FEATURE ARTICLE

Monday, February 18, 2019
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ELECTION POSTPONEMENT:
YAKUBU IS AN IRRESPONSIBLE PUBLIC OFFICER

f Nigeria were a normal country, the chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, would have paid the price for his brash treachery.

But because Nigeria has long notoriously established herself as a different kind of nation, where people are not held accountable, Mr. Yakubu is still before the microphone, giving orders on how elections he, by omission or commission, has already frustrated, should be conducted.

Because he knows that Nigeria is not a proper country, Yakubu did not even feel the need to apologize to the millions of electorate he had let down in his five-paragraph statement that rescheduled an election he had four years and all the resources to prepare for.

Because the INEC chairman knew that nothing would happen, he waited till five hours before polls were due to open, to tell his subjects that he has changed his mind about the whole thing.

He first let people travel from far and wide to their respective villages, spent the last money they had in their bid to exercise their franchise, before Yakubu realized that he and his fellow clowns at INEC have not done what they were supposed to do.

The height of his disregard for Nigerians was that he waited for them to go to bed before announcing the postponement of the election. Mr. Yakubu wanted us to wake up to a rude shock of election rescheduling.

He cancelled the elections by 2am in the morning, as if he should not have known 48 hours before that the elections would not hold, due to his failure. What a man!

Such a thing is only possible in the zoo, envisaged by the exiled leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu.

It is a disturbing Nigerian culture that people never take responsibility. When things go wrong, they blame everyone else, except themselves. And that was what the INEC chairman did when he later listed the reasons why he shifted the elections. He even claimed that his efforts were sabotaged, as if he should not have taken all that into consideration in his preparations.

If the professor of political history attempted to exonerate himself from blame, he only ridiculed himself with his poor performance in logical thinking.

In any case, you could now understand why he had to wait till few hours before the polls to come clean so that it would look like he did his best.

Mr. Yakubu talked shamelessly as if INEC was only commissioned last week to conduct the 2019 general elections.

To put it mildly, the INEC chairman is a very irresponsible public officer. Election dates are historic dates that are not supposed to be toyed with. The constitution and the Electoral Act underline this when they recognized only two circumstances under which an election could be postponed.

Certainly, shoddy preparation is not included.

Where in fact did Mr. Yakubu get the legal authority to call off the elections? The reasons he gave for the postponement cannot be justified at law. Operational and logistic failures do not suffice to shift elections under Nigerian laws.

Under Section 26 of the Electoral Act, an election can only be postponed if a serious breach of peace or violence is likely to happen or on account of natural disaster or other emergencies.

Section 105 further stipulates that if Nigeria is at war in which the territory of the country is physically involved and the president considers that it is not practicable to conduct elections, the National Assembly may pass a resolution to postpone the election provided such postponement shall not be more than six months at any one time.

It is therefore clear that Mr. Yakubu broke the law. And to make matters worse, he took a unilateral action, without even consulting with stakeholders.

On a personal note, the INEC chairman and his lieutenants never took their task seriously, having on the back of the minds that they can reschedule the polls if necessary. Afterall, his predecessor did the same. This is what you get when you tolerate impunity.

However, it needs to be pointed out that in 2015, Prof. Attahiru Jega, unlike Yakubu, did not take a unilateral action. He consulted with stakeholders.

Yakubu's misbehaviour will jeopardize the chances of some of the candidates in the election, who are less financially buoyant those who had already thrown in all they had and looked forward to the polls last Saturday. Now they may not have the money to re-mobilze their supporters and polling agents on the new date. Such candidates already have a reason to run to the courts even before the results are announced.

It would be impossible to quantify the economic and other costs of Yakubu's irresponsibility. Billions have been lost by businesses because he and his crew thought that organizing an election is a carnival or an opportunity to enrich themselves.

We also know how treacherous Nigerian roads are, so it is needless to mention the risk to personal safety and inconveniences to some of the electorate who will return to their work stations on Sunday but now forced to go back to their villages on Friday due to the rescheduling.

In fact, there is the greater risk that most of them, due to dire times, would not even bother to travel again.

The result is that there would be low turn-out this Saturday for the presidential and National Assembly elections. And who profits from that? Surely, those who have been accused of planning to rig the polls.

Thus it appears, at least to me, that Mr. Yakubu has intentionally or unintentionally influenced the outcome of the elections.

One thing is now clear, even before voting started, the INEC chairman has lost the moral authority to be an unbiased umpire and should therefore step aside.

This apart, Mr. Yakubu's incompetence has made Nigeria a laughing stock among the comity of nations. We are now seen as a people incapable of running our affairs. And there has to be consequences.

Mr. Yakubu should not be allowed to carry on as INEC boss as if nothing has happened. He has woefully failed in what he was commissioned to do and the only honourable thing to do is to resign, or be forced to throw in the towel if he still has one.


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