• Sunday, June 23, 2024
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The other side of 2015 polls postponement

Now that we are back on the march again  

We were actually heading for trouble. The anxiety this election has generated is itself a worry. The mindset of violence is preponderant. It’s not that it’s gone, but the shift provided a cooling-off to really take a look again. Though do-or-die politics was birthed a decade ago, the easy way is to dismiss it as ‘gone’. Wrong: it’s still very much the rhythm. Four years is understood by players as 40 years until it is four years when they’re about to go. The same with eight years; it’s 80 years. In their mind, it’s eternal until it is transient. That understanding of the eternality of office makes them use all, do all, to get all.

In Abia State, for instance, it’s dawning on the incumbent that 80 years is indeed eight years and will expire on May 29. It’s time up, they don’t believe it, so the crony button is pressed. The candidate-as-TV is pushed forward and the pusher-godfather holds the REMOTE to see if he can net in four more years from behind. In that bid, they use state-might; prevent opponents from accessing public places for campaign: schools, stadia, etc. The last rally I attended to listen to Alex Otti was in a bush cleared overnight and with no guarantee that abiding reptiles won’t question our presence in their domain. Alex said he is enduring it to avoid loss of life. That’s thoughtful, especially considering that human life to the powers-that-be is down the ladder.

The same government has turned around to accuse him of harbouring a private army: a theatrical dance of the absurd. It was getting to its peak even with the assumption that all was well with INEC. But was all well? 700,000 ad hoc staff not recruited, presiding officers yet to be trained, no full complement of ballot boxes, fake printing ink sent to states from the HQ rejected, many states yet to get balance of card readers and, above all, no guarantee of peace according to the military. That interpreted is chaos. Add this to Boko-Haram, mass relocation from the north to the south and south to north, we have a free-for-all. At that point, constitution won’t speak, America won’t and Britain won’t. A responsible government cannot foresee danger and wilfully slide into it. I have left out mini interethnic wars/military coup and their plausible deaths. I don’t think the critics of the shift weighed these. Jonathan is right, INEC is right.

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Now question is, what do we do with the time left? The PVC issue, can it be improved on? If you have a TVC (temporary voting card) and you’re in Port Harcourt but registered in Abuja, INEC office tells you to go to Abuja. How? In an electronic age, INEC does not have the mechanism to effect a transfer electronically within minutes. The result is, such people will not vote. Is it possible to quicken such transfers now? Will the presiding officers be trained and the ad hoc staff recruited/instructed? How can security improve for the election to hold? That’s the task ahead.

The cost component of the postponement must be daunting. That may be the aspect irking foreign governments the most. They must have deployed their personnel, only to stay back one month longer with no one to pay the difference. It’s painfully understandable but cannot be compared to the cost of equipping and sending their armies to quell Nigeria’s war. The same they couldn’t do 50 years ago or, for that matter, handle displaced persons/the dead and fund the accompanying international diplomacy. These put together make waiting one more month a worthy sacrifice, albeit painful. Now is their time to be more involved to get it right since the election is as important to them as it is to us.

The cost effect is not just external. Many of the candidates are already financially beleaguered and hoping that this passes by, but is it? Many complain of the high cost of stumps, hosting crowds most of which come to eat and drink with yet no voting cards. All that entertainment is gone; they have to start afresh. Nigerians cherish RECENCY memory: The last is remembered, the first forgotten. Spending starts afresh but from where? If they’re cash-strapped, they’re out, meaning, for the next decade, they’re poor or do things untoward to recoup.

Another interesting dimension is Jega’s. He said, “We are not being forced by anybody to take this decision. This is a decision that we had to take by ourselves. Nobody has forced us; nobody has coerced us. We stand by this decision.” Hnnh! was he not following developments within the commission all this while? Looks like self-indictment. Now his critics can say, what’s he doing there then? Events will unfold.

Onyebuchi Onyegbule