Nigeria Election Postponement, INEC And Credibility Issues

INECNigeria appears to be a peculiar state. Things happen here which make one wonders and keeps mouth open for  few hours. When it comes to issue of money, not many people can resist the urge not to jettison their age long held believe they had been known with. It appears the impact of poverty on average Nigerian psyche had dealt a lot of blow to what is remaining in the brains of this minority. Interestingly these few elements always want to give a stereotype image of other well meaning Nigerians (with sound integrity)that make up the larger majority.

Nigeria Presidential and Legislature elections had been postponed by six weeks.  This was the final culmination of ‘series’ of meetings Independent Nigeria Electoral  Commission(INEC) held between early hours of Saturday February 7, 2015 till around eleven thirty PM. Prior to this, the Council of State had met, a body which comprises of Past  and Presnet Heads of States, National Assembly leaders and State Governors in Nigeria , had met to discus the possibilities of election postponement because of what was considered INEC’s ‘lack of preparedness’ for the election process.

Going by the outcome of the meeting, Nigerians were told INEC should be given its constitutional rights without any interference in the conduct of the elections. What Nigerians were told was that INEC alone as a body was the only body that could postpone the election. Meanwhile INEC kept assuring Nigerians that it was ready to proceed into the conduct of the election despite its teething challenge of not been able to finish the distribution of  personal voters’ card.

Even with this promise, many had argued why did it take INEC such a long time to do the needful. Opposing argument was that voters should be allowed to vote with the old voters’ card if the problem of distribution continued. This was not accepted by INEC as It said the new method has the capacity to eliminate  all forms of rigging  mechanisms. With the present Chairman of INEC, Prof Attahiru Jega, a common notion was that he is difficult to buy, ‘bribed or compromised’.

So with such enthusiasm, Nigerians kept hope alive. Nigerians strongly beleived election would proceed as  planned. But within twenty four hours to the time INEC would make any statement, Nigerians had been told by several foreign media that elections would be postponed with minimum of six or eight weeks. This was long before INEC held any closed door meeting with various ‘purported stakeholders’. A story that made headline elsewhere but not in any Nigeria media outlets.

As  patriotic Nigerians many beleive that was an exaggeration and an exagerated unverified news. For many Nigerians, how could it be that no Nigeria Media house got a glimpse of such news while it was everywhere in the world headlines. Or was  it that Nigeria Media houses were afraid of saying the truth or was it that their investigative arsenals are now malfunctioning?

Many social media handles also spread the news of a possible election postponement. But many decided to wait till the outcome of  the ‘purported’ INEC meeting if the news would be confirmed. Meanwhile many voices had been against such route. Nigerian activists and other Civil society groups had warned against election postponement. At the International level, United States of America had specifically warned Nigeria government as well as electoral umpire against such move.

As it should be expected, Nigeria woke up on Saturday with news that INEC officials with Political parties’ representatives were having  serious meetings for the considerations on whether election should hold or not. Nigeria media personnel held vigils at the INEC office as they were told they would be briefed around 5pm. This confirmed what most foreign media houses already foretold. Nigerians also were  not left behind as many stayed glued to their Radio or Television for news.

Meanwhile the social media was already awashed with news of possible postponement. INEC official twitter handle also was not silent as Nigerians were assured no such decision had been made. This also gave a glimmer of hope that election would continue as planned. By five ‘o’ clock, Nigerians and Media personnel were told INEC needed further consultations with civil society groups so it could make informed decision on the way forward.

Meanwhile news started filtering out that a sizeable number of Political Parties’ representatives had opted for election postponement. Not quite long after this, some members of  civil society groups went out with placards protesting against possible election postponement. This was covered by Nigerian media. At the  INEC office in Abuja where the protest was led to, an INEC official did appeal to these protesters against acting on ‘hearsay’.

To cut the long story short, INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, after a prolonged meeting with civil society groups came out to address the nation. The long and short of his address was that INEC could not go ahead with the election and  have to postpone elections because the Security Agencies had written the commission officially it would not be available to provide security for the election staff because it was going for an all out attack on dreaded ‘Boko Haram’, an insurgent group that had caused several havoc to lives and property in Nigeria.

With many Nigerians, this was no longer news as one reason would have to be given for election postponement. Many also argued the news had to be delayed in order to forestall  breakdown of laws and orders. The question in our minds are varied. One, can we say Nigeria media is now in  its low state  with News gathering otherwise what could have accounted for its inability to get the news of possible election postponement which was accurately relayed 24 hours before the incident took place?

Two, where is the issue of INEC and governments’ credibility with regards to official information communication to its entire citizenry? Why deceive people with ‘purported meetings’ if outcome was already reached or predermined?   How will Nigerians continue to beleive in the authenticity of news from government, INEC  if in small things their words cannot be trusted? For those who followed INEC social media platform communications tools, we were assured no such decision with regards to elections had been taken but eventually INEC came out to confirm what was already known.

Meanwhile prior to official statements from INEC, Nigerians had heard the rumour the election postponement was to perfect a rigging mechanism by the ruling party. The six to eight weeks were crafted so that it could disqualify main opposition Presidential candidate, General Muhammed Buhari, among many other rumours.

It was also in the rumour mill that present INEC’s chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, may be forced to go on compulsory retirement because of his uncompromising stands to play ball according to ruling Party’s dictate.  Since the other rumours had been confirmed, Nigerians are not sure these other rumours will not materialised.  For instance it was in   the major Newspapers in Nigeria today that one Professor Mimiko,  a brother to the  present Ondo  State Governor, is been tipped as a replacement. People should not forget also that Prof Attahiru Jega did mention in his broadcast that he may resign if he has sufficient reason to do so.

An ‘amazing’ article headline in Nigerian Vanguard today  read ‘The end of Muhammad Buhari’. The article was such an interesting read as it said with finality that Court will rule on the disqualification of General Buhari candidature this week with a precision. Without an iota of credibility, an individual, institution as well as Government is finished. When a relationship is bereft of credibility what is left is a hollow which takes a little time to crash.

Nigerians and the outside world are watching where the pendulum of the present Political wheel will swing. But what the present Goodluck Jonathan led adminstration needs to do is to restore credibility, trust and believability before it Is too late. President Goodluck and his team must not destroy the remaining level of trust it is enjoying. President Jonathan, it is time to protect your name and  your words before it is too late.

Written by Yinka Olaito

Yinka Olaito

Yinka Olaito is a Communications specialist passionate about Nigeria and Africa Development. Before now he had freelanced for a trade journal for over four years. He is a Brand communication, Digital media consultant and continuously raises the bar of progress. An out of the box thinker and analyst. his opinions are shared on various online platforms

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About Yinka Olaito

Yinka Olaito is a Communications specialist passionate about Nigeria and Africa Development. Before now he had freelanced for a trade journal for over four years. He is a Brand communication, Digital media consultant and continuously raises the bar of progress. An out of the box thinker and analyst. his opinions are shared on various online platforms

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