Voters And Dilemma Of Polls’ Postponement Blessing Aseminaso
Democracy, the government of the people, for the people and by the people, is a system where absolute power resides in the people. It has become the most popular form of government in the world. In Africa, especially Nigeria, the democratic experiment is one that continues to malfunction, and seems to be a caricature that never ceases to fail us.
The electoral system of Nigeria has for long been subjected to various worrisome factors, ranging from sale of votes to underage voting, political violence and snatching of ballot boxes amongst others and clearly mirrors a veritable threat to the concept of true democratic electoral system. More worrisome is the trend of election postponement that has left a question mark on the efficiency of the electoral umpire.
It’s indeed sad that the February 16th national election was rescheduled at the eleventh hour by the electoral commission, despite the huge financial allocations, time for preparations and the assurance by Prof. Mahmud Yakubu, the INEC Chairman, to Nigerians, despite various speculations.
Although logistics is given as the major reason for the commission’s decision, this is not the first in Nigerian’s history, as general elections were postponed in 2011 and 2015.
In 2011, elections were rescheduled following instruction from Prof. Attahiru Jega, the then INEC Chairman after the commencement of voting in some parts of the country, with claims that most officials had failed to report at the polling units.
Also in 2015, the INEC boss shifted the February 14th presidential election by six weeks. Although for security reasons, this action drew outrage from within and outside the country over allegations that it was a ploy by President Goodluck Jonathan to perpetuate himself in office.
It can be said that there might be more than meets the eye in the postponement judging from the tension between the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress and People’s Democratic Party, as well as their supporters. Moreover, the expressions by former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, over alleged discovery of thumb-printed ballots in Kano, Ondo, and Ikorodu States, no doubt raised eyebrows.
Peasant Leader of Arewa Youths and Crown Prince of Sarkin BareBare of Rivers State, Comrade Bukhari A. Ntaalah said if, “INEC gave reasons for the rescheduled election as mere logistics problem despite the assurance some days back that everything was ready for the election, how come the sudden change after people have travelled far and near and invested time, human and financial resources”. Some even lost their lives while decent accommodations was not even provided for Corp members who left their places of duty to various polling units”.
He said the issue goes beyond postponement, but lies mainly on the loss of confidence because most Nigerians would decline to take as much steps as they took just to vote. What’s the assurance that such action won’t repeat? The only way forward to clear this national embarrassment is to conduct a free, fair and credible election on 23rd February, 2019. If Prof. Yakubu can do this, Nigerians often shy about history will forget this embarrassment and forgive him”.
A voter and community leader, Mr. Temple Daka posits that “the reason for the rescheduling of the election is satisfactory due to the destruction of electoral materials in Abia, Anambra, Kogi and other states, which is a genuine fact as well as profitable decision for the benefit of everyone.
It cannot be politically motivated, so Nigerians should stop the game of blames and gimmicks. One cannot say it is masterminded by the PDP or APC despite being rivals. For instance, the Kogi Sate governor is of the APC, the Anambra governor is an APGA member whereas Abia is PDP, and these states were reportedly involved in electoral maternal crisis. How is it then possible that the rumours about the All Progressive Congress and People’s Democratic Party are true?” He said.
Prince A.W. Ekine from Degema Local Government, stated that the confidence of Nigerians in INEC has been lost “because everyone prepared for the election, only to wake-up to a change of decision by 2:45am on the supposed day which is not palatable at all.”
“The reasons given by the commission cannot be said to be cogent because the information was not released even a day before the supposed date. The main reports on the situation of things were hidden from the people by the commission, and no doubt they owe Nigerians a great apology”.
Christian Joy, a civil servant from Abonnema Local Government expressed the view that “the postponement is an appalling proof of manipulation and bias by the electoral commission. The leadership in Nigeria has just been proven to be based on how our leaders want it to be and not mainly on the will of the masses. This action I believe is a political setup by the current administration to manipulate what they can”.
No doubt there are speculations about the postponement contrary to the Electoral Commission’s reasons. However, it is vital that faithful steps are taken for the successful conduct of the presidential and national election on Saturday including more mobilisation and appeal to Nigerians to participate actively by voting their conscience and deviate from any form of political injustice because truly “election no be war”.
We can only hope that this decision brings the best results; and that our democratic system does not become a joke as the condemnation from within and outside the country demand a better deal for Nigerians to freely chose their leaders.