The postponement of the 2015 General elections by about six weeks did not become a major post-election controversy because the All Progressive Congress(APC) opposition won the elections, in spite of any machinations of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party(PDP).
You’ll recall how much of a fiasco it became when news filtered in that the elections might be postponed. When the action was eventually taken. Nigerians went on a conspiracy theory spree and justifiably so.
But with the variants of speculations and conjectures that were “manufactured” then, and with the perfect hatred with which those who had access to the media in Nigeria hated the incumbent administration, one can only imagine the heat that we would have had to cope with had the PDP gone ahead to win the presidential election, at least. I do not think anything said or done would have convinced local and international observers of the Nigerian democracy that the postponement was not designed to manipulate the elections.
That the opposition carried the day after the 2015 elections is one of the major reasons why the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) became the beautiful bride of the democratic world, it was why custodians of democratic globally fell in love with Nigeria again and why chairman of INEC, prof Attaihiru Jega could hold his head high and became a resource to countries aspiring for credible electoral processes.
You see, election day, not the day that we swear in elected people, is the celebration of democracy. The ease with which we conduct elections is a mark of the level of the growth that they have attained in their democratic journey, which the freeness and fairness of elections show a people, level of maturity and well as their readiness to sustain democracy. All of this work together to build the confidence of the people in the electoral system and it is this confidence of the people that sustains democratic growth. Anything that erodes the confidence of the people in the ability of the electoral body to deliver credible elections tampers with the prospects of the attainment of democratic maturity.
This is the reason why the INEC under the leadership of Professor Mahmood Yakubu needs to quickly get its acts together. None of the elections conducted under Yakubu’s watch has reached peaceable conclusions, which the election in Rivers has actually not reached any conclusion at all, months after its conduct. It is the same Yakubu who said a couple of weeks ago that he could not totally assure Nigerians about the 2019 elections. The factors named above was already washing away the level of trust in INEC post 2015 elections and that has now been worsened by last week’s cancellation of the gubernatorial elections in Edo State.
One can of course not ask INEC to go on with elections without adequate assurances that life would be safe but waiting until the last minute to post pone elections sends the wrong signals not just to the parties contesting the election but also to the electorate.
Although security is a critical part of the electoral process, INEC and agencies like the Directorate of State Security and the Nigeria Police should work together at every time such that last minutes suggestions for the cancelation or postponement of elections when hundreds of millions would have been spent by the commission and monitors from out and within the country would have been expended.
And then, any information concerning elections should only be released to the people by the electoral agencies. A situation in which security agencies take up the responsibility of dropping hints for a shift in dates as we saw in the Edo situation is laden with suspicion.
Curiously, this script is identical to the one played by the former National Security Adviser, Colonel Dasuki Sambo and that has become the defence suggested by people who want to justify this postponement. But a process that wants to go cannot stick with the old ways of doing things. INEC needs to wake up to the responsibility of securing the future of democracy in Nigeria. It does nothing of sorts at the moment.