ANY number of reasons could be given for the postponement of the elections billed for February 14 and 28, but none would ameliorate the disappointment of Nigerians that the numerous experiments the Independent National Electoral Commis-sion, INEC, has performed since 2011 came to such sorry conclusion. INEC never indicated it was not ready for the elections.
Suggestions that the elections be postponed on two critical points – security and the slow distribution of the permanent voter’s cards, PVCs, were rejected by INEC which often responded that it was ready.
While it was making these promises, some cards were not ready, some of its card readers had not arrived, and it was uncertain if they would arrive and be distributed before the elections, the first of which was to hold on February 14. Only 45, 829, 808, or 66.58 per cent of registered voters had collected their PVCs by February 5, nine days to the earlier date proposed for the presidential election.
INEC said it was ready for the elections until a letter from the National Security Adviser which stated that security could not be guaranteed during the elections. The security agencies had asked for “at least six weeks to conclude a major military operation against the insurgency in the North East,” according to INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega. The position of the military was that a concentration of its attention in the operations would leave it without enough resources to participate in the elections.
The tie between the elections and the success of military operations in the North East is bound to “at least” disturb Nigerians. Suppose the military does not attain the anticipated level of security in six weeks, would the elections suffer further postponement? Should the military decide the date of elections?
INEC is hiding behind Section 26(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). It states, “Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date…, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable”. The section never envisaged the total postponement of elections; the measure was to deal with specific areas.
Our democracy is on trial. We should all rescue it from feigned concerns.