Ndubuisi: Much Ado About Election Postponement
THE postponement of the presidential election by six weeks has attracted reactions from all over. In a press statement announcing the postponement, the INEC chairman made it clear that the idea was not original to INEC. He blamed security and security agents for their unequivocal position that they could not guarantee security, if the election had gone ahead as planned. The announcement was a shocker to many, especially the opposition party — the All Progressives Congress. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party welcomed the shift stressing, however, that the shift in date does not give any advantage to her.
Some view the postponement as civilian equivalent of a coup d’etat, while others equated it with the annulment of June 12 election by former President Ibrahim Babaginda. The international community has also reacted with equal force: while some gave a measured response to it, others were full of condemnation. The international media see the postponement as ominous signs and indication that the 2015 elections will make or mar the country. In reality, not a few see the security issue that was given as reasons by INEC as a fluke. It is curious how the government can accomplish in six weeks what it could not do in six years. It is, however, to be noted that the insurgency becomes more brutal and ferocious as we approached elections days as if the insurgents were determined to ensure that the elections are disrupted.
The Senate on resumption from recess invited the INEC Chairman to furnish it on the reasons for its controversial action. Expectedly, Professor Jega admitted they were not 100 per cent ready for the election. There were quite a number of things that ought to have been done, he stated, before the body could achieve what could be seen as free and fair elections. These include the perfection of the card-reading machine. It was actually after the postponement of the election that INEC started demonstrating the appropriateness of the card-reading machine that is novel in our electoral history. This is apart from the distribution of the permanent voters card that has generated accusations and counter accusations. If the election had gone ahead as planned, over 30 per cent of eligible voters would have been disenfranchised. It was startling to hear from the INEC boss, that about one million permanent voters card were yet to be printed. In essence, the postponement of the election as Professor Jega admitted was a blessing in disguise, as it gives the commission ample opportunity to get a number of critical issues ready before the election.
It is disappointing that in the press conference, Professor Jega presented security issue as the only reason for the postponement. He exonerated the shoddy preparation of the commission. The commission has been preparing for this election for more than three years and yet, we cannot say without contradiction that there are enough materials on ground for this exercise. It was actually after the postponement that the ad hoc staff started their training. It is equally confounding that a substantial number of eligible voters are yet to get their permanent voters card. The governor of Ogun State, for instance, lamented the difficulty that people in the state faced in their bid to get the permanent voters card. He queried the wisdom in giving out the cards in piece meal and cited instances where cards that are meant for other states were sent to his state. There have been all kinds of genuine allegations against INEC in the distribution of the cards. There is even the ugly dimension that non-indigenes are being denied voters cards in Lagos, Kano and some other states. To show how serious this allegation is, a newspaper advertisement signed by different ethnic groups in Lagos was placed with facts to back their claims. Unfortunately, INEC has not responded satisfactorily to this and, more importantly, show its readiness to remedy this. There is ample time for INEC to ensure that all eligible voters get their PVCs. It amounts to technical rigging to edge out eligible voters from exercising their franchise by no fault of theirs. We must be able to distinguish refusal to vote and a deliberate disenfranchisement. This has immense ethical and legal implications. It is to be recalled that president Jonathan has earlier urged INEC prior to the postponement to ensure that every eligible voter gets his/her permanent voters: this advice was not heeded to.
It would have been unmitigated disaster if the February 14 election has gone ahead. The de-enfranchised lot would have mounted pressure on the judiciary to annul the election, as its outcome cannot represent the true will of Nigerians.
On the security issue it amounts to self-deception and bad faith not to see this as enough encumbrance to a successful elections. The leader of Boko Haram, Alhaji Shekau has vowed to disrupt the elections .
It is at our risk if we downplay what the insurgents are capable of doing. The answer on whether what could not be done in six years could be achieved in six week lies with the quantum of success our soldiers alongside the allied forces have achieved in the last few days. It is on record that the federal government took delivery of some military hard ware a few weeks back. This has no doubt reflected in the fighting spirit of the allied force. The dreaded Sambisa forest has been bombed and many communities liberated. It was thrilling to see how relieved and excited families whose lands were liberated were in reuniting with their loved ones.
The postponement was worth all the trouble. INEC should make effective use of it to put its house in order. There is no reason they should not attain hundred percent distribution of the permanent voters card before the election kick off. The postponement really saved the nation from unwarranted embarrassment.
• Professor Ndubuisi, an attorney at Law is of the department of Philosophy, University of Lagos.
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