Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan stands by his commitment to deploy security forces across the country for the protection of voters and to ensure free and transparent elections next year, according to presidential spokesman Reuben Abati.
He says Jonathan vowed not to allow anyone who aims for the country’s disintegration to succeed regardless of their political affiliation.
“The whole idea of ensuring full security is to make sure that there is no breakdown of law and order. He was promising Nigerians and the international community that the elections next year will also be free and fair, peaceful, transparent and credible,” said Abati. “Security measures taken have succeeded in ensuring peace and stability during all the various electoral processes that have been conducted under his watch.”
Speaking at an interfaith conference on Monday attended by both Muslims and Christians, President Jonathan expressed concern about “doomsday preachers” predicting chaos and violence in the run up to next year’s general election.
Jonathan dismissed their predictions vowing no plots will succeed, according to Abati.
Local media quoted Jonathan as promising to ensure a transparent vote devoid of violence.
“Nigeria will not disintegrate; we will not fail. We will surely get over our challenges and become even a stronger nation…I once again assure Nigerians and the international community that the 2015 elections will come and go and Nigeria will stand stronger. The Nigerians I know and interact with every day are only asking for one thing in the election, transparency, free and fair conduct,” Jonathan was quoted as saying.
But critics say the heavy deployment of security forces in recent gubernatorial elections were aimed to intimidate and harass the opposition to protect the dominance of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Some senior labor organization officials have also expressed concern about the deployment of security forces to protect civilians during recent elections.
Abati rejected criticisms that the enhanced security would prevent people from voting or intimidate opponents of the ruling PDP.
“That is not true, because the presence of the military during elections has not intimidated anybody and the president made this clear. The soldiers do not conduct elections. Their job is just to prevent the breakdown of law and order and their presence is mere complementary to the efforts of the police and other security agencies who are traditionally in charge of security,” said Abati.
"The effectiveness of this approach is measurable,” said Abati. “President Jonathan’s administration has conducted elections in various states of the federation, and some of those elections have also been lost by the ruling party.”
He says opposition groups only criticize the deployment of troops when they lose elections, but will commend the same efforts when they win gubernatorial elections.