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Ordinary elections… We no fit!

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Trained staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are blocked from work as their names are missing in the list at a Regional Area Centre less than three hours before scheduled opening voting time for the presidential and parliamentary elections in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 23, 2019. Nigerians began voting for a new president on February 23, after a week-long delay that has raised political tempers, sparked conspiracy claims and stoked fears of violence. Some 120,000 polling stations began opening from 0700 GMT, although there were indications of a delay in the delivery of some materials and deployment of staff, AFP reporters said.Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP

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We have always been advised to ‘chew’ our words so that these words do not become an embarrassing judgment against us in future. Compare the statements of PMB as an APC candidate in 2015 and as President in 2019. In both instances, INEC had postponed elections, in the first case, 6 days to the election, in the other, few hours to the election. ‘There are 14 LGAs where there is (security) problem…and there are 774 LGAs in Nigeria. Should we postpone the election because of 14 LGAs? “Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria were fighting wars and they conducted elections, what is Boko Haram?” It is clear that INEC… has had to bow to pressure. Thus, the independence of INEC has been gravely compromised’, concluding that it was a ploy by GEJ to buy more time to plot how to rig the elections (Buhari, 2015) ‘I am deeply disappointed… that the INEC postponed the elections within hours of its commencement… INEC had given assurances, almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them…We now urge INEC to ensure that everything is done to avoid the lapses that resulted in this unfortunate postponement, and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates. (Buhari, 2019). There is nothing to add!

By 4a-m on 16/2/19, the food for 900 party agents (who had been quartered and mobilized) had been cooked, packed and awaiting ‘shipment’ to the electoral zone. The emergency restaurateur who prepared the meals sent me a picture of the consignment, asking ‘what do we do with these now? I don’t know how it all went but a candidate has been financially messed up.  I did not see my tailor (he is not yet risen to the status of a designer) for three days.  On Monday, (18/2/19) he showed up, depressed, and informed me that he had travelled home to vote. Three days wasted, business abandoned, fresh businesses lost and transportation costs borne.  I could not travel for the elections but several of my brethren did so. Some decided to wait it out (at least, 1 week) while others decided to do a return match. Those who stayed back have locked down their affairs for 1 week while those who travelled twice spent at least N30000 on road transportation. A friend had rescheduled the daughter’s wedding from 16/2/19 to 23/2/19 before INEC took over the date. He has been at loss how to settle issues with event planners and vendors, some of whom he had paid upfront and fixing another date is something else. The funeral of one of our in-laws scheduled for 23/2/19 had to be hurriedly rescheduled for 22/2/19
 
I have decided to tell the stories of real people, and how INEC threw their lives and businesses out of balance. INEC had serially assured that the election would hold and that those thinking of postponement should perish the thought. National confidence was at a high level and even the stock market responded positively, something that had not happened before. And then, suddenly, like a thief in the night, INEC announced the postponement of the election at 3am, when all well-meaning citizens were asleep. INEC informed that the shocking cancellation was not due to funding, security challenges or political machinations; that it was due to logistics, legal tangles and bad weather. Did these take place by 2am on that day? Even after the mysterious fire that targeted only the card readers at Awka, INEC quickly restocked and ASSURED us that there was no-shaking.

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It was unbelievable, not because it was not possible or that it had not happened before, but because of their iron-cast assurances, which they had been feeding us with since they released the timetable on 10/1/18. Shocked, embarrassed, scandalized and frustrated Nigerians saw the development as unfortunate, and monumentally disappointment with awesome reputational damage to INEC and Nigeria. It also cast aspersion on the competence and integrity of INEC. All money requested by INEC was approved and all aspects of the election were conducted on their terms and the terms of their masters in Government. By the time the elections were postponed, materials had moved, officials had moved, observers had moved, security operatives had people moved and even some voters were on their way to the polling booths.

Did INEC not undertake scenario building? What was their option B? When exactly did they know that they could not go on, when they had assured told us no shaking a few hours earlier? There were some strange angles to the unfortunate postponement. One, that some political party representatives were commending the INEC chairman for the postponement! Secondly, the Buharo Campaign Organisation blamed the PDP for the postponement; PDP was in power and took the heat for 2015 postponement and now PDP is out of power and still has to take the heat of 2019 postponement!  Thirdly, some argued that the 2015 postponement was requested by Government while that of 2019 was requested by INEC as if there is any difference between INEC and the government. Fourthly, I am still analyzing the performance of Adams Oshiomhole while INEC was announcing the postponement. I believe that NollyWood has lost one of the best actors in town. Anyway, the key matter arising from the postponement is its economic consequences which some have conservatively estimated at $6bn.  INEC has not told us the cost of the aborted operations and even how the fund was sourced because their budgetary request, which was granted 100%, did not include costly test-run operations. And then, who responsible for this monumental failure. Somebody must be punished for making a fool of the nation, for imposing this level of economic cost on Nigeria and for betraying the trust of Nigerians on the commission.

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*The above title was crafted immediately after the postponement of 2019 elections and it is unfortunate that even after the elections were subsequently held there is not much to warrant a change or even modification, in the title. Yes, even ordinary elections, the giant of Africa no fit

Other Maters: Snatch ballot boxes and die!
In 2015, some of us approached the court about the militarization of elections in Nigeria by President Jonathan. The court ruled that the army has no role in elections. In 2019, some of those who secured the court judgment against militarization, not only raised the tempo of militarization, but also gave to Buratai et al lawful directive that anybody who snatches ballot boxes should pay with his life.  
Some of us who condemned electoral miltarisation in 2015 supported the extreme militarization of 2019. That is how things usually are in Nigeria. But there would have been no need to snatch ballot boxes if PMB had assented to the electoral amendment act which proposed an electronic transmission of results. Meanwhile, I am monitoring what happens to the Thug in Chief, Demola, who went beyond snatching ballot boxes, to set the ballots on fire at Okota, after physically assaulting the voters and electoral officials.
•Muo wrote from Department of Business Administration, OOU, Ago-Iwoye

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