In the just concluded week, the much anticipated Presidential and National Assembly elections, originally scheduled to hold on February 16, 2019 was postponed to Saturday, February 23 2019 in a rather abrupt and untidy manner in the wee hours of the election date. According to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the shift in the date was chiefly based on logistics and operational issues which would have marred the quality of the polls. Expectedly, the rescheduling of the elections drew various reactions from stakeholders.
The international community including the United States and United Kingdom supported INEC’s decision to shifting the polls by a week to enable better preparations but warned the Commission against further postponement of the elections in order to build confidence and trust in the process.
On the other hand, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), condemned the polls shift and questioned INEC’s foresightedness and planning process. Amid the shift in polls and all efforts to enable INEC deliver credible elections, President Buhari ordered the security officers to be ruthless with ballot snatchers along with anyone leading thugs to the polling units to disrupt the electoral process.
The President also condemned the postponement (aligning self with most political parties’ position) and vowed to investigate what went wrong after the general elections. The Commission also rescheduled the Governorship, State House of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council elections to Saturday, March 9, 2019 from Saturday, February 23, 2019.
We opine that the postponement of the general elections by INEC, its assurance of its preparedness, the mandate given to the security men by the President, as well as assurances from the army to act within the rules of engagements should further bolster the credibility of the 2019 general elections.
Also, noting the importance of an effective implementation of logistic plan to conducting free, fair and credible elections, we expect INEC to have taken advantage of the extra seven days to fix all its logistic and operational issues and be set to deliver the credible 2019 general elections as promised, bearing in mind that whatever happens in Nigeria, being the largest democracy in Africa, could have a contagion effect beyond its borders.