Many Nigerians have reacted over the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly (NASS) elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). While some have expressed shock and disappointment, others see it as a welcome development that will enable the electoral umpire conduct proper elections. Yet others see it as a distraction and a way of discouraging people from voting.
Our correspondents in the states report that many people who had stocked their houses with foodstuff and fuel for their generators in preparation for the elections said they were disappointed when they woke up to hear that the elections had been postponed.
Some Nigerians who travelled for the purpose of casting their votes expressed disappointment over the postponement and some of expressed unwillingness to come back to their locations and go for the elections next week.
Also, those who postponed their occasions because of the election expressed disappointment, as they said next Saturday was no longer a good date for them.
Oladeji Kazeem who travelled to Lagos from Ondo State for the elections said, “INEC had four years to prepare for these elections, why postponing it barely four hours to the elections. It is unfair and it means our leaders do not have respect for the people, and that is why they take decisions anyhow. The truth is that I cannot travel down here again next week for the same elections, and that means my vote is lost, and I am sure there are many other people who will not travel again for the elections.”
In Kano, Alhaji Murtala Ibrahim, a federal civil servant told Daily Trust on Sunday that, “Now that the elections have been postponed, I have no option than to go back to Abuja tomorrow (Monday) and then return to Kano on Thursday for the elections. I cannot stay for a week in Kano because of the bulky work that awaits me in the office.
“I have already exhausted all my savings. Therefore, I must source for money to transport myself back to Abuja, and when I go there, I must also look for money to come back to Kano next week.
“Honestly, I am not happy with this development, but I have no option than source money to come back next week and cast my vote. It is my right, and I wanted to vote for my candidates.”
Alhaji Aminu Isa, who also travelled to Kano from Abuja for the elections, said, “I saved over N20,000 for these elections, but unfortunately, they were postponed. Now I have to source for another N20,000 or less to take care of my expenses during the elections.”
Robert Owiocho, who travelled to his village in Otukpo Local Government Area of Benue State for the exercise, said he was really sad about the development which in his estimation had impacted negatively on his finances.
Similarly, Charity Ali, who travelled from Abuja to Benue to cast her vote, lamented that, “I just managed to come home for this exercise. I paid over N3,500 as transport fare to get to my village, and if I add other expenses, I would have spent nothing less than N20,000 just to perform my civic duty. For me, it is over because I won’t come back next week.”
In Kaduna, Engr. Abdulrasheed Babalola, said, “I came in from Akwa Ibom where I work so that I’ll be able to vote. But look at how it turned out. As I speak with you, I’ll be going back tomorrow (today) because my flight is for afternoon.
“I really want to vote in the presidential election. But I don’t know if I’ll be able to return next week for the election. It’s under probability.
Raphael Onoja, who travelled from Abuja to Kaduna expressed disappointment over the postponement, saying his business back in the FCT had been badly affected.
“It’s really sad that INEC took such a decision. I don’t know what they want us to do, but as Nigerians, we will be patient. I’ll stay back until I make sure I vote on Saturday. I have to make that sacrifice as a Nigerian,” Onoja said.
Similarly, Adamu Uba, from Gombe State who is based in Abuja, said, “My office gave me just five days leave to come home where I registered to cast my vote, unfortunately the elections were shifted, and for now, I don’t know my fate.”
In Iyana-Ipaja/Oshodi, Lagos, Abubakar Mohammed said, “It was abrupt and it gives an impression that there is something fishy, and whether they like it or not, I will vote the candidate of my choice whenever INEC is ready to conduct the elections.”
Another trader at Agege, Mr. Salaudeen Tijjani, said the postponement was “not good for our democracy because it is a way of inconveniencing the voters.
“I was shocked that INEC could wait until four hours to the elections before announcing a postponement. It means they do not care for the people, and it shows how wasteful we can be as a nation. Individuals and government have spent lots of money in preparation for the elections, what happens to all of those monies, the extra travel expenses and the risks involved, among others.”
Binta Alkali, an entrepreneur, described the postponement as a shock and the height of gross incompetence on the part of INEC, saying as a result of the change, a lot of people had lost faith in the system and would not bother voting next week.
However, an okada rider in Ikeja, Mr. Dennis Donald, described the postponement as a blessing in disguise, saying it would help INEC to reinforce and block every loophole that could be used to rig the elections.
Mama Blessing, a vegetable seller, said the postponement afforded her the opportunity to sell the vegetables she could not sell on Friday.
In the same vein, Sheriff Olutusin, a printer and journalist, said the postponement was the best design by INEC and to the entire country.
“With this shift, a lot of lacuna will be corrected if we don’t want crises. For instance, I am supposed to be an elections observer, and as at 7pm on Friday, we were yet to receive our accreditation documents. Most of the party agents were yet to be accredited as at 10pm on Friday. Also, INEC officials short-changed the ad hoc staff as they brought those that didn’t go through the training. So, I think, postponing the elections is good.”
Our reporter in Edo observed that snack sellers and food vendors were already at the centres before getting to know that the elections had been postponed.
One of the food vendors, Theresa Igbinosa, lamented that she borrowed N50,000 to prepare the food. She said she woke up as early as 2am to prepare the food, hoping that she would smile home at the end of day but was disappointed with the postponement.
Another food seller, Osasuwa Faith, lamented that the poor masses in the country were not considered in decision making.
She said, “How can they postpone the elections this morning when we had already prepared the food? We were hoping for good sales, but we are all disappointed and speechless.”
Malam Yusuf Alasan, a fire wood seller in Badawa quarters, Kano, expressed disappointment with the Federal Government for postponing the polls.
He said, “It is better to conduct the elections so that people will go about their normal businesses. Although I am not happy, but I equally believe that INEC will never postpone the elections without a concrete reason. So I am appealing to Nigerians to bear with INEC over the unfortunate postponement. We should appreciate the fact that the postponement is just for one week.”
In Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, Moses Osheidu, who expressed sadness over the development, said he was already getting set for his polling unit to exercise his franchise when he learnt about the postponement.
He said INEC might be up with some sinister motives after repeated assurances given by the umpire about its readiness to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
Another voter who identified himself as Mr. Adamu, said he travelled to the state capital where he registered in order to exercise his franchise but was sad the exercise was postponed.
“My predicament now is the cost of going and then coming back again. There is no money and we are being made to make unnecessary expenses just to exercise our franchise,” he lamented.
Onogwu Daniel expressed concern about the safety of the sensitive materials that had been distributed to the registration areas across the state in view of the attacks on INEC offices in some parts of the country.
The postponement is said to have begun to instill apathy in the thousands of IDPs resident in Maiduguri who have been travelling to their relatively secure native local government areas to exercise their franchise.
They had registered as eligible voters at home before the Boko Haram insurgency chased them out to camps and other communities in Maiduguri.
Over the last couple of days, IDPs have been travelling either to the eight specialised voting centres announced by INEC for those from highly insecure local government areas or to their home local government areas for the elections, in the case of those whose areas are relatively secure.
By 8pm of Saturday, February 26, Daily Trust on Sunday observed groups of hundreds of IDPs along Bama and Baga roads waiting for vehicles to transport them home, especially to Monguno, Gubio, Magumeri, Bama, Konduga and Gwoza.
“About 10 vehicles conveyed many of us, including two of my uncles, to Gubio, between Thursday and yesterday to cast our votes,” Musa Bulama, and IDP residing at Maiduguri, said, adding that they travelled with provisions that could last only two days.
In Osun State, some residents of Fagbewesa in Osogbo who came out with intention to vote returned home with disappointment and lamented that they could not go back to their work as the places were deserted and that there were no commercial activities.
Miss Laide Ibiyemi , a 21-yaer-old who came out to vote for the first time, and she was excited that she would partake in the elections, was disappointed, saying she could not even believe that the elections were truly postponed until she realised that everyone that came to the polling centre was returning home.
Some policemen who spoke on condition of anonymity also lamented that the postponement of the election was unfortunate. Also, some federal civil servants said they were already at the locations where they would conduct elections and that the news of the postponement came to them as a shock.
A resident of Osogbo, Prince Soji Adeniyi, said a lot of events had been fixed for Saturday, February 23, and therefore, lamented that the new dates had caused confusion.
“This postponement is unfortunate. We have a major event that had been fixed for next week Saturday, for which many people travelled to Nigeria from different countries, this postponement has disorganised everything.
In the FCT, our reporter who was at some polling units in Kuje Area Council, discovered that many voters were already on ground before hearing the information of the postponement.
David Omoh, a 69-year-old man who trekked for about 35 minutes from Shaidadi to Kayarda Primary School where his polling unit is located, described the development as bad news to everyone.
“As at 10:00pm yesterday, I was still watching the news and heard that the elections will be holding today. I came here a little before 5.30am and we were told that the elections have been postponed,” he lamented.
A civil servant, Dominick Okon, who also came early to his polling unit after trekking a long distance, said, “As a patriotic Nigerian, I had to wake up early and come here, but it is unfortunate to hear that there will be no elections today.”
Okon went spiritual, “Maybe if the elections had taken place today (yesterday) there would be problem. So, God is the only one that knows the best for us and he decides on His own. I cannot say it is from INEC or the government, but from God.”
Eche Obida Eche, who travelled a long distance to vote, also expressed disappointment, saying he came all the way form Lagos.
Postponement takes toll on NYSC members
Youth Corps members deployed to participate in the 2019 elections also have bitter tales over the postponement of the polls.
In Jigawa State, majority of the corps members engaged by INEC, said they slept in their places of electoral assignment only to be confronted with rumours that the elections had been postponed.
Many of them said they got the information via social media which they later called to confirm.
One of the corps members told Daily Trust on Sunday that he got the information of the postponement around 4am.
The corps member whose place of electoral duty was in Sandamina village in Birnin Kudi expressed displeasure over the way INEC handled them because no official from the commission informed them that the elections were postponed.
Samira Abubakar who was shortlisted for the elections in Gaya Local Government Area of the state, told Daily Trust on Sunday that she left her station in Kano Metropolis to Gaya only to be told late in the night that her name and that of many others were not in the list sent to the local government.
“We were told that as far as INEC was concerned in Gaya we did not exist, as our names were not sent to Gaya. Many of us affected had to find a way out for our safety back to Kano. I had to put a call to a friend who drove to Gaya around 12:30am to pick me. I left many there stranded and I don’t know whether they slept there or not. It was on Saturday morning that I heard the elections were suspended,” said Samira.
Miss Paulina Ishaku, an INEC ad hoc staff from Bayero University Kano, said she was lucky to be posted within Kano. According to her, INEC had posted her to Kano Municipal Local Government Area and that she arrived there and slept in a friend’s house only to be told that the elections were postponed.
Another NYSC member who got shortlisted as ad hoc INEC staff, Mr. Thaddeus Manga, said the news of the postponed elections came to them as a blessing because the atmosphere before the postponement was so tensed in Gwale Local Government Area where he was posted to.
“To be honest with you, the news was a relief to us; we were so scared because the atmosphere was so tensed here. We spent Friday night awake in the local government secretariat all through, and when we heard that it was postponed, we felt relieved. We left there as early as we could to our various destinations,” he said.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that most of the youth corps members who we0re employed as INEC ad hoc staff in Bauchi State were returning to their places of primary assignment.
“Many of our members, especially those that were posted to places not far from their places of primary assignment, have returned. We are in touch with them, and as I speak to you, we are aware of those who returned and those who are on their way,” the source stated.
In Kogi State, INEC says it has commenced the redeployment of sensitive materials back to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
INEC Head of Voter Education and Publicity, Ahmed Biambo, who disclosed this to Daily Trust on Sunday, said the decision followed the rescheduling of the general elections.
He said the sensitive materials earlier deployed would be cross-checked to ensure they were intact before moving them to the CBN.
Also, the sensitive materials dispatched by INEC are said to be under the custody of DPOs in Yobe State.
Confirming this, the Police Commissioner of Yobe State, Abdulmaliki Sunmonu, told our correspondent that all the materials were safe and strictly guarded by his men at the police stations.
However, there were mixed reactions on the postponement in the state, especially the state capital, Damaturu, where many voters travelled or went to bed prepared to set out early for the elections.
Malam Nasiru Ahmed said he was not aware of the postponement until he reached a check point on his way to Potiskum.
“The soldiers started laughing when I told them that I was going for the elections. I believe this may be the situation for mamy people,” he said.
A mother and school teacher, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, complained that the elections had affected the calendar of students across the country.
“Already, some of the children have been sent home, with this development, we don’t know how long they will continue to be at home,” she complained.