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INEC boss Mahmood Yakubu

Nigeria (s)election postponement: Conspiracy or cock-up?

16 February 2019

Nigeria was scheduled to hold its presidential and national assembly (s)elections today and the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) waited until literally the last minute, in the early hours of this morning, to conclude that the voting will be put back by a week.

It was the same story four years ago when another election was postponed officially for lack of preparedness.

But at least then it wasn’t left to the last minute before once again, Nigeria was turned into a laughing stock all over the world. History is repeating itself once more in Nigeria. Like Karl Marx said, history repeats itself “the first as tragedy, then as farce”.

Once again, the official reasons for this farce of humongous proportions are around “logistical” problems in a vast country riven with insecurity. But this official line doesn’t hold water. INEC has been running elections, with varying degrees of failure, since 1999. Under current management, they have had four years to plan for today. They have even had state elections and by-elections within the last four years to game-plan for today. Money is no object for INEC, with a budget running in billions of naira and the security agencies at their disposal. So they had the means to deliver on schedule.

Any rookie programme manager should know that all planning must include contingencies that should guarantee delivery and readiness by the deadline. Additionally, INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu, was quite bullish in a January interview when he expressed readiness to conduct elections on schedule.

For INEC to only find out they were no longer ready to conduct the election the night before the scheduled date flies in the face of reason and insults the intelligence of Nigerians. When the official line doesn’t make much sense, the conspiracy theories start to sound more plausible. One version circulating via Whatsapp holds that “internal polling” by the ruling party showed that they will lose badly. So, just like the ruling party did in 2015, they leaned on INEC to postpone the election to allow for further attempts to fix the vote. Another version claims that the information on looming defeat was given to President Muhammadu Buhari by intelligence sources.

It’s laughable and ironic that Buhari and his party claimed that they represented “change” from the previous regime. Buhari threw a wobbly when informed of a possible postponement four years ago.

In response to today’s announcement, Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” but asked Nigerians to remain calm. Not quite the anger he displayed as a challenger. His main rival Atiku Abubakar accused the Buhari administration of “anti-democratic acts”. The behaviour of both men, in addition to INEC’s implausible last minute discovery of “logistical” issues, just add more fuel to the fire of conspiracy.

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