May 29, 2017

Postponed Elections Have Caused More Harm than Good by Ayisha Osori

Postponed Elections Have Caused More Harm than Good by Ayisha Osori

It is safe to wager that the postponement of the elections will create more problems than it was intended to solve. Indeed, the levels of affliction on most sectors of our society might lead back to questions about what the postponement was really intended to achieve in the first place.

In Nigeria, we’ve accepted that elections are an event. We prepare for months; we spend billions on its management and things shut down and stop for it. As such, we may estimate that for the last eight months the country has been on the business of elections and little else. Everything visionary is not important if it will not deliver a win at the polls and this has taken a toll on the entire population. The longer we put it off; the more we will continue to pay.

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For one the economy is in trouble. The global price of our primary source of foreign exchange is dropping and our currency has been devalued by 7.8% this year alone. Unfortunately we will not pay attention to it until after the elections. Not just because our ministers and heads of agencies have been on the campaign trail, but also because the rest of the world does not want to deal with us right now. Despite assurances from the Federal Government, the cloud of uncertainty hanging above Nigeria is not the best climate for investment and given the manner in which the elections were postponed, there is absolutely no guarantee that this will not happen again.  Since February 7, the Nigerian capital market has lost over $2billion. We lost in a week, close to half of what we lost over the entire period of 2014. In expectation of pre and post election violence, uneasy local and international investors have been divesting and taking out their money.

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Education has not escaped. Our schools are under pressure with teachers, parents and students torn between being safe and trying to make the best of a crippled education system and school calender.  The first term of the academic year was short by at least 4 weeks because of Ebola; this term we have elections. For the areas that have borne the brunt of escalating insecurity over the last 5 years, it is anyone’s guess what the state of education is.

Socially, families are being torn apart and lives are unsettled. Many who cannot afford to relocate for fears of ethnic and religious violence triggered by the results of the elections, had sent their families back home. Now they have to decide whether to leave them there for the next 6 weeks or spend scarce resources during a time of ratcheting inflation, to bring them back and prepare to repeat the exercise in 6 weeks.  This does not include Nigerians who spend part of their time abroad who made plans to be home in order to vote and take part in the elections. All these social costs are unrecognized collateral damage sacrificed to a political and election culture based on subterfuge and forced incompetence.

While many think the tension between the major opposing parties for the presidential elections has been somewhat eased by the postponement, all we did was let out a little pressure from the bag of dread. Now there is room to expand the space for increased capacity to harm and horrify. The rumour and conspiracy mills are on over drive with the aim of discrediting INEC and destroying what little faith in the election process Nigerians still have. And instead of calming nerves, we have provided 42 more days of hate speech couched as political adverts and documentaries.

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Finally, despite the concerted efforts of a regional multinational joint task force, the terrorists seem to be scaling up their operations, undaunted by the announcement from the Nigerian Army that we would be taking the offensive to them. Not only were we still playing defense in Gombe this weekend, the terrorists have allegedly taken to preparing for elections as well – scattering leaflets warning residents not to take part in the elections and not to cooperate with the security forces.

These issues do not even include the damage to our credibility as a democratic nation and the destruction to the independence of our institutions. The fundamental question in the face of all the ills this postponement will bring is: why could we not have planned well enough to secure our election dates?

 

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