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Nigeria: Electoral body postpones presidential and national assembly elections

16.02.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Presidential contenders in Nigeria’s 2019 elections on Thursday, February 14, culminated their campaigns all over the national territory as eligible voters were expected to head to the polls this Saturday, February 16 to elect a new president. However, the election date has been moved to Saturday, February 23 after the Independent National Electoral Commission met on Friday, February 15.

A shift in Nigeria’s historic Elections; glaring issues ahead of Saturday’s polls

Presidential contenders in Nigeria’s 2019 elections on Thursday, February 14, culminated their campaigns all over the national territory as eligible voters were expected to head to the polls this Saturday, February 16 to elect a new president.  However, the election date has been moved to Saturday, February 23 after the Independent National Electoral Commission met on Friday, February 15.

INEC POSTPONES FEB. 16 SLATED ELECTIONS

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission has delayed for a week the Country’s presidential and parliamentary. Initially set for Feb. 16 and March 2, the two elections have been pushed to Feb. 23 and March 9, 2019 respectively. Some few hours to the Election Day, INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu announced that elections have been postponed, citing   logistical problems.  He said: “The commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible. Consequently the commissioners decided to reschedule the presidential and national assembly elections to Saturday 23 February 2019.”

Reactions

The news of the postponement has been welcomed with mixed reactions from both locals and political parties.  The ruling APC of Muhammadou Buhari has bemoaned INEC’s move, alleging that the main opposition party PDP of trying to manipulate the vote. On the other hand, the PDP has strongly accused Buhari of interfering with the process in order to hold his grip on power.  This new developments have questioned the impartiality and authenticity of INEC. However, INEC has argued that pushing through with the Feb. 16 elections won’t have guaranteed a free, fair and credible polls. It should be recalled that the presidential years 2011 and 2015 were postponed by INEC days to the vote day, citing logistics and security constraints.

The Independent National Electoral Commission validated the candidacies of some 72 aspirants with at least 23 women on the list. However, only two contenders were popular during the campaigns rallies, as they sought to woo voters. Outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress Party and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party dominated the campaigns as they made their way to the many states of Nigeria.

INEC RELEASES COLOURS OF BALLOT BOXES AND PAPERS

To make the voting process easier for Nigerians of voting age, the Independent National Electoral Commission has designed ballot boxes and papers with independent colours and made them public 24 hours to the voting day, to avoid confusion and rowdiness on Election Day, as seen on the table below;

According to INEC head of Voter Education and Publicity in Anambra state Mr Leo Nkedife, the reason for the release is to make the electorate have a wide understanding of the process ahead of the Feb. 16 landmark polls.

Damaged electoral Material replaced

While people lament on the recent fire incident in Anambra state that engulfed election materials, days to the Election, the independent National Electoral Commission in Anambra has said that the damaged sensitive election materials have been replaced. Dr Nkwachukwu Orji, the Resident Electoral Commissioner said the materials for the 21 Local Government Areas have been replaced and made available ahead of the Elections. Reports say about thirty political parties, security personnel, observers and the media witnessed the deployment of these election materials. On Feb. 12 this year, fire engulfed a building in Anambra containing materials for the elections. The cause of the fire outbreak remains unknown, but investigations remain ongoing. Pundits saw this as a setback to that planned elections.

Calls for peaceful elections

It is a civic duty of all eligible voters in Nigeria to vote and anxiety remains high among these voters. To ensure a peaceful run of the election process, election observers have put their voices urging all the contenders to guarantee smooth conduct of the landmark elections.

NIGERIA ELECTION OBSERVER

West Africa Election Observer network (WAEON)

Two days to the Election Day in Nigeria, the West Africa Election Observer Network made a clarion call on Nigeria’s political stakeholders to work towards free, fair and credible elections. Acknowledging that elections come to consolidate democracy, the observer network, noted that a peaceful run of the election will be a milestone for Nigeria and the African Continent as a whole.

In a statement issued interim chairman James Lahai, WAEON said: “This sixth consecutive election marks steady progress in the country’s democratic journey since it defeated military rule to multiparty democracy in 1999.” The West Africa Observer Network also challenged Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to take a neutral position in ensuring a mature and smooth run of elections.

The European Union Observer Mission

The European Union has deployed observers across Nigeria ahead of the historic election. The EU observer Mission has challenged Nigeria’s political stakeholders and urged all candidates to respect the final peace accord inked on February 13 by all the candidates, with an aim to ensure peaceful, free, and fair and transparent elections before and after elections.

The recent peace accord followed an earlier deal signed in December 2018 by all political parties, pledging to ensure free, fair, and credible and to maintain peace before, during and after elections. According to the EU Chief Observer Maria Arena, Nigerians need a transparent elections process. She was quoted as saying ‘’they need to trust the process; they need to be free to cast their votes during the election and this is just what we are going to observe as EU Observation Mission.’’

Campaigns limitations

It would be a gross exaggeration of one attest that the campaign period in Nigeria went on smoothly. The war of words among politicians mostly among Buhari and Atiku’s supporters produced a tense atmosphere in some parts of the country during the election campaigns. Some casualties were also recorded. Five members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were shot and killed near the oil hub of Warri city in southeast Nigeria.

The suspension of Nigeria’s Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen by president Muhammadu Buhari was highly criticized by his opponent for trying to instill fraud and interfere in the election process. Buhari suspended Onnoghen after he failed to disclose the full extent of his financial assets.

Even though the age limit was reduced to 35 for presidential aspirants, young candidates seem not to have made gains during the campaigns as much was centered on the ruling all progressive party and the peoples’ democratic party. However, pundits have argued that the young aspirants did not have the financial backing to run their campaigns.

Buhari vows to probe corruption case on last days of Campaigning

On the last day of wooing voters, President Muhammadu Buhari in Taksina rang a strong warning to public official both elected and appointed, to either protect public trust or quit their services.  The outgoing leader was speaking at the palace of Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir, where he culminated his election campaign.

Taking his political foes, Buhari has pledged to open an investigation into alleged mismanagement of over 16 billion dollars on power sector during the leadership of then-president Olusegun Obasanjo and his PDP party. The supposed $16bn was ‘’wasted’ during the People’s Democratic Party government of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo where Atiku Abubakar, the 2019 candidate for the party was Obasanjo’s vice from 1999-2007. It should be noted that Obasanjo Olusegun supported president Buhari’s 2015 election bid against his own PDP candidate Goodluck Jonathan.

Though disappointed and frustrated, millions of Nigerians will head to the polls next Saturday February 23, 2019, to vote in their sixth quadrennial elections since the end of military rule in 1999. In Nigeria, a president is voted using a simple majority of votes cast, as well as over 25% of the votes in 27 of the 36 states.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image: google images/election Nigeria 2019

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