Election postponement in post-Military Nigeria is not an exception but the norm.
Until last week, the Nigerian presidential elections were meant to hold on 16 February. But six hours before the elections were supposed to start, INEC postponed it.
Instead, the 2019 elections took place today. This is the third consecutive election cycle where the Nigerian electoral body has postponed the key elections. Since the postponement, news headlines have expressed both social and economic angst at the costs and difficulties the postponement creates. However, there were not many attempts to contextualize the postponement in Nigeria’s broader electoral history.
Basically, we need to ask if this postponement is any different from previous ones.
Got it. So what do we look at?
Let's start with the timing of the postponement:
In 2011, INEC postponed the elections on voting day (2 April) just like they did this year on 16 Feburary. But in 2011, they postponed the elections after voting had already started in Lagos, Kaduna, Delta and several other states.
In 2015, however, INEC's postponement came one week before the elections. But across the board, what is consistent about the 2011, 2015 and 2019 elections is that INEC has maintained erratic patterns of election scheduling. At least they were consistent with something!
Verdict: timing-wise, the 2019 postponement is no different.
Oh my. What else?
Next up are INEC’s grounds for postponing the elections. Or in the words of Cardi B, 'what was the reason!'
In 2011, INEC postponed the elections because of 'logistical and operational problems' such as the late arrival of voting materials and insecurity.
In 2015 it was because 'the commission could not guarantee protection for its personnel, materials and voters.'
This year, it was because of bad weather, other logistical issues and pending cases/law suits against the body.
Verdict: External influences are a go-to for INEC.
So, this was a routine postponement then?
Not exactly. You can decide after this fact check of some of INEC’s specific 2019 claims.
According to INEC 'flights within the country have been adversely affected by bad weather…Three days ago we were unable to deliver material to some locations due to the bad weather…' However, INEC’s claims don’t correlate with the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) who announced that 'there was no disruption in the provision of air traffic services.' *Sips tea*
‘Serious disruptions occasioned by fire’
Even more baffling, in an attempt to outline the difficulties that necessitated a postponement, INEC identified three (3) cases of fire incidents that led to the destruction of voting materials. In the same statement, however, the commission alleged that despite the setbacks in those states caused by these incidents, they had found emergency solutions. So was fire an issue or not? #MakeItMakeSense
Overall, we found it difficult to process INEC’s postponement but you might feel differently. Just make sure you also consider that 1) in early Feburary, the INEC head said he could not 'foresee any possibility of postponement.' 2) The amount (N189.2 billion) allocated to the commission for conducting the election. And 3) the claims by legal experts that 'postponement of elections for logistical and operational reasons cannot be justified under the electoral law applicable in Nigeria.'
Our verdict: INEC’s reasons for postponing the 2019 elections, while unsurprising, come up short.
Like last week, the Newswatch Roundup will include a little extra election coverage in honor of the voting happening across the country today.
Nigeria’s elections are set to happen today and, in a bid to combat electoral misconduct, President Buhari has made sinister sounding threats to potential disruptors. His intentions to ensure free and fair elections, though noble are negated by his declaration that disruptors should do so at the ‘expense of their lives.’ This statement by the President is reminiscent of his recent hardline approach to governance in Nigeria and was rightfully condemned by the opposition as well as other civil society groups.
Some good news for environmentalists this week. A notorious Chinese ivory trader has been sentenced to fifteen years in a Tanzanian prison. Since 2009, the population of elephants in Africa has substantially declined due to the organized criminal network of poaching. It has taken joint agreements from African as well as Asian governments to institute and enforce bans on ivory.
A pipeline going through Lesotho, South Africa and Botswana is in the works to be built by all three Southern African nations jointly. This move, announced on 19 February, comes to the aid of Botswana where there has been a water crisis after a four year drought. As a result, Botswana has been importing water from surrounding countries. In terms of Pan-Africanism, this plan is a step in the right direction.