2019: INEC acting Out A script

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 non NYSC, Presiding who had  reported at their polling centers were shocked to find  entirely new people on ground in most of the local governments in Lagos state. Prior to the election that there had been rumours that the APC had trained some electoral officials that would take ove the job of the NYSC  trained  electoral officers.

 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 February 15, 2019, there was celebration in INEC offices nation-wide as they slaughtered cows and there was food and drinks but not for the Corper presiding officers. They were said to be afraid that the Corpers, might expose their rigging plan, and thus opted to frustrate them . 

A security source who spoke to The Value News said the ”hours of keeping the Corper Presiding officers and Nigerians waiting ”,  was a ploy by INEC and their agents to rig the election in favour of the APC . He noted that the return of Buhari, the APC, presidential Candidate, Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice president and other APC , chieftains ,  to their respective states to vote in the election  was a ploy to deceive Nigerians that the Presidency do not interfer in the Commission operations.

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.  

NYSC Presiding Officers Subjected To Suffering Due To INEC inefficiency

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.   

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