The scheduled February 16 presidential and National Assembly (NASS) elections ended in smoke on Saturday when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a shocker at the most ungodly hour of the day, 2am, when Nigerians had gone to sleep. It said that the elections slated for a few hours hence would no longer hold.
Citing logistics as the reason for the postponement, the electoral umpire insisted that it was not possible to hold the election under the choking challenges it faced, so it moved the elections by one week, NASS/presidential to February 23, and governorship/state assemblies to March 9.
It is within the right of INEC to reschedule election dates; it is legally entitled to that.
The worry, however, is why it led people into believing that it was all set to go, even as the Federal Government had uncharacteristically acceded to all its requests.
Expectedly, Nigerians have expressed their angst against the INEC decision. Although many people read meanings into the postponement, INEC was hard put to explain the numerous challenges it has had to confront at a stakeholders’ meeting he called on Saturday.
Nobody is actually querying INEC’s power to postpone or reschedule election dates. What baffled people was why it waited until the very last minute to do so, even after President Muhammadu Buhari had long returned to his native Daura, in Katsina State, to cast his ballot. The postponement was announced at a very ungodly hour in the dead of the night when people were sleeping. That was what hurt the chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, most. He blasted INEC at the forum, saying he got the information at about 2am in his village in Edo State.
The sudden twist of things confirms that the hyped war against corruption has achieved so little or nothing. In Lagos, for instance, ‘ghost’ ad hoc workers surfaced at the last minute. The thousands of people, who were trained as ad hoc staff were shoved aside when a new list of people, who were nowhere near the training ground, came from the blues and were paid instead.
The postponement also exposed the country to public ridicule. Hordes of ad hoc staff, especially youth corps members, were stranded and could be seen sleeping on the bare floor in open fields because no provisions were made for their welfare. They were also caught unawares.
However, the parties and their candidates have much to battle with to prepare for Saturday. They had mobilised their agents across the thousands of electoral centres and would have to do that all over again. Imagine the avoidable losses incurred in the course of the botched exercise. A lady lamented that she was forced to move her wedding from February 16 to February 23. Now she has been caught in a dilemma with regard to what to do now the election has been shifted to the date she thought she had found refuge in. She is not the only one caught in the muddle. Another sad occurrence was the death of a man that was travelling from Abuja to Akwanga, Nasarawa State, to perform his civic duty. He died in a car crash. The enormity of human and economic losses cannot be quantified.
The APC and PDP are trading blames as regards who manipulated INEC to postpone the elections. It does not matter who did what now that the deed has been done. However, despite APC’s public posturing, its officials have inadvertently exposed the hand of the party as having something to do with the postponement. Chief among them is the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, who reportedly ordered the electoral body to accommodate APC candidates in Zamfara State on the ballot despite contradictory court rulings.
There are many frightful dimensions to this election debacle. For instance, when a sitting governor threatened international observers with body bags, followed by the killing of 66 natives in Kaduna on the eve of the botched election, it is unwholesome. This and many other incidents of killing and violence across the country is foreboding and one could not help but wonder if electoral victory is worth the life of any Nigerian. This is exactly what has made Goodluck Jonathan an international statesman. Will others after him follow suit?
There may be beauty in the ugliness of the postponement. Although INEC told stakeholders that no more campaigns are permitted, that does not stop political parties and their candidates from subtle campaigns via other means. This could also mean the postponement of the evil day for underachieving politicians whose people are fed up, especially in places like Imo State, where defeat is glaring angrily at certain people.
Okigwe South is destined to inflict maximum pain on inept representation in the House of Representatives. The people have found a worthy voice in Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, a former lawmaker, who holds a doctorate degree in law.
President Buhari had given tacit endorsement of Nwajiuba, who sits in the front row with him, as one of his confidants. When he came for campaign in Owerri, the President, who knows the circumstances that forced Nwajiuba out of APC to run on Accord Party ticket, against the norm, told Imo people to vote candidates of their choice, instead of telling them outright to vote the APC flag bearer. Moreso, the President knows Nwajiuba remains APC in spirit and somebody he had penciled down for greater assignment should he get reelected and Nwajiuba emerges as Okigwe South representative.
Nwajiuba’s running on Accord Party platform, number one party on the ballot paper, could be divine orchestration. Because, incidentally, Nwajiuba’s eyes are trailed on the number one slot in the House. This is quite interesting; number one on the ballot for number one in the House. So, umu Okigwe South should shine their eye well well, as we troop out on Saturday to stamp the seal of approval on Nwajiuba’s confirmed mandate for the glory and good of our land.
This is a project whose time has come. Ka chineke mee ezi okwu.