Prominent northern groups and individuals on Friday opposed calls for the postponement of the forthcoming general elections while they also vowed to resist any attempt by the Federal Government to sack Professor Attahiru Jega as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In separate interviews with SUNDAY PUNCH, those who spoke lambasted the Southern Nigeria Peoples Assembly led by Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, for seeking the postponement of the polls.
They also condemned the Assembly’s call for the sacking and arrest of Jega for allegedly conniving with northern leaders to rig President Goodluck Jonathan out of office.
The SNPA, at a press conference on Thursday, threatened that elections would not hold in the southern part of the country should the commission decide to go ahead with the exercise as scheduled.
However, the apex northern socio-political group, Arewa Consultative Forum, said it might be forced to push for a boycott of the elections in the North if it was shifted.
A National Executive Council member of the ACF, Mohammed Abdulrahman, said, “Any attempt by the Federal Government, colluding with the PDP, to postpone the elections or sack Prof. Attahiru Jega and replace him with a pliant alternative will only increase the challenges this current administration under President Jonathan is facing.
“The North may boycott the election if it is shifted. Jega has said it several times that INEC is ready to conduct the elections.”
Corroborating Abdulrahman, the past National Publicity Secretary of the ACF, Mr. Anthony Sani, warned Nigerians not to rule out the possibility of the removal of Jega, just as the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (now the Emir of Kano), Lamido Sanusi, was removed from office.
Sani said, “When they say Prof. Jega should be sacked because there have been allegations that there is connivance between INEC and northerners to rig President Jonathan out of office, I begin to wonder how northerners, who bring up the rear in almost everything under the sun, would be able to outsmart the South in that regard.”
Similarly, the NEF on Friday said it was surprised that the Presidency had become jittery over the elections.
The Deputy Chairman of the Maitama Sule-led forum, Dr. Paul Unongo, said the INEC Chairman supervised the 2011 election and declared Jonathan the winner and Buhari the loser despite that Jega is of northern origin like the latter.
He also queried why the PDP and the Presidency had not called for the postponement of the elections since INEC made the time-table public over one year ago.
Similarly, the National Coordinator, Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, described as “insidious and self-serving” the southern leaders’ call for Jega’s resignation.
He stated that Jega could not be forcefully removed, as the Electoral Law was clear on his appointment.
“Even the National Assembly cannot remove him without two-thirds majority. The President has no power to remove him and he cannot try what he tried with (former Central Bank of Nigeria Governor) Lamido Sanusi by saying they are suspending him. He has no right to even suspend him,” Mohammed stated.
In the same vein, the National President, Arewa Youths Consultative Forum, Mr. Yerima Shettima, said calls for poll postponement were strange.
He said, “If INEC says it is prepared, then the Federal Government should allow the commission to go ahead with the elections. Let us remember that whoever triggers any tension does so at the expense of the entire nation.
Similarly, the Tanko Yakassai-led Northern Elders Counci said no one could sack Jega apart from the National Assembly.
Yakassai said, “They had better read the constitution; Jega can only resign on his own. The provision in the constitution for the removal of the chairman of the commission is clear. The Senate can begin the process, but they cannot tell him to resign.
Meanwhile, the British High Commission told SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday that it was in support of credible elections in Nigeria. The High Commission’s press officer, Edward Dunn, said it was willing to work with the Federal Government to achieve this.
He said, “We welcome the recent signing of the Abuja Accord and other similar commitments around the country. We call on all political parties, security forces and other actors to do everything possible to ensure Nigerians are able to exercise their democratic rights, free from the threat of violence.”