Once upon a time, as our stories are often told, in a location of earth, mud and sweat dwelt a farmer whose wife was pregnant for the fourth time. Nine months after and she was ready to eject the mustard seed that has grown into the size of a watermelon in her womb. She winced in pain as her husband made arrangements for the hospital. Clumsily they made it to the village clinic and the nurses asked for the items of her delivery he was supposed to bring along. His answer was simple and short “I’m not prepared for this, I wished it was postponed until next weekend.” The faces of all who heard it in the clinic went pale with shock. A nurse offered a response “Excuse me sir, your wife didn’t just get pregnant today, she gave you nine months to prepare…” He quickly jumped in with a protest “well, technically I only knew about it seven months ago.” In desperation the nurse retorted, “Moreover, the EDD prediction speaks of this weekend, so what’s your excuse?”

Does this tale remind you of anything that has happened recently? Think no further beyond Saturday February 16, 2019 when Nigerians woke up in an almost elections morning only to awake to the brutish nightmare of its postponement. And like the nurses and patients that day, many still have the roofs of their mouths open and drooling over the shock. Like a bad deja Vu or broken record, we have returned, as a nation, back to where we left four years ago. The fraught reality is that such higgledy-piggledy lifestyle has plunged the nation into an imbroglio that we cannot dance away from.

It is impalpable to even imagine that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his team would throw into the ring lack of adequate preparation and logistical exigencies as the Commission’s viable excuse for postponement. It is really mortifying that like an incursion, this attack against our democracy came from the very institution that is set up to uphold the sanity and sacredness of same. That such decision was hurriedly assumed at an indaba that held on the night before the elections morning is no less abasing.

It is highly unlikely that Nigerians have had to risk their personal conveniences and money, several kilometers in journeyings, other than a visit during Christmas like they did for this elections. There was mass exodus of people, airports had all flights booked, bus parks and terminals were not spared a moment’s breath. Many had to travel several kilometers because of the elections as they needed to vote and votes were only possible at the polling units of registration. Our democracy is still crawling and as such cannot yet sponsor the reality of casting votes anywhere in Nigeria with the valid voters’ card and it being registered. Quite a lot of patriots in the abroad were not left out. The international airports and seaports also got overwhelmed and had their hands full. Nigerians were not about to miss this elections. We were ready to pick the next president and National Assembly clowns and heros. Everywhere and everything that could move people across distance had a crowd to deal with. The atmosphere was electric, and people were ready with their Permanent Voters Card, PVC, held up like a weapon they were ready for the ballot or should I say battle. Schools were shut, businesses closed early on Friday evening and cancelled all Saturday’s engagements for the elections. It felt like a needful sacrifice for a worthy cause. We were ready. That was when at some two hours after midnight on Saturday morning, Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his team felt it was convenient to make such outrageous declaration of the decision to change elections date by a week.

INEC said it was a difficult decision, however I think it was a callous and insensitive one. The realization that there are logistical exigencies and all being proffered as reasons for the shift in date of the elections did not just jump out of the closet. Like the pregnancy of the farmer’s wife, the growing signs has been telling on a daily basis for months. They fixed the dates themselves and if like their predecessor they felt the need to shift dates, then they had several weeks to have done that. Weeks before schools were shutdown and their itineraries rescheduled because of the elections. Weeks before businesses had to close early and sacrifice a few millions that aren’t easy to make in such a country in the first place. Weeks before many of our people had to make trips across water, fire and mountains to exercise their franchise. All these are all now exercise done in futility. Why are we like this?

This decision is not without its morbid implications and already the main opposition to the incumbent president has already smelled the trick of Jacob hoodwinking a blind Isaac. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in his response has described the postponement in these words: “This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. 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. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively.
“Knowing that the Nigerian people are determined to reject them, they are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid their rejection by the Nigerian people.
“Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts.”

While Alhaji Atiku Abubakar may be accused of peddling a narrative that supports his interests, a few things that he mentioned must not be discredited. Some of the issues he raised as the ripple effect of this one week moratorium are valid.

Chief among them is the fact that the numbers will be considerably reduced on February 23 as against the expected number of voters that were ready for February 16. This is because most Nigerians that travelled for the elections will have to have come back disappointed to their resident states, to resume office by Monday morning. Of course, they will still be nursing their financial and psychological wounds come February 23 and dare not be advised to make that journey again. Well, I am sure quite a number as a spite against whatever conspiracy, real or imagined, that could be implied by this postponement will readily make the journey again if they can. However, many of our foreign brothers, who only secured a week return ticket just to come vote for the presidential elections, may be forced to return back.

Aside the implications on the outcome of the number of voters that would come out when elections finally hold on the 23rd or any other day INEC finally feels like holding it. It cannot be excused that INEC’s braggadocio has cost many businesses, whether small scale, medium or multinational, ample business deals and money. And the thought of having to close business again next weekend is a horrible deja Vu they have to deal with.

Another ripple effect is that Professor Mahmood Yakubu by this decision has cast aspersions against the integrity of the country’s institution of democracy. The elections umpire will be mediating the elections this Saturday from disadvantaged focal lenses. Admittedly, every elections breed the antics that accuse the commission of colluding with the incumbent and this despicable act has only given oxygen to such antics to fester. It may be too harsh to conclude, however more than half of Nigerian political influencers would argue the credibility of the elections results if the incumbent wins. So the professor has uncannily decimated President Buhari’s chances of winning credibly. The only narrative that may be called credible is such like 2015 where the incumbent is unseated despite the postponement. My submission is that the integrity of the presidential election results has been compromised; Buhari cannot win and it will be ascribed credible, and Atiku cannot win without the disadvantage this postponement has caused to Buhari’s chances.

However, as embarrassing as the situation is, the INEC Chairman is all the more impenitent and feels too deigned to offer his resignation as an apology. The professor had over three years and a half to prepare for February 16, at the least his resignation and the sack of all resident commissioners would be the smallest penance he could give us. You do not wake up on the morning of the biggest event in the recent history of Nigeria and postpone by just a week, then go back to a bowl of cereal for breakfast, as though what broke as breaking news did not steal away the appetite of most Nigerians for breakfast. If three and a half years were not enough time to fix logistics and other exigencies, as claimed, then I doubt a week is. And sadly, the ripple effects nonetheless, absolutely no one will be sanctioned for this madness and wastage.

A friend sarcastically opined that if nation’s were allowed to vote for rapture that Nigeria would definitely vote for a postponement on the morning of rapture.

Nigerians, why are we like this?

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