SATURDAY, February 16, Nigerians were greeted with shocking news from the election umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announcing the postponement of the long awaited presidential and National Assembly elections.
The postponement came barely six hours to the commencement of voting like a devastating thunder to Nigerians and the world at large. Such a dramatic turn-around has never been recorded in human history. This development, no doubt, not only threw the masses off but also equally lowered their expectations. The rage that swept through the length and breadth of the country was unprecedented.
In INEC office Amawbia, Awka South Local Govt Area , a lot of people mainly youths gathered to check their names and where they were sent to conduct election. The process went on even till 12 midnight.
Ekwebelem Paschal Emeka expressing the shock of ad hoc staff said: “We left the INEC office with the materials for election around 12am in the morning for Nibo, while some others left later that morning, only for us to get here and two hours later, the election was cancelled. Look at the youth corpers here who want to serve their country; some left their houses as early as 6am.”
However, the action of the electoral umpire has elicited doubt and curiosity from Nigerians on the capability of the umpire to conduct free, fair, and credible elections. As some Nigerians view the development from the religious angle, believing that the cancellation was the will of God to redirect the country on the right part, others noted that the development portrayed the unpreparedness of INEC.
The Bishop of Awka Catholic Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor called on Nigerians to have faith in the ability of INEC to conduct credible elections on 23rd February 2019 in spite of the initial postponement of the polls.
The bishop expressed confidence in the fact that only INEC can give Nigeria credible leaders. Ezeokafor pointed out that the postponement of the elections has dented the nation’s image in the international community but emphasized that Nigerians should not crucify the commission for its inability to conduct the polls at the initial date even though it has taken responsibility for its negligence and dereliction of its statutory obligations.
The Catholic prelate was of the opinion that the postponement of the 2019 elections was shocking because INEC had assured Nigerians that they were in good stead for the elections only to frustrate Nigerians at the nick of time. He urged Nigerians not to count their losses but be optimistic that credible leaders would emerge when the election is concluded.
Chief Chris Elumunoh, former state president of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo said that INEC goofed .He stated that all the security chiefs in the country were ready but the commission which gave out the time was not ready and it had been deceiving Nigerians..
In his reaction, a PDP chieftain, Godwin Ezeemo, described the postponement as huge embarassment to Nigerians and had reduced the country’s worth before comity of nations. He said that INEC owed Nigerians more explanations than reasons of logistics challenges and saboteur.
He said: “The expenses made by the electorate for travelling far and wide to perform this simple civic responsibility was immeasurable; it is unfortunate that the commission by this action has exposed itself as incompetent, incredible and unreliable agency.”
Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Prof Stella Okunna said the situation was a very sad one, leaving a bad precedence for the nation’s political life. “This election was not impromptu and INEC has brought shame to this country”, she said.
In his comment, former Anambra State Secretary to Government, Oseloka Obaze said that INEC had four years to prepare for the 2019 elections in keeping with its statutory remit but its last minute postponement of the elections left room for suspicion.
He said that despite repeated assurances on the ability of the commission to conduct credible polls, the postponement lent credence to worries that the electoral umpire was never prepared to conduct a free, fair and sufficiently credible elections. He maintained that as the umpire, INEC must understand that the postponement comes at a great cost to Nigerians.
Pastor Charles Olisaemeka opined that the postponement of the polls was God’s will, adding that Christians have been praying for God to take control of the elections. He encouraged the eligible voters to fulfill their civic obligations without being discouraged.
Arinze Anaege was of the opinion that the commission has other motives other than patriotism. He believed that Nigeria should show evidence of being the proverbial giant of Africa in terms of governance.
“In a civilized nation, the electoral agency’s helmsman would have been fired”.
Anambra State PDP Chairman, Ndubuisi Nwobu described the postponement as a huge embracement to Nigerians, adding that the chairman lacks managerial competence as he talked about logistics challenges and sabotage.
“The summation of the reactions is that the INEC is so engrossed in maladministration and brazen mischief to be talking about logistics problems and sabotage. It is disgusting that an unrepentant coterie have sworn to be exposing Nigeria to international odium and ridicule, perceiving the country as a fiefdom”.
Arguing on this plane, a member of Anambra State Elders’ Forum and former local government council boss, Dr. Nnana Egwu expressed exasperation, saying that INEC has no justifiable ground to suspend the polls even as its reasons were ludicrous and constituted a devastating slur on the integrity of its chairman who in civilized setting ought to have relinquished his office.
He said: “The eleventh hour rescheduling of the national election is a calamity and perceptive watchers of the gimmicks of APC would not have been taken aback on the electoral debacle committed by INEC chairman. It is a calamity that was foreseen. If anybody tells you that it was not anticipated then that person is not current in the curious developments in the country.
“The moment President Buhari started doing funny things like when he refused to retire the security heads that have completed the statutory age in the public service and extended their tenure indefinitely, because all of them are northern Moslems.
Same for the IGP, but for the mounting of pressure, hence his replacement. In addition to that, he refused to sign the amended Electoral Act for four times citing ridiculous reasons ostensibly to prepare the grounds for election malfeasance that played out now. The action of the INEC Chairman being a northern Moslem was not unexpected.
“The script being played was to conduct the national election in 26 states .That means a staggered election as was done in Osun state. So during the conduct of the remaining 10 states, the armada of security forces will be mobilized geared towards the intimidation of voters to prepare the ground for falsification of the polls and declare Buhari winner.
“I thank God for the outspokenness of United States who insisted that the election must be conducted in the entire states on the same day. Do you know that it was a member of the ruling party that allegedly printed the ballot papers and procured the card readers? So they did it to produce excesses for the brazen rigging.
“The reason given by the INEC boss that it was logistics problem, insecurity and sabotage that led to the plan to conduct the election in 26 states was outright rubbish, he can tell that to the marines and not to intelligent Nigerians. The killings in Kaduna was pre-arranged to create the impression that Christians are killing the Fulani people to instigate religious crises.
The INEC chairman must expose the so-called saboteurs for punishment because by his strategic position, he really knows them. In terms of logistics, the air-force planes meant to carry the election materials are not disturbed by weather condition, so the supposed logistics challenges are one of the scripts to manipulate the polls and return Buhari to power”.
Former chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC), Anambra state, Comrade Charles Onyeagba decried the disappointment of INEC and said: “It is very sad especially after the continuous assurances by INEC that they were fully prepared for free, fair and credible elections. They had their budget approved as requested and did not foresee the last minute hitches they now enumerated.
The problem is that it cannot now be conjectured what could have happened had they gone ahead with the election on the 16th despite their misgivings. Or how this postponement will affect any results that they eventually come up with…I think that the scheming by the politicians have led to this”.
A public relations practitioner, Rapuluchukwu Ikedinobi who equally expressed exasperation and smelt rat described the country’s leadership as inept. “It was a total embarrassment on Nigeria as an entity, supposedly a giant of Africa being looked upon for guidance in good governance by sister African countries.
The postponement does not justify the reason given by the INEC chairman. This faux pas shows that drastic reform is still needed for the electoral agency so that international standard should be maintained to avoid serial embarrassment in elections.
“It is very sad how the commission’s proposed budget that ran into over N200 billions will brazenly talk about logistic problems, what then is management of human and material resources, it means that the chairman lacks administrative expertise and ought to have been booted out for the monumental mess that wasted enormous private and public resources.
“You cannot reckon with the institution in any section of its duties. For instance, voters registration is flawed and haphazardly done, distribution of PVC is subject to discrimination as people in the north are given the PVC’s right in their houses, while in the south we are told to travel several kilometers to the local government headquarters to collect the PVC, and takes several days to collect.
At times many people out of exasperation abandoned it since they cannot have the transport fares and time to go to the offices at local government, one Nigeria indeed?”
Another labour activist, Comrade PCH Okafor blamed the tragic development to the ineptitude of anything led by the northern Moslems. He said: “Like any other Nigerian project under the Fulani hegemonic caliphate, the 2019 general elections is bound to be carelessly conducted to the dissatisfaction of the generality of Nigerians.
Here is a Fulani chairman of INEC conducting presidential election between two Fulani candidates; and 131 Fulani people were allegedly killed by Christians on the day of the election. This is orchestrated to create the impression of insecurity to justify the conduct of election in 26 states while 10 states would be postponed.
Thanks to the European nations who insisted that the election has to be conducted in the whole 36 states simultaneously. As days unfold, more revelations will emerge in addition to the distribution of fake ballot papers and card readers which some have been intercepted. INEC definitely has something to hide hence the eleventh hour disruption of the polls”.
To a public affairs analyst, Miss Adaobi Okon-dike and a retired local government council director of administration, Comrade Mike Nnamah, the postponement of the presidential and National Assembly election should be viewed spiritually as an act of the Almighty God in his infinite wisdom who sees afar before human comprehension. Nnamah said:
“Tension was very high and there was palpable apprehension on masterful rigging device of the APC apparatchiks. Now you see the arrest of people with tones of ballot papers thumb printed in favour of the ruling party. You hear about the unprovoked killings in Kaduna and other so-called logistics problems, which is curious having approved billions for the INEC to ensure adequate preparations. It is simply terrible”.
Adaobi waxing spiritual said: “In fact, God has planned it that way so that all the apparent devious manipulations of the selfish politicians in connivance with dubious personnel of the electoral agency will be exposed and INEC will be very careful to conduct free, fair and credible election”.
A medical laboratory scientist, Esther Onuoha who decried the postponement of the election pleaded with INEC to assure Nigerians that this disappointment would not happen again.
Basil Chukwudi disbelieved the apology of INEC, saying that it is not faithful and likely to mess up the polls.
A third year student of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Uli, Chinenye Okeke believed that Buhari might have an inkling about the electoral agency’s misadventure. The assault on the judiciary at the eve of the election is a pointer to what is happening.
According to her, the economic cost to Nigerians is unquantifiable as it affected burials, traditional weddings Ebuka Ekwunife said that people should stomach the insult of INEC as its covert plan has been exposed.
“We must prove that we are stronger than our oppressors and that our will to kick them out is stronger than theirs to remain in power. We must not succumb to the aunties of political jackals”, he said.
Social Democratic Party flagbearer for the Awka North/Awka South Federal Constituency, Chief Godson Ezenagu expressed great disappointment over the development, regretting that having toured all the wards in Awka North and Awka South Federal Constituency for his campaign, he felt sad that the postponement which could have been announced well before the election came at the dying minute.
The SDP chieftain appealed to the electorate who are disillusioned to put the disappointment behind them and turn out en masse on Saturday to choose their leaders through the ballot box.
In his reaction, the state Treasurer of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Mr. Anthony Nwakile expressed regret that INEC failed the Nigerian electorate through the postponement of the elections. Nwakile encouraged the electorate not to be disheartened by the rescheduling of the elections.
The traditional ruler of Enugwu Ukwu, Igwe Ralph Ekpeh viewed the postponement as an insult to the integrity of the Nigerian electorate. “Nigerians were not only humiliated but no apology was rendered by the INEC chairman to them in his inaugural postponement official statement”.
In his reaction, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev. Adewale Martins, urged Nigerians to remain alert and ensure that they fulfill their civic obligations by going out to vote on Feb. 23.
“I wonder why the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC arrived at the decision to suspend the elections late after several assurances to Nigerians of the commission’s preparedness to conduct free, fair and hitch-free elections. The action is very regrettable and I consider it a serious betrayal of the confidence of millions of Nigerians who had prepared themselves to come out in their large numbers to exercise their franchise”.
House of Assembly aspirant for Ishielu South state constituency, Ebonyi State, under the platform of People’s Party of Nigeria (PPN), Ugbo Moses Oluchukwu noted that this is not the first time election was being postponed in Nigeria, but the reason why there is an outcry all over the nation was that the postponement was ill-planned.
Moses, a legal practitioner, condemned in strong terms the action of INEC, saying that a lot of people have travelled to their various villages to cast their votes, only for INEC to call off the election few hours before the time.
Clara Ibekwe who expressed disappointment at what INEC had done wondered why INEC should shift the date that late hour; it showed that INEC is not serious”.
Osita Ugwu, a resident of Abakpa Nike, Enugu wondered why INEC postponed the election. “Ballot boxes were ready and everything concerning the election was ready only for the election to be postponed. Most Nigerian leaders do not have conscience. People travelled from abroad, from one state to another just to cast their votes only to be disappointed. International observers were disappointed”.
Tobechukwu Nwatu told National light that he travelled to his village at Owo in Nkanu East Local Government Area of Enugu State to perform his civic responsibility but was disappointed.
National secretary, NUJ, Shuaibu Leman described the suspension of election as “a ridiculous decision” and expressed concern about the ability of INEC to conduct credible elections in the country in view of the last minute hasty postponement of the process, citing logistics problems and operational hiccups.
“It is instructive to note that INEC had before now consistently assured Nigerians and the International community of its preparedness to give Nigerians free and fair elections. It is therefore pertinent to request for more explanations as to why such a grossly unconventional decision was taken.
“We call on all Journalists to maintain calm and remain resolute in the discharge of their assignments especially as they relate to election matters”, he said.
Smart Akpagu said that “It is most unfortunate that today’s election was canceled the day the day it was slated hold. It speaks volume of INEC’s incompetence, unpreparedness and insensitivity. This singular act has affected negatively the economic and political stability of the country. The rights of Nigerians have been violated with high impunity. Nigerian youths especially corps members were caused to sleep in open cold places in a bid to serve their fatherland and their hope dashed without apology or compensation”.
For Pat Chukwuka, “it didn’t come to me as a surprise as the leadership of the electoral umpire was busy planning on how to rig the election without any good plan and adequate logistics”.
Alex Ekwunagena said that the postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections is a welcome development against the observed challenges being faced by commission. He observed that in many of the states, sensitive election materials were yet to be received less than four hours to the elections. “There could have no room for a staggered election as it should be conducted at the same date to avoid giving room for manipulation”. Residents of Nnewi and environs who reacted to the suspension condemned the action but promised to come out on the next scheduled dates.
Maduabuchukwu Oluche, who spoke to National Light said that it was indeed a great disappointment for INEC to cancel an already scheduled election at the eleventh hour, stressing that it will jeopardize a lot of peoples scheduled activities. “Tell me now how would people who had chosen that February 23 for a wedding or burial ceremony will cope; I tell you this postponement will bring a lot of mayhem to Nigerians.
Elochukwu Okeke, Chairman Amazu Nnobi Elites Home and Abroad said that the sudden postponement of election by INEC showed that Nigeria’s democracy is at its infancy.
He charged INEC to change the ballot papers and introduce security features so as to avoid any form of rigging.
Mr Okeke further sympathized with well meaning Nigerians who have travelled to their polling zones for election, only to be told that INEC has postpone it to another date.
Chief Edwin Agba who interacted with National Light at Umuru ward ii, Community Central School ,Nnobi, said that the postponement was a mark of disrespect and incompetency from INEC, stating that the sudden change will influence Nigerians negatively.
Chief Agba equally expressed dissatisfaction on INEC. “I have lost confidence in Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman. The man seems to be doing the bidding of the opposition party. It is very unfortunate to say the least; I am depressed with the decision taken”.
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