The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is by the look of things overwhelmed to shift the general elections after months of chest-thumping on its preparedness to have a far better outing than the last four years. By shifting the polls, INEC has left the electorate stunned, angry and disappointed.
After a long and intriguing wait up to the eve of the much-anticipated election, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, declared a postponement of the election by one week, few hours to commencement, citing logistics and operational concerns.
He told newsmen at the commission’s headquarters after meeting with the National Commissioners, that the postponement was inevitable “following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections”.
“Consequently,” he said, “the commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019.
“Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and FCT Area Council election is rescheduled to Saturday, 9th March 2019”.
Though the sudden change of plans shocked the nation, signs that the election would be postponed resonated days before the election. There were the battle cries between the All Progressives Congress (APC) led federal government and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on plots to scuttle the election and the disposition of some APC members, especially the Kaduna state governor over the measure of intervention by the international community in the polls. The most intriguing pointer to possible shift of the polls had emerged with the sequence of fire outbreaks at INEC offices in Abia, Plateau and Anambra States in a space of 12 days, inspite of assurances by the police.
Two other incidents that also raised concerns were the attack on the convoy of the Borno State governor, Kassim Shettima as well as the mayhem on the eve of the election in Kajuru, Kaduna State where 66 people were allegedly killed.
Much as the security issues are equally plausible, we want to concern ourselves with INEC’s official grounds of logistics for the postponement amidst claims that materials arrived states for the election less than 12 hours to the election.
As INEC fought to assure the nation of plans to fill the gulf in states where arsons took place, the opposition parties were also accusing it of hoarding the presidential and senatorial elections result sheets. There is also the legal war to insert, in certain states, APC candidates on the ballot as well as reports that materials sent to some states were mixed up with other states.
In all, security and logistical problems have been with us for sometimes now. For instance, the National Assembly elections scheduled for April 2, 2011 had commenced in states such as Lagos, Kaduna, Kebbi, Delta, Zamfara and Enugu when the former INEC chairman, Attahiru Jega, announced its postponement over difficulties relating to deployment of electoral materials. Four years later, Jega would move the elections again, this time by six weeks following pressure from the security chiefs who said they needed time to diminish Boko Haram. Just like in Jega’s tenure, Prof. Yakubu had assured of INEC’s readiness for the election until the postponement was announced.
Elections are never cheap, especially when they are cancelled almost midway in climes like Nigeria where all economic and social activities are suspended for the election. For this election, schools were closed, offices, which do business on Saturdays were locked, revenues lost. The sacrifice for such would have been the conduct of the election. The time and resources also put in by political parties and foreign observers for the election is almost unquantifiable.
In this regard, we urge INEC to correct all the anomalies before the next date and admonish all the stakeholders in the electoral process to play by the rules to enable Nigeria scale through another peaceful and rancor-free election.