Gubernatorial Elections: The Price And Perturbation Of The Postponement

By Bala Ibrahim

In my nearly six and a half decades of existence as a Human being and a Nigerian, I have come across a lot of astonishing and embarrassing experiences, caused on to leaders, which gave me surprises and sometimes dismay, but nothing as flabbergasting as the last night’s news of the postponement of Nigeria’s Governorship and Parliamentary elections, and the implied effect it could have on the subconscious of the outgoing President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. Nothing. Of course, the country’s rumour mill, which is the most flourishing industry in Nigeria, was signaling that uncertainties were lurking with regard to the elections, because of the thorny issue of INEC’s request for reconfiguring the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS), but with the nod given to it yesterday by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, to go ahead and reconfigure them, and knowing fully that INEC was not just sitting listless, or resting on it’s oars, the thought of them being caught napping and resulting in their calling for such sudden shift in date was viewed by me as utterly absurd, ridiculous and preposterous.

In fact, even at night, when the social media was deluged with all manner of stories pertaining the shift of the date, and some friends called to say they have it on strong authority, I was unperturbed, because, I had the TV in front of me, and I know if there is any substance in the stories making the round, the national television, NTA, would surely make it the most important item of the network news. So when the network news began at 9 pm, and nothing like that was mentioned all through the headline, my confidence stood unshaken.

By the time the lady announced the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from Qatar, and said that he had proceeded straight to his native home in Daura, in order for him to perform the civic responsibility of voting in the Governorship and Parliamentary elections scheduled for Saturday, 11th March 2023, my confidence in the sacrosanctity of the election on Saturday, climbed the cradle of credence.

I laughed to near choke, when a friend said jokingly, “they could shift the date without the knowledge of the President, who would innocently, but ignorantly arrive Daura for the exercise”.

The brouhaha on the BVAS reconfiguration started shortly after the Presidential election on the 25th of last month, long before the President left Nigeria to Qatar, for the Fifth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries, where he spent four days. He left Doha for Nigeria yesterday, on a flight that is about 8 hours. Arrived in Katsina, boarded a helicopter from Katsina to Daura, got received by the who-is-who in the state and the Emirate, and in all these, someone could say he was not in the know, that the election was not going to hold? Is it possible? Is it plausible? Is it imaginable? I am still questioning my conscience.

If we calculate the logistic cost, especially on security deployment, the difficulties suffered by those in charge of the President’s movement, the man hour losses by personnel, alongside the collective comfort of those travelling home, even adjectives like wildly unreasonable, illogical or absurd, are not enough to describe the inappropriateness of such an embarrassment. More so, for someone like Buhari, the man that made name for forethought, financial prudence, and interest in the area of discipline, that deals with the code of behaviour.

In their own announcement, INEC said that it has shifted the governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections scheduled to hold on Saturday, March 11 to March 18. According to the National Commissioner and Chairman Voter Education and Publicity, Festus Okoye, “The decision had not been taken lightly, but it was necessary to ensure that there was adequate time to back up the data stored on the over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on 25th February 2023 and then to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections”.

The question begging for answer now is, what was INEC doing all along? Weren’t they expecting this?

Granted that the court had last week stopped the commission from tampering with the BVAS deployed in the February 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections, pursuant to a motion on notice brought by the Labour Party (LP) and its presidential candidate, Peter Obi and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). But INEC had right away opposed the motion, saying the BVAS machines which the plaintiffs sought a restraining order are to be deployed for the governorship and state Houses of Assembly election slated for March 11. So how come it was caught unaware, such that it is only now realizing that the BVAS could only be activated on the specific date and time of an election?

By this singular action of callousness, INEC has shown insensitivity, embarrassment on the President in particular I think, and cruelty on the electorate in general, with deliberate disregard to the price of peace. And the public is likely to remain perturbed, by this painful and avoidable postponement.