To say that the electoral umpire INEC, has provoked a contagious vulcanic eruption of anger across the landscape since its ill-advised decision to botch the election it has consistently thumbed its chest in readiness to conduct is to put it mildly. It can favourably compete as one of the deep unkindest cuts in the mind of the already wounded Nigerians in most recent times.
Most notable, the electoral body carefully chose a time most unholy and ungodly to strike like a thunderbolt. Expectedly, like fire to the fuel, it attracted the anger of the young, old, man, woman, child, adult and certain class of domestic animals.
Remarkably, our beloved INEC since 1999 has always known that in each four years, there will be election in the country and one body is constitutionally entrusted with the responsibility of refereeing this contest. It’s not NURTW, NUT, NUJ, NMA, NBA, NULGE, NIESV or NCWS but the same INEC. As if to advertise its readiness, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, a professor of history on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 released the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 General Elections, over a year before the elections proper.
Since then, INEC has continued to use any platform it could lay its hand on to gloat over its preparedness to go ahead with the election. Never at any point in time has INEC made a pronunciation of the word “postpone”. In fact, anyone who ever mentioned it becomes an enemy of the country in the judgment of INEC. Even when series of opportunities laid like a sacrificial lamb on INEC’s doorstep, waiting to be used, it never took advantage of it to announce election postponement. The fire attacks in Abia, Plateau and Anambra were just golden opportunity for Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to attract the sympathy of Nigerians and strike.
Hear the professor who spoke through the National Commissioner and Chairman of informationand voter education committee, Festus Okoye during the unveiling of a central election monitoring hub for Civil Society Organisations, CSOs in Abuja on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. “In relation to this particular elections, we had some challenges yesterday (Tuesday), but we were able to recover, and as I speak, we are moving all the Smart Card Readers required for the conduct of elections in Anambra State and we are not going to postpone the election in any part of Nigeria on grounds of some of these challenges”. On Thursday, 48 hours to the general election, National Commissioner Festus Okoye repeated this same position at another forum.
After all these rains of assurances, Nigerians were in for a big surprise. At about 2am of February 16, the same day the Presidential and National Assembly elections were scheduled to take place, INEC chairman gave the entire Nigerians a rude shock. “Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct a free, fair and credible elections, the Commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible” he announced.
INEC has undoubtedly carved a niche for itself in election postponement. Why this has attracted avalanche of condemnation, albeit, justifiably is that it was postponed right on the day of the election, second in the series. In 2011 and 2015, recall that the commission cited late arrival of voting materials and insecurity, respectively, for the reason it postponed the elections it had years to prepare for. In 2011, voting had commenced in some places when INEC announced postponement. At the time, the commission said the reason for the postponement was “the unanticipated emergency we have experienced with late arrival of result sheets in many parts of the country. The result sheets are central to the elections and their integrity… the Commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the National Assembly elections to Monday, April 4, 2011.” In 2015, the commission announced the postponement a week ahead of the scheduled time and gave insecurity as its reason.
With all these vicious squabbles for a VIP space in countries that are not to be taken seriously in the commity of nations, one needs not an indept quest into what is basically wrong with us as a nation. That we have routinely failed in our role of leading by example is an open advert for the world to deride us, mock us and make an aesthetic laughing stock out of us. Our unbridled eager to demarket ourselves in the global market speaks volume on the kind of people we are and why our big brother status as the largest black nation will be as unuseful and inconsequential as a cigarette smoke in the air.
Beyond the fractured image this will earn us, did INEC think of the incalculable losses this ill-fated postponement will leave our already fragile economy with? There has been variegated figures of economic losses our dear country has to bear as a result of the botched process. 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. This according to him will come in terms of money that the government, political parties and ordinary Nigerians had already expended on logistics and otherwise. “I am not talking of the manufacturing sector, transporters and the farmers; even workers were asked not to go to work. We need to be adequately prepared for elections,” were his words.
What INEC did is a large scale version of what happens nearly in all the service sectors in Nigeria; transport, education, banking, telecommunications, just name it, it’s all the same. Airline operators cancel flight schedules with utmost impunity and callousness with sky high disregard for the feelings and plight of the passengers. No apologies, no compensation, no form of remorse, as usual we move on.
You have a family member or loved one grasping for life in a certain hospital ward, they insist on a deposit before any form of attention can be given. Alas, s/he dies and we say “God giveth, God taketh” and move on, waiting for the next victim.
The electricity distribution company gives you power for two days, charges you for thirty days, cuts your wire, goes with it, we move on.
Your son/daughter is stranded in a certain city, you make a deposit to mobilize his/her movement, three days later, the money hasn’t reach the beneficiary, we move on. The ATM debits you without dispensing cash, even if it’s meant to save a dying relative, we move on.
You starve yourself and family to buy a recharge card, your network provider slashes it off, with the silly excuse that your grandmother made a call to your ancestors while you were sleeping in 1995, we move on.
The schools shut down as long as they wish, not minding the social implications on the students, their future and the rest of the society, we look the other way and move on.
That the predicaments of those who flew in from all parts of the world for this election, both voters and observers never meant a thing for INEC could only surprise those who are non Nigerians. That social activities such as weddings, funerals, conferences etc put on hold on Saturday across the country with anticipation that elections were going to hold never meant anything to INEC can only surprise the ghosts. That the loss in perishable commodities such as fish, tomato, carrots etc traders incurred as a result of the market shutdown is non of INEC’s business is a normal thing in our clime.
Whatever political colouration politicians may wish to give the postponement, one thing is sure; the citizens are angry. Very angry and disappointed. This they have vented through any legitimate window open to them. It is enough that they have little or nothing to thank this nation for, erecting unnecessary obstacles against their legitimate means of livelihood and leaving them more angry can only breed bad blood.
Finally, in our penchant for squeezing water out of stone in every situation, our citizens have shortlisted Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Arsenal FC and Tubaba’s Amaka for a crucial competition on who will lift the trophy as the disappointer of the year. It will be an interesting watch.
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