Just few hours to the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly elections, slated for Saturday February 16, this year, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), rescheduled the elections for some reasons. Abimbola Akindunbi and Kayode Olabanji speak with lawyers and eminent Nigerians .
Mr Kayode Ajulo, an Abuja-based legal practitoner
The dramatic development that happened to the effect of elections postponement, over night to its conduct, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), is simply unfortunate as well as embarrassing.
As adduced by INEC, the reasons presented as alibi for the ill-timed postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly election for “logistics” reason flies in the face of logic and portrays Nigeria as being unserious.
For elections whose dating has been done for over a year and for which INEC, its handlers, has repeatedly expressed preparedness towards February 16, 2019, it can only be described as unfortunate and regrettable receiving the news of a reschedule from the commission at a time when the nation was about commencing the voting process, when election observers from the various parts of the globe were already at duty posts.
INEC announced the unfortunate alteration without a word of apology to the various stakeholders, particularly the Nigerian voters who have journeyed to far distances to perform the all important civil rights.
Citizens who have put in risks of various proportions to get to different locations for voting deserve apologies. Observers with calculated expenses, candidates whose budgets have been tampered with, innocent Corps member who bear huge risks in the interest of the country, all deserve a word of consolation.
It is unacceptable for INEC, who solely bears the blame for this embarrassing development to have merely announced a reschedule which comes with such astronomical costs and consequences without a word to the effect of penitence and sore apologies.
INEC, having shifted its timetable, lacks justification to shut out parties/candidates for failure to meet deadlines for presenting candidates as seen in Rivers, Zamfara and other states.
Does INEC considers these huge costs? Does it weigh the worth of these costs and thinks of mitigating them? These are queries INEC must act on immediately.
It is therefore inexcusable for a graphic expression of apology to be delayed any further, lest the commission commits further goofing and burns it goodwill incrementally. Beyond apologising, however, earnest efforts must be made to ensure that this manner of almost regular but needless alternations in our electoral processes are discontinued.
Mr Sola Ajisafe, legal practitioner/Ondo State Programme
The postponement is very, very unfortunate. And it shows our level of underdevelopment. That in a country of over 180 million and the largest concentration of black people in the world, and with our human and natural resources, we cannot conduct elections.
Few hours, when almost everybody including the president were already at their villages, where they would cast their votes. And then, all of a sudden, the election was postponed. It shows that there is something wrong with our institution.
We equally have to sympathise with INEC, and equally the chairman of INEC.
commission and equally the Chairman of INEC.
There are certain things that happen that are beyond his control.
One, look at the fire disasters in some places. Two, Look at the court cases.
This is not a partial election. It has to be the one that everybody will be carried along.
When you look at it, you will discover that INEC has not planned very well. But we equally have to look at it that they are dealing with a lot of things.
Even look at it, prior to to this period,the Senate refused to pass the budget. INEC will be dealing with a lot of vendors, contractors and you cannot equally rule out the fact that there could be both internal and external sabotage from people working with INEC.
And this usually shows that our infrastructures are not too good.
Look at the sensitive materials that have to be transported through the airports. Supposed Nigeria is a country that has a thriving and efficient rail system, the railways should have been the best way to transport these materials.
But all the same, the elections have been postponed and dates fixed.
So, all I will say is that Nigerians should not be disappointed to the point of loosing hope in the system.
They have the responsibilities to vote their leaders. And they have the responsibilities to prove that they are indefatigible.
I know three people very close, who came from abroad for these elections. And they are determined to stay back and cast their votes irrespective of what it will cost them.
Mr Tope Temokun, a lawyer and public analyst
There is no justification at all for this postponement. It is just as insensitive as we have always been.
If insecurity is the reason, when do we know there will be security in the land? We lost that long ago and only God can now guarantee that, not the president, not the police.
If inadequate preparations, then no excuse at all. For how many months?
If court orders here and there, who says there will not be more controversial court orders and judgments in the next few days.
If it is inadequate distribution of materials, will materials ever be evenly, adequately distributed and which disenfranchisement are we talking about, even when materials are adequately distributed.
Will half of those who are supposed to vote not still fail to do either for apathy and lack of interest or for lack of conducive atmosphere to freely exercise that right?
Can there ever be a perfect election in an imperfect society? So why deceiving Nigerians that there is any justification for this postponement?
This is bad, insensitive, suspicious on both sides (APC and PDP not exonerated). And it is not defendable! It is the voting populace the political class are trying to toss around like football, just to perfect their game of fraud, They are insensitive to the sacrificial large number of the voting populace who are made to get to their various voting towns and villages from their working locations.
Mr. Yemi Adetoyinbo, lawyer and Human Rights Activist
It is a shocking development. Given the timing of the announcement contained in a five paragraph statement to the press by INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, that the postponement is as a result of operational challenges, logistics and determination to conduct free and fair elections.
This is legally justifiable given the constitutional legal backing. That is the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended and the relevant provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act.
For lNEC to have announced postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections from February 16 to 23, 2019, by one week is justified in a way, given the fact that it was the same INEC that organizes elections and can also postpone same and give clear reasons as it had done now.
However, it is morally unjustified, premeditated, as it is illogical on the ground that the timing was a palace coup, when all necessary arrangements had been concluded and sensitive election materials moved to the states of the federation. But now, they have to be returned to Central Bank till the new date on February 23,and that of the Gubernatorial and States Assemblies elections moved from March 2nd to 9th, 2019.
In the light of the above, the postponement must have caused a lot of social, economic and political dislocations for the voters, electoral officials, and stakeholders, including local and foreign observers, in terms of logistics and cost wise. A lot of incalculable damages done, and thus, the announcement should have come earlier.
Moreover, this same INEC under Prof. Mahmud Yakubu,had raised good hope, being the first time in the election history of Nigeria, to release election timetable over a year ago.
So, citing logistics issue now, the Electoral Act issue, the INEC budget and the deployment of security operatives across the country, and their attendants logistics funding back up, are major set backs, as reports of election materials not being on ground in some states or capable of leading to staggered elections are self defeatism.
What are the logistics challenges that INEC could not resolve during the several months of announcing its readiness for the conduct of the elections.
However, the court cases over elections in Zamfara and Rivers States involving the APC Candidates, the AGF letter to INEC on the issues equally raises some dusts. The reported killings of about 68 persons in some parts of the Northeast states, skirmishes in Kaduna, the barbaric gun shooting and planting of hot iron rod in the private parts of the Vice Chairman, lkwo LG in Ebonyi state as credited to Gov Dave Umahi are also serious issues of security challenges for consideration, as such can lead to movement of elections. More so, this is not the first time elections had been postponed at the death in Nigeria. In 2011, general elections under Prof Attahiru Jega, in April 26, 2011, the Presidential and NASS polls were shifted, citing the non arrival of printed sensitive election materials from South Africa when former President Goodluck Jonathan contested against President Buhari.
In 2015, due to take over and control of some states by Boko Haram, polls were shifted from February 14 to March, that election between Jonathan and President Buhari and for the 3rd time we have same debacles of crises in our electoral curve. When do we get it right and stop being laughing pawns in the comity of nations?
We appeal to our fellow Nigerians to exercise patience so as to ensure a hitch free polls on the new dates. But I hope lNEC will not postpone again.
Mr Femi Owolafe, an Akure based legal practitioner
It is a shameful experience to you and I, having been citizens of this country, that our government can not hold on to their words. They are not trustworthy, neither can they put anything on the table for us to believe and eat.
All Nigerians were hopeful on the presidential election. But our politicians are now married to the policy makers. So, they know how they do their things since the rebirth of democracy in 1999. Hardly can you see an election already built upon by the stakeholder that is not postponed.
I could remember vividly in 2011. I was in Enugu state, and people had been moving around to cast their votes, even moving from one community to the other, only for us to be told that the election had been postponed without any prior notice.
Four years after in 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan, and the INEC, in person of Professor Attahiru Jega, equally postponed the election on the grounds that the Boko-haram struck and that the security of men and women including the stakeholders were not guaranteed, Then, the election was postponed, having posted security agents from their original stations.
Now, the election has been postponed again. So, it has become a culture in Nigeria. I told my colleague earlier before the postponement, that there is possibility that INEC would postpone the elections. But he kept arguing with me. And just. less than 48 hours, the elections were postponed.
Now, as it is, we are not progressing in Nigeria politically. Looking at the international and local observers that travelled down to the country in high spirits, but just few hours to the election, the postponement was announced..
The peace Accord that was signed by the UHC, United Nations and the rest who are interested in the most populous nation in Africa, has now been postponed. This has sent a signal to the whole world that Nigeria is never a serious nation.
Looking at the Zamfara and Rvers issue, where court had given an order that only the presidential election will be held, which I know it can not be possible to single handedly conduct a presidential election in a state out of 36 states. It is a ground for legal petition, even ordinary voter can easily go to court that the election conducted perhaps on February 16, 2019,( if it had been conducted) Is not free and fair, and there is a need to cancel it.
But I want to believe the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), applied wisdom quickly to think and rethink that there is a need for them to do adjustment.
Dr. Akin Ogunsakin, legal practitioner
It is the constitutional duty of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections into the following offices: President, Vice president, All members of House of Senate. All members of House of Representatives. Governors of 36 States of Nigeria Federation. Members of State House of Assembly. Local Government Elections are done by the state INEC.
The power given to INEC to conduct elections by the Electoral Act cannot be compromised. Rather, it can only be strengthened. INEC can declare election inconclusive lt can also cancel an election based on the circumstances surrounding the conduct of the election.
Deductively, INEC can postpone elections if the need arises. But it should not be done at the detriment of voters.
it is expected of a serious umpire like INEC to have put their house in order before the sudden postponement. It is unthinkable & unspeakable that INEC can throw it’s integrity to the mud under the pretence of ill preparation caused by INEC.
Well, it is a sign of our democratic development. It is better to postpone than to conduct an election that will be marred with irregularities Our Democracy is developing. Democratic institutions are developing. It is not a bad omen for our democracy, certainly not at all.
Mr. Olawale Daniel, NBA chairman, Akure Branch
The Independent National Electoral Commission, having identified some challenges in its bid to conducting credible elections, has done well in rescheduling.
This action, though painful, is necessary. More so, the Electoral Act empowers the INEC to take such step where necessary.
NBA Akure enjoins all Nigerians and our foreign partners who are here as observers to take the election rescheduling as a sacrifice towards strengthening Nigeria’s democracy.