Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday in Abuja said he was disappointed by the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the earlier scheduled 2019 general election despite the long period it had to prepare for the polls.
The president, in a statement he personally signed, said INEC opted to postpone the elections just a few hours to its planned take-off after several Nigerians had travelled far and wide to exercise their civic responsibilities, and after INEC had itself given assurances that it had fully prepared for the polls.
At the National Council of State (NCS) meeting held in the State House on January 22, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made a series of presentations to the council and succeeded in convincing members of the council that it was fully prepared for the elections almost one month before the scheduled polls.
At the end of the NCS meeting, the Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, while briefing journalists, said the presentation of INEC Chairman to the council about the preparation was so convincing to the extent that the council had to hail the commission.
According to Akeredolu, the level of conviction the presentation generated in members was so deep that members suggested the need for the commission to make a similar presentation to the entire country so that citizens could be abreast of the level of preparation made for the elections.
However, despite such a level of assurances by INEC Chairman with evidences presented to the NCS as far back as January 22, Yakubu announced the postponement of the elections only about four hours to its scheduled commencement Saturday morning, citing logistics’ problem.
The postponement has however, attracted widespread condemnations from both citizens and the opposition parties which accused INEC of deliberately postponing the elections in alleged connivance with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to perfect its rigging plans during the period of postponement.
But Buhari in his official reaction to the postponement Saturday, said his administration had ensured that it did not interfere with INEC’s preparations for the elections except on issues which bordered on provision of funds for the successful conduct of the polls.
The president, who said he had opted to return to Abuja in observance of stakeholders’ meeting called by INEC, admonished the electoral body to live up to its responsibility this time by ensuring that election materials are accordingly distributed ahead of the next schedule. He also tasked the commission to ensure that the elections are free and fair.
Buhari added that he remained committed to independence of the electoral commission as he advised Nigerians to cooperate with INEC and avoid any form of disorder that can mar the successful outcome of the polls.
The statement read: “I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement.
“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 the lapses that resulted in this unfortunate postponement, and ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates.
“While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot, I urge all political stakeholders and Nigerians to continue to rally round INEC at this trying national moment in our democratic journey.
“I, therefore, appeal to all Nigerians to refrain from all civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development. I have decided to move back to Abuja to ensure that the 14.00 hrs meeting called by INEC with all stakeholders is successful.”