The Postponement of 2019 Polls in Nigeria: The Invisible Forces Behind The Scene

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fix the hours of the voting exercise among the competing candidates into the office of the president; National Assembly; the Governors; State Assemblies as well as Chairmen and their Councilors of the Abuja Area Council at its discretion for the peaceful and fair conduct of the polls. Although, the INEC schedules for election must receive the approval of the National Assembly in their attempt to pass or amend the electoral bill into law. The INEC was also vested with the authority to regulate the nomination, campaigns and the financial spending of the registered political parties in the pre-election days. It is however, becomes apparent that the INEC finds it extremely difficult to face squarely and decisively these difficult tasks for the conduct of credible election that could be accepted by all and sundry. The top officials of this independent commission always complains that the logistics and operational challenges, insubordination, and the sabotages become grave stumbling block for the commission to perform its constitutional duties within the limit of their power. Since 2011, it has now becomes the perennial culture of the commission to postpone the conduct of the poll as earlier scheduled despite the massive resources allocated to the commission at nick of the time. What is clear and appear to us and other responsible men in our motherland is that, there must be forces behind these insubordination sabotage and operational lapses that causes a lot of damages not only to the public fund and the image of our much-loved country in the sight of the international communities but to the personality of our responsible citizenry.

In the first place, the INEC Boss, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu give details in his media outlet that the scheduled Saturday polls would no longer be feasible due to some operational and logistic lapses that the commission was facing. This was observed at the final meeting of the commission top leadership to review the implementation of their logistic plan and arrangement. He was also mentioned in his speech that the cases of law suit against the commission to include or drop candidates’ names running for various political offices was another grew area for the commission to hold a Saturday polls. The most critical among of all these challenges was the sabotage that was ran to the burning of election materials into ashes in Abia, Anambra and plateau states. The bone of contention here is that, why the challenges were identified at the late hours to the polls? Who were behind all these challenges? Is the period of one week adequate for the commission to overcome all the identifiable challenges that were not detect and address in the last four years?

It is obvious that, the INEC Boss was so categorical and precise on the nature of the teething troubles and their capacity to deter the feasible conduct of the polls. For instance, the chairman quoted to have said that, three days to the conduct of the presidential and National Assembly Polls, the commission found it extremely difficult to transport and deliver election materials to some locations due to bad weather. This to any critical mind is not a substantial and satisfactory excuse for the commission to take a very difficult decision that has the capacity of determining the leadership faith of our sovereign nation. This is due to the fact that, the weather condition in any part of the globe is predictable. Why was it that the INEC failed to use the available and sophisticated weather instruments to forecast the weather condition of the strategic days for the distribution of election materials? Why also the INEC refused to get the technical advices of Nigeria Air Space Management Agency (NAMA) about the predicted bad weather condition ahead of the scheduled time for the distribution of election materials? It is evident that the weather condition in most parts of the Northern Region is dusty and the relative humidity and temperature was comparatively low in the early days of February. This type of the weather condition is known to be unsafe and hazardous for plane traveling. Thus, this flimsy excuse could not be accepted by all and sundry

Furthermore, in his presentation, the INEC Boss also clarified that, the cases of law suit against the commission to include or drop candidates’ names to run for various political offices was a serious setback for INEC to conduct a credible polls on the scheduled dates. He further elucidates that the commission has been sued in over 640 cases arising from nomination of candidates. As at that day, there were no fewer than 40 different court orders against the commission on whether to add or drop candidates. This entirely has nothing to do with INEC preparation for Nigerians to go for polls. This is due to the fact that the dropping and including of candidates has to do essentially with party internal crises, and on no circumstance this will affect the number, name or logo of political parties to be printed on the ballot paper, because we have seen a number of cases of dropping and adding candidates for an election determined by court of competent jurisdiction in the post-election days.

Reasonably, it was only on Zamfara issue that the INEC has a substantial case. This is because the INEC was directed by court order to include a political party submission of candidates in less than 48 hours for Nigerians to go for polls. This could be a case, because INEC must include in its ballot paper the name and the logo of APC for all competing political offices in the state. This issue could too be easily addressed if the INEC was well and adequately prepared and planned. The fact is that, there was dispute since when the INEC in its election timetable stipulated the limit period of parties’ primary and the ruling APC was unable to conduct it internal primary within the INEC specified period. On this basis, the INEC refused basically to consider the APC submission of candidates for 2019 polls from Zamfara state in Nigeria. This mark the beginning of legal tussle between the two forces in Zamfara State. For this reason, INEC should have made a provision for contingency plan or rather a ballot paper to prepare for the law suit against their stand.

As well, the INEC plea that the aborted Saturday polls could no longer be feasible on the occasion that some unseen forces were determined to sabotage the image of the INEC in its bid to conduct free, fair and credible election could not be accepted. As the main thrust of this argument could not hold water at all! The chairman of the commission further explained that the fire incident which led to the burning of the election material in three different locations of Abia, Anambra and plateau states are good manifestation of this sabotage. The INEC Boss further explained that, in space of two weeks the commission faced with fire incidence in three of its offices, one in Isiala Ngwa South Local Government Area of Abia state, Qu’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau state and the commission state office at Awka Anambra state.

Although, the fire incidences in these three different locations were serious, as voters’ cards and registers, smart card reader machines, ballot boxes voting cubicles and several electricity generating equipment were set ablaze. Remarkably, the commission was made it known to the general public that, all the burned voters’ cards were quickly reprinted and made available for collection by their original owners and all the sensitive election materials that were burn into ashes were quickly recovered and replaced in due course. For the time being, the Saturday polls could be feasibly conducted since the INEC was able to fix the problem causes by fire incidence a week before the scheduled time of the polls. It is now become apparent to us that the fire incidence in three different locations could no longer be a reason for rescheduling the time of the polls.

Meanwhile, all the purported reasons hinge on by INEC are no longer convincing and could not be accepted. And this further created a vacuum for people to cogitate and ponder for the reasons or forces behind the postponement. It is true; people are desperate to know the actual hands behind the postponement! Some are banking on foreign intervention as the central forces behind the delay of the polls. It could be a mere rumor, the France model of foreign intervention in its bid to advance its national interest could be a reason for this dilemma. It is now in media circulation that French government is not always comfortable with some policies of Buhari led government because of their retrogressive implications on their national economic interest. They therefore vow to replace the existing order with a puppet regime to serve their interest in the expense of Nigeria’s national interest. Let take for instance, the Buhari commitment and determination to explore oil in different locations of the Northern region. This oil exploration in the north may in one way or the other affect adversely the crude oil production in the Chad and Cameroun Republic that for long term servicing the economic interest of France from Africa. This is possible because of the slopping of landscape nature from Chad Republic to Nigeria that could be possible facilitated the washing away of crude oil from Chad to the northern part of Nigeria. This is enough for Paris government to plan for rigging the Saturday polls that was detected by the INEC and instantaneously announced for the postponement.

Likewise, the allegation of the plot of massive rigging in favour of one leading political party might be the reason behind the postponement. It was alleged that a political party from Nigeria connived with some foreign elements to massively rig the election in its favour. Evidences are currently circulating in media, the thumb printed ballot papers, ready made final result and thousands of permanent voters’ card in the possession of politicians belonging to a political party in Nigeria. Equally, it was also suspected that the 36 resident electoral commissioners were collected the sum of $100 million to rig the Saturday polls in favour of one presidential candidate. The allegation further explained that the resident electoral commissioners intentionally refused to pick phone call from the INEC headquarters in their attempt to insubordinate any of its further instruction that could stop them to achieve their evil plot. This could also be a substantial excuse for INEC Boss to postpone the Saturday polls.

In conclusion, although, any of the reason that cause INEC to take this difficult decision could be unscrupulous but the postponement could increase the credibility and fairness of the polls. This is due to the fact that, every electoral stakeholder could strive within the limit of his capacity to ensure the conduct of the election truly reflecting the actual voting interest of the electorate.

BASHIR IBRAHIM (a.k.a Ibn Khaldum)

Monday Column