By Nwangwu Uba
For much of last and late on Friday, February 15, 2019, there have been rumours making the rounds that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may postpone the general elections fixed for February 16 and March2, 2019 , respectively due to logistics and operational constraints.
Mahmood Yakubu, a Professor and Chairman of the Commission had denied the initial rumours insisting that there was no ground to ”postpone the elections. He may have shot himself on the leg when he started holding consultations and reaching out to the Political parties Presidential Candidates which culminated in a closed door meeting with the management team and Resident Electoral Commissioners to fix a new date for the elections.
The Value News learnt that it was a heated argument when Yakubu, the INEC boss, suggested that the election be shifted by one week to put things right. There were those who were said to have opposed the shift in the original date of the election because of the signal it may be sending out to the public but he stood his ground forcing others to fall in line.
The confusion whether the election would hold or not was a big problem to the NYSC members who had be recruited to serve as the Presiding officers in the election as they were kept in the dark. A source confirmed that the INEC and NYSC officials at the states and local government levels were so confused that that they were moving from office not knowing what to do.
Take for instance, the INEC Presiding officers, who were asked to report at their respective local government Headquarters in the states by 2pm on Friday, February 15, 2019. The Presiding officers were said to have reported at the Local government Headquarters as directed and were optimistic that they would be taken taken to their Hotel rooms to refresh and prepare for the Saturday election. They got it wrong. Unknown to them the INEC officials have a different agent.
From Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Kaduna, Kano to Rivers state, the story was the same: lack of preparation of INEC for the elections. The Corpers, particular in Lagos and other presiding officers who were engaged by the Commission may have started sensing trouble about the conduct of the election when they were in their respective RAKs to get the final instruction from the INEC and NYSC officials but no luck.
Until 8pm, particular in Lagos, the Corpers who were kept in the dark, were asked to find their way out from the Local government Secretariat without providing accommodation from them.. The situation was made worse as many of the presiding officers were replace over-night by untrained INEC Presiding officers.
The Value News gathered that some of the NYSC and
The situation was so worrisome that the NYSC officials were forced to speak out that it is only the NYSC Secretariat that that has the mandate based on the agreement with the Commission to release its Corpers to serve as presiding officers for the 1999 general elections.
The poor treatment meted to the Corp members who were forced to sleep on the road and commercial buses including Schools , which exposed them to danger, may have forced many to threten not to participate in the election any longer.
Aware of the implications, the NYSC officials were said to have threatened to recommend the extension of the Service year of any Corp member who fails to show up the February 23 and March 9, 2019 elections.
While the Corpers were roaming about in Lagos to look for what to eat and where to sleep on Friday
A security source who spoke to The Value News said the ”hours of keeping the
In announcing the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly election to February 23 as well as the governorship and state Assemblies election to March 9 , 2019, Yakubu, the INEC chairman, who had earlier told International Observers that the election would hold as planned justified the the INEC action to a ”careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections’ which clearly shows that the elections would not hold as scheduled”.
According to him, the postponement would afford the Commission the opportunity to address the identified challenges in order to ”maintain the quality of the nation’s elections”. There is no gain saying the fact that the electoral umpire’s problem started with the poor distribution of its electoral materials to the states notwithstanding the engagement of the Nigerian Air Forces , NAF, services which had started airlifting the materials last Monday. Yakubu may not be doing the unusual.
Recall that during the time of for President Goodluck Jonathan , Attahiru Jegga, a Professor and then Chairman of INEC, postponed the 2015 , general elections for six months blaming the insecurity in the north east. The postponement provided the ammunition for Jonathan to rigged out of office. But the 2019 postponement of the 2019 elections may be a different ball game.
In apparent reaction to the postponement of the election, the PDP alleged that the shoddy arrangements for the elections by the Commission was a deliberate ” agenda of the Katsina state born Nigerian President to cling on to power”.Uche Secondus, the Party National Chairman said the postponement of the election was the only option left for the Commission and the Presidency since they have other options of rigging the Presidential election to thwart the will of the people but found out that it would be difficult to implement because of the renewed Consciousness of Nigerians on elections.
An aggrieved Secondus who was waiting to Congratulate Atiku Abubakar, as the next President of Nigeria if the election had been held as scheduled said the postponement had clearly exposed the Commission as a failure , coming on Yakubu, the INEC Chairman to resign.
The one week postponement may have cast a doubt on the election process that even if Buhari, the APC Presidential Candidate should win in a free and fair election, aggrieved politicians would protest against it.
The APC leadership may have read the mood of Nigerians over the election postponement that it had lent its voice to the condemnation of the action of the Commission. festus Keyamo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN and Spokesman of Buhari Presidential Council noted that the postponement of the election was a disappointment to the party and its supporters across the country. He may have spoken the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari who said he was disappointed that INEC, who has four years to prepare for the general elections could post it at the last minute when Nigerians had prepared their mind to go the polls.
Appealing to INEC not to bow to the purported pressure of the opposition PDP and CUPP who were not ready for the election, stressing that ”credible demographic projections have predicted a defeat of the opposition party” which needs the breather to halt Buhari’s rising profile.
”We hope that INEC will remain neutral and impartial in this process as the rumour mill is agog with the suggestion that the postponement has been orchestrated in collusion with the PDP, the main opposition party”, he insists.