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INEC: Can Mahmood Yakubu redeem his image at stake?


[FILE PHOTO] INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Nothing in the recent history of Nigeria has shocked the entire country like the postponement of the long awaited general election in the morning of February 16, 2019, just three hours to the elections.

It is unprecedented anywhere in the world; and it is only in Nigeria that such bizarre incident could happen, no other place. Only President Buhari and the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, knew exactly what happened and why the poll was cancelled that day.

The development has, once again, brought opprobrium to Nigeria. We are made a laughing stock and ridiculed as a country that can’t do anything.

We can’t fix electricity, can’t fix roads, can’t conduct census, can’t even organise ordinary election that war torn countries like DR Congo, Afghanistan and South Sudan have organised successfully.

Nigerians are blaming the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Mahmood Yakubu and President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) government for the flop. Buhari will take glory if all goes well.

Consequently, he should take the blame for failure. A shoddy job has been done. Can INEC redeem its battered image? Can Mahmood Yakubu protect his integrity? Right now, doubts are hanging over the election until it is conducted successfully.

When on the eve of the election scheduled for February 16, 2019, around 11pm and TV screens were beaming breaking news that INEC was having an emergency meeting with stakeholders, I became apprehensive that something was fishy.

How INEC could be holding such a nocturnal meeting with stakeholders, when all appeared set for the polls was confounding. It wasn’t clear what exactly the matter was.

Nigerians had gone to sleep with the hope of waking up and going to vote, having cancelled every other engagement for the day. But to the chagrin of everybody, a drama was unfolding while people slept.

The election was postponed around 2.45 am on that Saturday morning, barely three hours to day break.

That was unprecedented anywhere in the world. It is only in Nigeria that such bizarre event could happen. War torn countries like DR Congo, Iraq and Central African Republic have successfully conducted acceptable elections recently. Election in Nigeria is turned into war!

Consequently, people cannot understand why an election that has consumed energy, time and money in logistical preparations, for four years, could be postponed at the eleventh hour, just like that, without minding the economic and social consequences on Nigeria.

Report say over $10 billion might have been lost. The national image is battered.

The country had been shut down, I mean total shutdown, without any other activity allowed except election.

Schools were closed; thousands of people travelled to different destinations to cast their votes; international observers and other election monitors had already taken positions.

Prof. Yakubu reportedly announced the postponement at the end of the crucial emergency stakeholders meeting in Abuja.

According to him, challenges in the distribution of election materials to some states were the main reason for the postponement.

That was INEC’s failure, why it allowed itself to be caught in that logistical web if that really was the issue.

Media reports indicate that as many as nine states including Edo, Taraba, Niger, Oyo, Ekiti, among others, had not received election materials as at the time of the emergency meeting.

If that was the case, the postponement was a blessing in disguise, for there is no way crises wouldn’t have broken out in those states over the non-availability of election materials.

While INEC blames logistics, there are insinuations, especially, from the opposition and social media, that the election was shifted to forestall a rigging plot by the ruling party, APC.

But there are allegations and counter allegations of rigging flying left, right and centre. Truth is that the election cannot be conducted without allegations of rigging, especially from the losing party. The history of elections in Nigeria and Africa is a history of election rigging allegations.

Let me warn, at juncture that, rigging election in Nigeria of today might be an impossible task because the eyes of the people are wide open. People are carrying camera phones and the social media is fully awake and lively to expose rigging.

An Igbo adage says rat can’t eat your thing when you are awake. And the Jewish King Solomon says, “Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird”, (Proverbs 1:17). Any attempt to rig this election is recipe for chaos. Politicians should be wary not to set the country on fire.

The elections have been shifted forward by one week. The presidential/National Assembly elections will now hold on 19th February, while the governorship and state houses of assembly election will hold on March 9, from March 2, 2019.

Expectedly, Nigerians are spitting fire and brimstone on INEC and the government for shifting the elections. President Buhari reportedly expressed disappointment and appeared to be blaming INEC.

“I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the INEC postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement.”

Lamenting in the same vein, the House of Representatives regretted that “many Nigerians have travelled to various locations to exercise their right to vote and international observers are gathered.

INEC themselves have given assurances, day after day, and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them.

This administration has ensured that we do not interfere in any way with the work of INEC except to ensure that all funds were released to the commission.

We now urge INEC to ensure not only that materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands but that everything is done to avoid lapses that resulted to this unfortunate postponement and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.

All along, Prof. Yakubu gave the impression that all was well and that the commission was ready for the polls.

He has never, at any point, given the slightest indication that he was having challenges. I don’t want to join the fray of insinuations that INEC is conniving with APC to sabotage the elections.

Professor Yakubu should come clean of these allegations by ensuring that this election did not fail. He should prove to Nigerians that he is a man of character, integrity and honour who can be trusted and not compromised, no matter what.

Take note, he cannot be INEC chairman forever; he has a life to live after the job. Therefore, he should not tarnish or dent his hard earned image and reputation for a loaf of bread.

This election will come and go but Yakubu’s life, his personality and self worth will remain if he didn’t throw it away.

He should be able to stand shoulder high in public after exiting INEC. Several other high caliber Nigerians have done this job before him and are here with us.

Right now we are in injury time. Nigerians are used to acrimonious political elections but have always come out of it.

There were similar postponements in 2011 and 2015 based on the same reason of logistics, except 2015 that was blamed on insecurity.

Logistics means that we can’t move election materials from one point to another! No lesson has been learned.

To a large extent, the success or failure of our elections depends on the logistics on ground.

Quite often, it is poor logistics that raises apprehension and engenders strife at the polling stations.

Late arrival of materials, especially, in areas deemed to favor certain political opponents, is recipe for chaos. Such development provides the ground for rejection of election results and suits at the election tribunals.

Voters should not be made to wait for materials to arrive at any polling station. The materials should be ready with personnel on ground before voters begin to arrive.

There should be enough personnel to man the polling booths. The card readers and computers should work with standby generator to avoid disruption, which triggers anger.

Distributing election materials on the Election Day should be avoided because it is a recipe for crisis.

Anything can happen. It has never worked before and won’t work now. Hijacking and snatching of such materials by thugs cannot be ruled out.

INEC should learn from past mistakes and do the needful on time.

Professor Yakubu should finish his job. Resigning or suspending him as being insinuated is out of the question.

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