TWENTY-ELEVEN AND TWENTY-FIFTEEN general elections in Nigeria were postponed at great cost to the people and the nation. In similar vein and most devastating, once again, Nigeria’s extant Chairman, National Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, announced the postponement of the 2019 general elections, five hours before commencement, Saturday, February 16, presidential and national legislative elections – a record third consecutive time.
INEC’s shocking announcement of the postponement of the presidential election, for what the electoral body described as “logistics problems”, began a political gloomy Saturday, February 16, for Nigerians. Details of what the “logistics problems” where were not given by INEC. INEC statement that followed the announcement said: “The Commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2 p.m on Saturday, February 16, 2019, at the Abuja International Conference Centre”.
INEC said: “Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the Commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible”. The electoral body rescheduled the presidential and national legislative elections to February 23; while the governorship and state legislative elections rescheduled to March 9.
Preparatory to the general elections, at different fora and slightest opportunity – during visits to his office by foreign government representatives and elections observers, and at public engagements, Yakubu, audaciously, restated INEC’s preparations for Nigeria’s 2019 general elections. He repeatedly gave the impression that INEC’s preparedness for the elections would produce a landmark – free, fair and credible elections.
Yakubu re-assured that the electoral umpire, under his watch, was on top of the situation, and was not envisaging any possibility of postponing the general elections. Most striking was Yakubu’s interview with Osasu Igbinedion of Osasu Show. He was asked if INEC would have any reason to postpone the election. Yakubu said INEC had never contemplated postponing the election and, emphatically, said the elections would not be postponed.
Nigerians and international community, unquestionably, were disillusioned when they woke-up to the shocking announcement by Yakubu, that the general elections were no longer going to hold as earlier scheduled – February 16 and March 2. Nigerians began a gloomy Saturday, February 16, politically, with the announcement of the postponement of the elections. The nation, its people, business activities and social life in the country ran into confusion.
INEC said the postponement of the elections was a “difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy”. The two contending political parties in the general elections – the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are no longer taking INEC for its words. They now see INEC and its Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu as a betrayal.
Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in a statement he personally issued, Saturday, in Yola, urged Nigerians not to react negatively to the postponement with violence. He urged them to be patient over INEC’s decision to shift the elections by one week. Abubakar stirred them to come out to vote on the rescheduled dates.
He said that the All Progressives Congress, APC, had more than enough time and money to prepare for the elections and Nigerians were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled, February 16.
Abubakar’s words: “This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob.” And the postponement was to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate to ensure that the turnout is low on the rescheduled date. He said: “Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, Feb. 23 and March respectively.”
Abubakar said the plan was to provoke the public to negative reaction, then the ruling party would use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts. “As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes”.
“Maintain the peace and be law abiding. Do not react to this provocation with anger, violence or any action that might be exploited by those who do not want this election to hold. Remain calm. We will overcome this. You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny”. Abubakar urged.
He added: “Please come out to vote on Saturday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, March 9 respectively. Frustrate those who do not want this election to hold by coming out in very large numbers. That is the best antidote to their plans,’’
Festus Keyamo, Director, Strategic Communications, APC presidential campaign council, issued a statement, Saturday, saying: “We condemn and deprecate this tardiness of the electoral umpire in the strongest terms possible. He said they received the news of the postponement with “great disappointment and disillusionment’’, but urged party supporters to remain resolute, patient and determined.
Keyamo said: “President Muhammadu Buhari had since cooperated fully with INEC by ensuring everything it demanded to conduct free and fair elections were promptly made available to it. This news is therefore a huge disappointment to us and to our teeming supporters nationwide and around the world, many of whom have come into the country to exercise their franchise”.
“We do hope that INEC will remain neutral and impartial in this process as the rumour mill is agog with the suggestion that this postponement has been orchestrated in collusion with the main opposition, the PDP, that was never ready for this election. We note that all the major credible demographic projections have predicted a defeat of the PDP and it seriously needed this breather to orchestrate more devious strategies to try and halt President Buhari’s momentum”, Keyamo’s statement added.
Analysts of the situation attributed “strong exhibition of institutional incompetence” to INEC’s reason for postponing of the elections. Videos clips and comments of reactions of the general public on the rescheduled general elections inundated the social media – describing INEC’s action in various terms — indicating total nonacceptance of the postponement of the elections. The last is yet to be heard of INEC’s motive in postponing the general elections.