In what has been politely described as “a most inconsiderate and disrespectful manner”, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the 2019 Presidential elections with less than six hours to go. The announcement was made in the wee hours of the night when most decent law abiding Nigerians would be expected to be asleep. Previously at several interviews and public forums top INEC officials had smugly assured Nigerians that the Presidential poll wouldn’t be postponed for any reason. They repeatedly re-iterated their 100% preparedness to both the Nigerian electorate and the International Community. Their volte-face should really come as no surprise.
Postponing elections is becoming an integral part of INEC’s modus operandi, and it happens with neither cogent explanation nor contrite apology. Considering the lack of notice, this postponement can best be described as a national disgrace and international embarrassment. In preparation for voting the world was alerted, international observers arrived, a curfew imposed, movement restricted, borders shut, schools closed, a public holiday declared, and flight schedules disrupted.
Virtually all economic activities were made to shut down. The last minute nature of the postponement indicates a lack of foresight and little regard for the lives and resources of the electorate. The buck must stop somewhere and that is at the table of the INEC Chairman who said the postponement was in order to “afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections…” The truth is that there is clear evidence that under his watch Nigerian elections have become increasingly deficient in quality! The INEC Chairman seems reticent to use words of true contrition such as “sorry” or “apologize” and is yet to give cogent reasons for the postponement.
The timing of the announcement at approximately 2.45am less than six hours before voting was scheduled to commence was ridiculous in the extreme. In truly democratic nations the citizens are the nation, but in Nigeria it’s the opposite, citizens are routinely treated with utmost distain by those in authority. The matter has already become politicized, and as is the norm in these days of social media and fake news, all sorts of unsubstantiated allegations are flying around. Quite expectedly opposition parties claim that the postponement was pre-meditated and carefully planned to break their resolve and their finances, confuse voters, and reduce participation. There is no denying that a lot of people who travelled this time, will decide against incurring the unnecessary expense and taking the risk all over again.
Astoundingly after four years of planning and preparation all the INEC Chairman could say was; “after a careful review of the implementation of its logistical and operational plan and the determination to conduct free and fair elections the Commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible”. The inference is clear, his plans and strategy which cost billions of Naira have failed and Nigerians will bear the unstated costs and the burdens.
Indisputably the cost of the postponement puts a credibility question on Nigeria as an investment destination. The international community has once again seen how Nigeria, a nation in which the majority of citizens live below the international poverty line, squanders its lean resources. With all the clear evidence of shameful in virtually every sphere of Nigerian life citizens are best advised to stop wasting their shame. INEC officials feel no shame, those in positions of authority feel no shame, and there is no guarantee that this type of shameful incident will never re-occur.
The whole sordid affair is a fiasco created by paid agents of government who failed to protect INEC facilities and allowed sensitive materials to go “missing”. INEC isn’t really Independent because they depend heavily upon government agencies such as the Central Bank where materials are kept, Security Personnel who guard INEC Offices and materials, and the Nigerian Air-force who transport materials. But they are to blame for adopting and insisting upon an antiquated, cumbersome, inefficient, and unreliable method of casting and collating votes. As if postponing voting was not controversial enough, INEC announced that Campaigning remain closed even though under the provisions of the electoral law campaigning is allowed up to 24 hours to voting.
The questions which INEC need to provide the public with are: what is the projected cost of the postponement? How will postponing voting lead to results being more readily accepted? Why wait until 2.30am when most decent Nigerians have gone to bed? What were the logistical issues? Which states were affected? What will happen to sensitive ballot material already deployed? Who guarantees their safety and security? How can loopholes which couldn’t be covered in four years, be covered in seven days? Most importantly since the election wasn’t postponed for financial reasons, political interference, or security reasons, on what basis was the nation put to all the cost and inconvenience?