The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in the wee hours of Saturday morning, barely 5 hours to go to the polls, postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections, were earlier scheduled to hold on February 16 to February 23 and the Governorship, the State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections, earlier scheduled to hold on March 2 to March 9, 2019.
The INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, while briefing newsmen at the commission’s headquarters 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.”
“Consequently, the Commission decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship, State Houses of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections are rescheduled to Saturday 9th March 2019. This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections.
“This 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 Commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2pm on Saturday, 16th February 2019 at the Abuja international Conference Centre.”
It pricks the heart to hear that the general elections which the timetable was released on January 9, 2018 and N189 billion was budgeted for, in a country that is now referred to as the new poverty capital of the world, cannot hold on the scheduled date because of sheer incompetence on the part of INEC.
The electoral body had four-year intervals to prepare and conduct these elections and giving the flimsy excuse of logistics challenge as the reason for the postponement by the chairman, is preposterous, regrettable, sad and unfortunate.
The INEC Chairman did not attribute reasons for the postponement of the elections to security challenge, political intervention or financial hiccup, which makes it difficult for many Nigerians to be convinced by the reasons tendered by the INEC boss.
According to the President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTs), Mr Ken Ukaoha,the country will lose more than N140 billion due to the postponement of the general elections.
He noted that the postponement would affect the economy adversely in terms of money that the government, political parties and ordinary Nigerians had already expended on logistics and otherwise.
In a bid to exercise their civic responsibility, many Nigerians travelled to their villages to vote for the candidates of their choice in the unfortunate rescheduled poll, only to wake up early in the morning to hear that the elections have been postponed; leaving many disillusioned and stranded.
Also, political parties, election observers, the media, the security agencies, ad-hoc staff of the commission including the electoral body itself, have all lost hugely as a result of this ill-informed postponement.
For the political parties, they are already counting their losses in billions, considering the huge financial burden they will incur trying to re- mobilize agents that will mount each of the 176,000 polling units across all states of the federation.
The corps members are the worst hit by the postponement as so many of them now sleep in open field; exposed to all manner of dangers, at the expense of their lives, all because of the ill-postponement of the polls.
We urge INEC to strictly adhere to the new date and do all within its powers to ensure that there will not be a repeat of the unfortunate postponement that came as a rude shock to Nigerians and other stakeholders.
The reputation of the electoral body is at its lowest ebb now. The primary goal of Prof. Yakubu and other members of staff of the commission, should be to get the confidence of Nigerians back; build trust by working diligently towards the possible accomplishment of the current task, by ensuring that elections hold on the rescheduled date.
Anything short of this, will lead to eternal damnation of the image of the electoral body and that of Nigeria in the comity of nations.
We believe that INEC has learnt its lessons. Going forward, we expect nothing but excellent service delivery from the electoral body. The commission must work on its project management template, so as to avoid taking the country through the same route.
In line with the position of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), European Union (EU), United Kingdom (UK), United States of America, among other foreign election observers on the postponement, we once again urge INEC to adhere strictly to the new date announced for the elections.
We join all Nigerians to ensure a free, fair, peaceful, credible and transparent elections by supporting INEC while it finalizes its preparations this week and by voting in peace together on February 23 and March 2, 2019.