Postponement: Theories and permutations

This week ’ s column had been cleared for a take on capital markets in the aftermath of the elections, before the Independent National Electoral Commission somehow conspired to make itself the centre of attention for the umpteenth time , by announcing the postponement of the February 16 elections literally overnight .

While last -minute cancellation or announcement of major events is a way of life for journalists , columnists and all, it is not so for ordinary citizens whose lives and livelihood will undoubtedly be disrupted by INEC ’ s tumultuous decision to postpone eagerly anticipated elections in which the stakes were running ever so high .

It is obvious that INEC has simply taken a leaf from a similar postponement of the 2015 elections, which the then ruling party , the Peoples Democratic Party , went on to lose .

The omen , this time round , is not looking good for the Buhari administration and the ruling All Progressives Congress either .

The sheer loss of revenue associated with the postponement is incalculable for everyone concerned : voters had travelled home from various locations to their polling units, some have even come back home from neighbouring countries for no other purpose than to take part in the elections; Friday , February 15 , the day before the elections, was an undeclared public holiday for many public even private employees , as many businesses had opted to close early ; business meetings and investment decisions had been put in abeyance; expenses had been incurred for INEC staff up and down the country; hotel bills had been incurred by foreign and local observers , the list goes on.

It is no wonder that there is pent – up anger , bewilderment and resentment on the part of the electorate , which will be visited on somebody – soon enough.

And , if history is anything to go by , the incumbent political leaders always pay the price for this kind of fiasco so close and so late in the day.

In a situation like this , even armchair columnists and critics struggle to maintain a cool head in proffering a dispassionate analysis of events as they unfold.

Still , we must sit back and take stock . So , first , let us peruse the reasons given by INEC ’ s chairman , Professor Mahmood Yakubu , for the decision to postpone the elections.

Then, we look at other possible (albeit unpalatable) reasons , which may be at play beneath the surface .

On the main reason for the postponement , the INEC chairman stated : “ Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistic and operational plans and the determination to conduct free , fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible .
Consequently , the commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday , February 23, 2019 .

Furthermore , the governorship , state Houses of Assembly and Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections are rescheduled to Saturday , March 9 , 2019 ” .

As you can see above , INEC ’ s statement tells us almost nothing . It is deliberately designed to obscure , prevaricate , and obfuscate. It is a classic bureaucratic functionary that says everything , but gives absolutely nothing away .

It is not too difficult to understand why such a body would not wish to go into the specifics of its underlying reasons and reasoning ; talking too much would only leave too many hostages to fortune , as it would invite idle charter and baseless speculation .

This column would indulge in neither of these , but will, instead , present an informed analysis of the decision .

Consequently , readers are invited to ponder the merits of the following three plausible theories .
First , the APC knew it was poised to win the elections, and the Buhari administration was made aware of lingering , teething (logistical ) problems INEC was facing .

Winning the elections without fixing those glaring problems would cast a shadow over the APC victory , and would lead to nationwide protests over , and international condemnation of the outcome.

INEC , in cahoots with the APC , wanted to leave no stone unturned in order to forestall such negative reactions and backlash to the results afterwards .

It is in fact , a vivid demonstration of the party ’ s confidence in the eventual outcome of the polls . The second theory is the reverse of the first .

The APC had seen unmistakable signs of its imminent defeat at the polls , and was alarmed by this .

Rather than sleepwalk into a disaster , it up with INEC to help execute its plan B . After all, sensitive materials had already been distributed in some of the strategic areas being targeted by the APC .

Postponement for a week presents an opportunity to correct “ mistakes ” and rebalance the endgame. A week , it is said , is a long time indeed in politics .

The third theory is simply that we are looking at a thoroughly inefficient , bungling, bumbling , and befuddling INEC , unable to perform its most fundamental function : deliver the elections on time and on schedule.

Despite having had ample time since 2015 to get things right , the commission still demonstrated sheer incompetence and has clearly embarrassed itself, particularly the chairman , the erstwhile professor and adroit public servant , who should now be considering his position .

As it happened , INEC met with representatives of the political parties and the world last Saturday to answer questions about the postponement .

There were the usual tell – tale stories about weather conditions , fire accidents , slow trucks , moving and non – moving trains , helicopter landing difficulties etc. , as excuses for postponing the elections.

One thing is for sure in this country, no amount of advance preparation would eliminate logistical problems .

These are part and parcel of the work environment everyone is having to operate in.

INEC is expecting Nigerians and the international observers to view its decision to postpone as yet another “ Third World ” ineptitude . This ought to be frowned upon given the abundance of resources at its disposal .

Finally , if we settle for the first theory in this analysis , it would be the first time in history that a government postponed an election it was poised to win; it would be tantamount to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory .

It is a rather outlandish proposition , but , truth sometimes can be stranger than fiction when it comes to political power in this country.

Moving on, to settle for the second theory would be akin to a thief announcing his arrival in advance to his victim .

Does that make sense ? To be forewarned , they say , is to be forearmed or , is it not? Besides, nothing is more capable of uniting and galvanising the opposition than the scent of an imminent manipulation of an election outcome by an incumbent in this country or anywhere else for that matter.

The third theory sounds plausible , but totally unacceptable .

In 2015 , security agencies specifically urged a postponement ; it was a reluctant decision taken under some kind of duress .

This time , INEC took the decision suo motu .

Right or wrong , and whatever the outcome , the organisation has not covered itself in glory one little bit .

19 thoughts on “Postponement: Theories and permutations

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