman of the INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, announced that only 45, 829, 808 representing 66.58 percent of the total number of registered voters have received their PVCs. INEC’s records also showed that 1.3 million cards were yet to be delivered by the printers, while 1.1 million stolen cards were yet to be replaced as at that date.
“Whereas the INEC gave the impressions that all processes, including the PVC distribution will be perfected before February 14, it is disturbing that a week after that date, millions of Nigerians are still struggling to receive their cards which confirms the fears that the commission was not truly ready for the elections in February in spite of its posturing.
“Also, had the commission gone ahead with the polls on February 14, non-indigenes who were being denied their PVCs in select states such as Lagos and Kano would also have been disenfranchised. The shift gave the INEC the time to tackle the issue, which led to the sacking of two of its culpable adhoc staff members in Lagos State.
“Furthermore, while briefing the Senate on Wednesday, the INEC Chairman had acknowledged that the postponement was a blessing in disguise which affords the commission and other stakeholders an ample opportunity to perfect all processes for credible elections.
“In Prof Jega’s words, ‘the period of extension has offered us an opportunity to further perfect the electoral process for the delivery of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections to the satisfaction of the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. We hope that all stakeholders will continue to join hands with the commission to turn this disappointment into a blessing to our country. We believe that the effective utilization of this period of extension will enable the INEC to have a flawless and near perfect conduct of elections’.
“We note that what is paramount for our nation at this point remains the conduct of credible, free and fair elections where all registered voters are given equal opportunity to exercise their franchise. We, therefore, urge all stakeholders to put the overall interest of the nation ahead of other considerations and desist from making unguarded statements or jumping into hasty conclusions regarding the preparations for the general elections”.
The PDP also restated its readiness for the rescheduled elections, adding that with its array of credible candidates, numerous achievements and support of Nigerians, it was assured of emerging victorious at the polls.