The flurry of reactions that trailed the sudden postponement of the Presidential and National Assembly elections is no doubt a huge sign that its implication on election stakeholders is immeasurable. While the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has craved the indulgence of Nigerians saying the rescheduling of the elections is to enable the commission address some logistics challenges, stakeholders did not hide their displeasure as they continue to demand explanations.
The rescheduling has in no little way put the integrity of the commission under scrutiny as political parties and their supporters have continued to accuse the commission of plans to manipulate the process. Nigerians have also rightly argued that the commission had over 36 months to prepare for the election thus the excuses of logistic issues may not be acceptable.
Civil societies and election observers were also disappointed saying INEC has a responsibility to be more transparent and proactive in communicating with Nigerians and strategic partners on their logistics and operational challenges. For instance, the largest citizen observer group, YIAGA AFRICA in a statement by its Executive Director described the postponement as disappointing, saying the commission might have overestimated its own capabilities and/or underrated the challenges associated with the management of election logistics.
There is no doubt that the operational challenges that the commission is trying to fix within one week has created a lot of logistics challenge for both local and International observers ahead of February 23rd election. With high sense of patriotism and enthusiasm, election observers have all set up data centers, situation rooms and analysis rooms with observers all set to observe across the country. The postponement means these stakeholders are left to bear the cost of maintaining the data center for another week which is why the postponement has been described as a test of citizen’s patriotism and resilience.
Nigerian Citizens who have relocated to their respective location of registration to enable them participate in the process now have to return to work during the week before taking another decision to either go back or not. This in a way may lead to a certain level of apathy ahead of week’s rescheduled process. While it is encouraging that the commission recorded over 84 million registered voters even though it is yet to release the number of Permanent Voter Cards collected, it is left to be seen if next week’s general elections will be met with the same zest.
Also, the report that the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members to be used as ad hoc staff are facing serious challenges of accommodation and hostile reception at the local government of deployment is another major call for concern ahead of the elections. After enduring the unpleasant situation in the name of patriotism and service to the nation, the rescheduling of elections may mean they have to do this all over again. Thus, it won’t be surprising if some of these corps members decide to pull out of the process and may affect the quality of the process.
Recall that the 2015 general elections which is adjudged the best elections since 1999 was postponed by six weeks with the preceding 2011 elections also called-off while citizens were already at the polls. While rescheduling of elections is not the best idea, Nigerians can get it right in 2019 by cooperating with the commission to ensure credible elections. This is no doubt trying times for Nigeria’s democracy, but the responsibility of ensuring credible elections does not lie with the commission alone. The security agencies, political parties, CSOs and most importantly Nigerian citizens should pick up the call of unfettered patriotism to ensure a successful poll. While it is understandable that citizens are disappointed, the best way to react is by coming out on 23rdFebruary and 9th March 2019, to vote peacefully while ensuring that their votes count.
Moshood Isah, YIAGA Africa