Jonathan Renews Push For Election Postponement As Hope Fades For Victory
Over the last two weeks, it had dawned on Mr. Jonathan that his hopes for winning re-election had dimmed significantly.
In the face of dwindling prospects for his re-election bid, President Goodluck Jonathan has embarked on a renewed three-pronged approach to scuttle the presidential election scheduled for February 14, several sources within the Presidency have disclosed. In a startling disclosure, our sources said Mr. Jonathan was willing to entertain a military take-over as one of his options.
Over the last two weeks, it had dawned on Mr. Jonathan that his hopes for winning re-election had dimmed significantly. Our sources said the president was deeply distressed to find out that several governors of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been working quietly with the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) to thwart his re-election. “Apart from Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Mr. President is no longer sure that he can count on the support of any of our other governors,” an insider in the Presidency said.
Another source said several PDP governors were aggrieved that Mr. Jonathan shortchanged or abandoned them during the party’s primaries. Several of them are reportedly paying the president back by standing aloof from his campaigns or actively mobilizing support for Muhammadu Buhari, the APC’s presidential candidate.
Our sources revealed that the president and hawks within his administration held a prolonged meeting yesterday and decided that the elections must be frustrated at all cost. Two of the sources said Mr. Jonathan intends to call a meeting of the Council of State for Thursday to persuade its members to back a proposal to postpone the polls. In place of an election, the president wants to set up “a government of national unity” to be headed by him for 18 months to two years. It is unclear whether the council would endorse the plan to reschedule elections. The council’s membership includes past heads of state and presidents, and some of them have been openly critical of Mr. Jonathan’s record.
One source stated that, as part of the broad strategy to scuttle the elections, the Presidency would refuse to pay the balance of the contract for the printing of ballot papers. The contract was awarded when the Nigerian currency, the naira, officially exchanged for N165 to a dollar. The source said the contractor, who claimed to be sourcing his foreign currency from the black market, is now seeking an adjustment to his contract. “The contractor wants to be paid N210 to a dollar, but President Jonathan and his team have refused to help the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) source the balance,” our source revealed.
Instead, the president and his team have advised INEC to look for a local Nigerian printer to print the ballot papers. INEC chairman Attahiru Jega and some of his top aides have balked at the idea of using a local printer. They argue that such an arrangement would be a perfect recipe for chaos, allowing the Presidency to use its considerable slush funds to illegally print duplicate papers with which to rig the election, as happened in several states in 2011.
A source at INEC told SaharaReporters that the commission’s chairman and some top officials suspect that the Jonathan administration was working seriously to undermine the commission’s credibility. “There is a lot of internal sabotage going on at INEC,” the source said. He disclosed that some resident electoral commissions were giving contradictory statements and reports about the commission’s preparedness for the February elections, without clearing with the headquarters. “Can you imagine also that even non-essential materials are being stolen from INEC offices, all in an effort to undermine the effort to hold elections,” said the source.
The Presidency’s second option is the recruitment of some members of the defunct National Conference to press the case for postponing the elections until Nigerians discuss, adopt and implement the resolutions of the confab. In order to push that agenda, the Presidency has released more than N2 billion to Raymond Dokpesi, the owner of Africa Independent Television (AIT), to coordinate the campaign for postponement of the elections. Using AIT and other willing media, Mr. Dokpesi is expected to press the case for constituting an interim national government headed by Mr. Jonathan. Earlier today in Abuja, Mr. Dokpesi’s AIT aired a live discussion by members of a “post national conference consultative committee”, to begin framing the case for postponement. The live program featured Bolaji Akinyemi, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Femi Okurounmu, who headed a nationwide consultation for the national conference, Maurice Iwu, a notorious former INEC chairman, Mike Ezekhome, a lawyer, G.G. Darah, a professor and close associate of jailed former Governor James Ibori of Delta State, and Balarabe Musa, a former governor of Kaduna State whose involvement is perhaps the only surprise.
Dokpesi’s group is expected to use its huge war chest to argue that elections are untenable because of INEC’s questionable preparedness as well as the tense security situation in Nigeria’s northeast.
The Presidency’s third option is the possible use of the Nigerian military to scuttle the election. Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, General Tobiah Minimah, is reportedly a key player in executing the military option. One source reported that General Minimah, who is from President Jonathan’s Niger Delta region, was initially reluctant, but eventually signed up for the scheme to use the military to intervene should the elections proceed and not go President Jonathan’s way.
Our sources said the president was irate that INEC chairman, Mr. Jega, had been avoiding meetings with him and his presidential aides. “Professor Jega has maintained that he wants to be seen to have conducted a free and transparent election, even if imperfect. He has therefore maintained that there is no point going to Aso Rock to hold meetings exclusively with Mr. President, who is a candidate, and the president’s team,” one source close to Mr. Jega said.
Our Presidency sources disclosed that Mr. Jonathan had started looking for ways to remove the INEC chairman from office. “If they succeed in postponing the elections, the president will either suspend Prof. Jega, the way he did to former Central Bank Governor [Sanusi Lamido Sanusi] or ask him to go on compulsory leave pending the end of his tenure.”
While SaharaReporters was about to publish this report, several sources told our reporters that President Jonathan and his co-travelers have moved to the courts as a way of scuttling the elections, at least five court cases have been filed to either postpone the elections and disqualify the APC candidate , Muhammad Buhari.
A reliable source told our team of investigators that President Jonathan is shopping for a federal high court judge to scuttle the elections with a court order in the next few hours.