By Okon Bassey in Uyo
Despite the postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shops and other public places were shut and roads deserted in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.
As at 11 am on Saturday some major streets in the state capital were turned into football pitch by youths while many were indoors doing domestic works including watching of cloths and cleaning of environment.
INEC ad hoc workers who were in camp Friday waiting to be taken to their various polling units returned home as early as 6 am Saturday morning.
Security operatives were seen still mounting security at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) branch in Uyo where some of the materials were being kept as well as INEC office, all along Udo Udoma Avenue.
The State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ini Ememobong, described the postponement of the elections as a huge embarrassment to the government and citizens.
“The rumour of this came up at about 11 pm on Friday but it took up to 3.45 am on Saturday morning before the chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu could come and address Nigeria, that was taking Nigerians for a ride.
He regretted that the shifting of the election was an indication that for four years INEC could not prepare for a day election and to have taken so long to inform Nigerian was sad
On whether he suspected any external pressure forcing INEC to shift the elections, he said “we hear lot of conspiracy theories, but as a lawyer and political party we do not talk of something we could not substantiate. But whoever has hand is only postponing the evil day, what will be will be.”
Ememobong called on Nigerians not to be dismayed but should wait till next adjourned date and urged the electorate to prepare to come out and vote; stressing that part of the postponement is to create voters apathy.
The PDP Publicity Secretary said INEC should be seen to be independent and completely detached from the presidency. “INEC is seen as an arm of presidency, should be detached from the presidency.
“INEC should be independent as much as possible, should be able to send its budget direct to the National Assembly and we should have time line that by a year to the election, INEC should be able to brief the nation, give a state of situation and indicate their preparedness.
According to him, the agents of the PDP had before now informed the party that some materials were not enough, that was part of the reasons materials did not arrive earlier enough.
“It is quite unfortunate that incomplete materials were sent. We learnt materials for some states were sent to another states. Those things do not augur well for democracy. We need to come to a point of near perfection where things are done according to plan,” he stressed.
On his part, the Senior Personal Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said “it is better to have election deferred than to conduct election that dispute, killing will arise and credibility will be in doubt.”
He advised that in view of the number of states that rumour said did not have enough of the materials, the Commission should be very careful in scheduling the date for election.
Enang insists that INEC must always be sure materials are on ground before fixing the date for the elections.
“They should examine state by state, station by station and know which one is correct, those materials are all on ground before fixing date for the elections.”
The Chairman, All Progressive Congress, Akwa Ibom State, Mr Ini Okopido, said the postponement was outright embarrassment. I am very disappointed by the conduct of INEC deciding to postpone the elections few hours to the commencement of voting. We were very ready realising that we were going to win the elections.
Speaking on development, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Charles Udoh, said the people of the state were sad over the development, adding that, the electoral body took more than four years to prepare for the elections.
“I think it’s more of sadness. I feel very sad inside me. We had four years to prepare for this. And if there were logistic issues and challenges to be sorted out, it would have been right to inform people on time. If we had an excellent process in place, we would have pre-empted this.
“Some persons flew in from abroad and took leave from work. It puts a lot of question marks as to the entire process postponing the election just few hours to the election. How did we get here?
“How could we become so desperate to cling unto power? Every Nigerian who is as sad as I am should resolve within themselves that, come what may, on the 23rd we’ll go out there to exercise our rights despite the banana skins littered on our path.” he stressed.
Speaking on the issue, former member of the House of Representatives and ex-Minister, Chief Nduese Essien, said the postponement did not come as surprise to him because, it goes to confirm his convictions that, the APC had lost out in the election, adding, that the postponement is to enable the APC to strategize on another rigging plan.
“Postponing the election is an embarrassment to the nation and further confirms the cluelessness, ineptitude and incompetence of APC at all levels. It also exposes INEC as constituted by APC, to be incapable to superintendent over a credible electoral process in the country.”