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Heavy cost of election postponement

IT is said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat its lessons. Nigeria has, once again, proved it is incapable of learning from its past mistakes. Repetition of past vices appears to have been elevated to a “made in Nigeria” tradition.

Yakubu

During the 2011 general elections, Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, suddenly announced the postponement of the National Assembly election (which was already three hours in progress) from Saturday, April 2, 2011 to Monday, April 4, blaming massive logistical failures.

Also in 2015, Jega was forced by the Federal Government to shift the elections scheduled for February 14 for six weeks, citing security challenges from Boko Haram which was in control of 14 local government areas in the North East. Incumbent INEC helmsman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, shocked stakeholders in our electoral process last Saturday in the dead of the night when he also called off the presidential and National Assembly polls about six hours to the election, also blaming a logistics force majeure.

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It is trite to say that this is a major national and international embarrassment. We had four years to plan for these elections. We had all the opportunities to correct our perennial logistics maladministration which has always plagued our elections and disenfranchised millions of Nigerians.

The logistical issue was a problem foretold; judging by the sloppy ways the Federal Government handled the financing of INEC last year. The Electoral umpire’s election budget should have been included in the 2018 Appropriating proposal to the National Assembly on December 19, 2017 when President Muhammadu Buhari laid it at the National Assembly.

Instead, he waited until August 2018 before he wrote the lawmakers to fund part of the 2019 election budget by viring N143 billion from their N578 billion projects.

If funds had been released on time it probably would have prevented this expensive national fiasco. The postponement imposed heavy financial losses on individuals who had travelled to vote, and the economy as a whole. Even the hordes of local and international observer groups who had fully deployed for the election were left to count their losses.

More regrettable and condemnable was that Prof. Yakubu, during his postponement announcement, failed to apologise and empathise with stakeholders for their losses.

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We call on the INEC to compensate Nigerians and other stakeholders in this general election by conducting them in a satisfactory manner to ensure that the people’s will prevails. No further mishaps will be acceptable.

We also call on the political parties, candidates, voters, electoral officials and poll monitors to come out in full force for the elections. Let us not be deterred. We must remain vigilant and protect the people’s franchise.

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