2019 Nigeria Elections: The Preparations, Postponement and People’s Reactions

Alao Abiodun
20% Complete
 16-Feb-2019

At the beginning of the year, there was a charged socio-political atmosphere in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, the political situation got heightened as analysts, voters and observers eagerly await the outcome of the poll.

The APC and PDP, the two leading political parties in the country, have outlined their plans and economic strategies in separate policy documents.

For the APC whose Presidential Candidate is  incumbent Nigeria president, President Muhammadu Buhari, the policy framework is tagged the “Next Level” which seeks to leverage on its past four years of seeming progress, in moving the nation forward.

On the other hand the PDP presented an equally robust plan termed “Get Nigeria Working Again” seeking to go through a pro-market strategy to return Nigeria to sustainable economic growth.

Last year, late december, INEC boss assured that INEC was ready to conduct a free, fair and credible polls in 2019. “We will continued to improve on the logistics to enable the commission have itch-free, credible polls come 2019,” he stressed.

He further explained that conducting states elections was more difficult than conducting the Federal elections.

“It is more difficult to conduct states elections than that of the general, because people will be more focused on the state where the election is taken place,” he said.

Although, he said there were improvements in the last Osun election, as the voting materials arrived at the polling units, promising to consolidate on that and ensure that the 2019 general election meet the global standard.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Feb 7th, 2019 also assured Nigerians that it was fully ready to conduct free, fair and credible general elections this month.

INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the assurance in Abuja while speaking at the 2018 edition of the annual LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, with theme: “Multiparty  Democracy, Stability and Peaceful Elections: Connecting The Dots.” He said: “We are set for the elections and all logistics have been put in place to ensure hitch-free conduct of the polls.”

The INEC boss said that no matter how dubious or malicious such  persons or organisations may be, there was no way they can manipulate the electoral process in their favour.

He insisted that with the stringent measures INEC had put in place  from the polling units to the collation centres, Nigerians and the  international community should expect nothing less than credible and  acceptable elections from the electoral umpire.

POSTPONEMENT

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, shifted the Presidential and National Assembly elections by one week earlier this morning. The chairman of the electoral commission, INEC, Mahmood Yakubu, at about 2:40 a.m. on Saturday formally announced the postponement of the general elections.

The postponement means the presidential and National Assembly elections earlier scheduled for February 16 will now hold on February 23. The governorship and state assemblies elections initially scheduled for March 2 will now hold on March 9.

The decision by INEC to postpone the polls has been met with shock and scorn across the country.

Breaking News: The #NigeriaDecides2019 Elections now to hold on; 23rd February, 2019 for Presidential and National Assembly while the Governorship, State House of Assembly and the FCT Area Council Elections is to hold on 9th March, 2019. pic.twitter.com/6zhvBLQe2a

— INEC Nigeria (@inecnigeria) February 16, 2019

INEC’s Chairman Mahmood Yakubu made the a shock announcement on Saturday morning that “Proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,” citing logistical challenges.

Nigeria’s two main political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), swiftly condemned the move, accusing each other of trying to manipulate the vote.

READ THE FULL SPEECH

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) met on Friday, 15th February 2019 and reviewed its preparations for the 2019 General Election scheduled for Saturday, 16th February 2019 and Saturday, 2nd March 2019.

Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the Commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible.

Consequently, the Commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly Elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council Elections is rescheduled to Saturday 9th March 2019. This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections.

This was a difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of democracy.

The Commission will meet key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2p.m. on Saturday, 16th February 2019 at the Abuja International Conference Centre.

However, this is not the first time INEC will be postponing elections. In 2015, the then chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, also announced a postponement of the 2015 elections due to insecurity.

PEOPLE’S REACTION

The postponement of the February 16 Presidential and National Assembly elections by INEC has caused a predictable outrage. Meanwhile, Nigerians have taken to  social media platforms, most especially Twitter to express their views about the role played by INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, in the postponement of the 2019 elections.

While some doubted Prof. Yakubu by giving him the benefit of the doubt, others condemned him. This decision has equally left the Nigerian public both confused and angered, many complaining that they had already travelled to their states of origin in preparation for the vote.

The opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the commission’s shoddy arrangement plays into the plans of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to rig the elections in their favour and further cling to power.

“Having failed in all their nefarious options to enable them cling on to power, the APC and the INEC came up with the idea of shifting election, an action that is dangerous to our democracy and is therefore unacceptable,” he said in a statement.

Another reaction to the postponement was made by former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who said it confirmed the opposition’s fears that the ruling government would try to rig the election.

“Two days ago, I told Nigerians that the Presidency cabal were considering postponement of the elections because they knew that they can’t win. Now I’m vindicated. With this, they have only succeeded in making their situation worse. Nigerians will defeat this tyranny ultimately,” he said on his Twitter account (@GovAyoFayose).

President Muhammadu Buhari’s media aide, Bashir Ahmad, expressed frustration with the timing of the postponement especially since many Nigerians, including the president, had travelled to their localities to vote.

“Kai INEC! A lot of people traveled to cast their vote today, some for many hours, some from abroad, but you did such a thing just few hours to Election, haba, you could have taken this decision since Thursday or even early,” he posted.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s spokesperson, Laolu Akande, expressed a similar opinion about INEC’s decision, “Mr. President was already in Daura in Katsina State and the VP already in Lagos to vote this morning before the postponement just announced by INEC. This is truly disappointing, but the march to the Next Level continues. Nigeria will prevail,” he said.

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT BUHARI ON THE POSTPONEMENT OF GENERAL ELECTIONS BY INEC

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 traveled 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.

Elections postponement plan to disenfranchise voters – Atiku Abubakar, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate

Atiku Abubakar, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, alleged that the postponement of the general election by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is “obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob.”

In a statement released in the early hours of Saturday, February 16, Atiku said: “The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.

“By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date.” Atiku further alleged that the the election postponement is a bid to frustrate Nigerians from participating in the election.

He said: “Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts. “As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.”

Meanwhile, The spokesman of the House of Representatives, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa), on Saturday decried the postponement of the general elections.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday, Namdas described the postponement as “unfortunate.” The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on Saturday shifted the elections few hours to the opening of polling units.

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