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On the postponed elections

Polls shift in nation’s interest – PDP

What started as a mere rumour eventually crystallised into a hard fact when, last Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has postponed this year’s elections earlier scheduled for February 14 and 28, citing insecurity. According to Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, the presidential and National Assembly elections will now be held on March 28, while the gubernatorial and State Assembly elections will be held on April 11, 2015.

Predictably, various reactions have trailed the postponement. While the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has endorsed the move, the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has described it as provocative and a setback for democracy. Meanwhile, civil society organisations and human rights activists have weighed on the side of the APC.

As things stand, we could easily see reasons with INEC since reports indicated that security forces said they could not guarantee adequate protection during the polls as earlier scheduled. But that raises a critical question: security-wise, will conditions be auspicious next time around such that the polls will not be postponed again? This is why we must state categorically that this should be the first and only postponement of the polls. On this score, we are glad to note that the president has given his word that the new date will be sacrosanct.

Read also: Nigerian Bar Association reacts to postponement of elections by INEC!

But beyond the foregoing, we are inclined to view some of the depositions of the INEC chief with a pinch of salt. Jega had said in his press briefing that INEC on its part was indeed ready for the election. However, we do not think that this is wholly true. If anything, this is a contention that plays truancy with facts. This is because as we write, a large number of Nigerians are yet to collect their permanent voter cards – which, in the first place, was the major justification for the postponement given by Sambo Dasuki, national security adviser (NSA), in the course of an outing in (of all places) Chatham House, London. So, rather than live in denial, INEC should use the interval provided by the postponement to ensure that every eligible voter gets their PVCs.

But there are other fallouts of the postponement which weigh heavily on the mind. For instance, in conformity with the tenets of electoral observation, many international observers had already arrived in the country with a view to assessing our level of preparations for the polls. But in view of the new date, many of them may have to return to their bases to come back later, with its cost implications.

Similarly, the postponement may have negatively affected businesses, foreign and local, which had structured their plans based on the previous dates, and may now have to incur additional costs as they restrategise to accommodate the new dates. Indeed, this may partly explain why various strands of the international community have voiced their disappointment as regards the new turn of events.

In highly political matters like this, it is also tempting to look into what can be called the subtext of the entire episode. On this note, there is the contention that the PDP has supported the shift in polls with a view to getting some breathing space needed to turn around its fortunes. If this is true, we can only hope that such a breathing space will not be used in any way to subvert the outcomes of the elections.

What is, however, beyond argument is that the new dates provide more time for all the parties to sensitise the electorate as regards their plans, if and when elected. We, therefore, urge Nigerians to take the postponement with philosophical calmness, remain resolute and patient since at the end of the day, the new polling dates will surely come to pass.

As a business newspaper, however, we wish to stress here that the postponement of the elections may have sent inclement signals to the business community within and outside Nigeria. Already, some reports indicate that the naira has been further battered since the postponement of the polls. Needless to stress, instability and economic development are strange bedfellows.

Consequently, our fervent hope is that the new polling dates will be vested with the toga of immutability. Anything short of this portends grave danger and chaos for the polity.