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2019 Elections: Many times INEC gave assurances before postponement

IF the number of times that the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu gave assurances on the readiness and determination of the Commission to conduct the 2019 elections were anything to act upon, he would have to offer better explanations to Nigerians other than ” challenges of logistics and operational problems” for the postponement of the elections.

Yakubu, a professor of History and a former Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETfund)has been on the hot seat since the morning of Saturday, February 16, 2019, when he announced the eleventh-hour postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections.

Nigerians had gone to bed in anticipation of filing out in the morning to perform their civic duty—elect the president and members of the National Assembly for the next four years—but they all woke up in the morning to the shocking news of the postponement of the elections by INEC based on logistics challenges.

This was unlike in 2015 when the postponement of the elections was announced a week to the conduct of the elections and it was for security reasons.

The announcement jolted not a few Nigerians—because according to many of them, the INEC Chairman was always giving assurance on the readiness of his Commission to conduct the elections on the scheduled date.  It, therefore, came more shocking that despite several assurances of readiness, the INEC chairman shifted the elections by another one week.

The reasons for the postponement—logistics and operational problems—as cited by the INEC Chairman, and the timing of the announcement—3:45am—were untenable for many Nigerians.

Nigerians are livid with anger and are not sparing the electoral body and its chairperson for failing to deliver on their promises.

President Muhammadu Buhari in his reaction to the news of shift of the polls expressed disappointment at the development.

“INEC themselves have given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections. We and all our citizens believed them,” the president said of the assurances by INEC.

This has further confirmed fears that the elections might not be free, fair and credible.  The postponement is seeing already as part of sinister moves by the INEC to rig the elections in favour of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or PDP, depending on who is making the allegation.

Prior to the night of the announcement of the shift of elections, INEC did not give a clue as to whether there were challenges and Nigerians did not have reason to believe otherwise as two fire incidents at INEC offices in Abia and Plateau states did not send any signal of a possible shift of election.

Therefore, it’s pertinent to review moments where INEC Chairman was giving assurances on the readiness and determination of his Commission to conduct the election without any hitch. There was never a time that he mentioned logistics challenges and operational problems as issues of concerns.

We are prepared for 2019 elections – INEC chairman

In November 2018, about four months to the initial date of the elections—February 16,  Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu said that the commission was poised to conduct free, fair, and credible general elections in 2019.

Yakubu gave the assurance when he delivered a keynote address at the 6th Convocation Lecture of Oduduwa University at Ipetumodu, Ile Ife, Osun State. It was on November 13, 2018

 Speaking on the topic, “The Independent National Electoral Commission and The Challenges and Prospects of Leadership Recruitment for Good Governance in Nigeria’’ Yakubu said INEC was prepared for the elections.

“As we are approaching the general elections, the commission is more than prepared to conduct elections that will be acceptable to all and sundry and the international community.

“In all fairness, the commission has drastically leapt up from where it was when democracy was resurrected in 1999,” he stated.

Yakubu identified a growing trend of vote-buying, do or die political mentality, absence of internal democracy in parties and poor management of intra-party contests.

According to him, other challenges faced by INEC are incendiary speech, insecurity, impunity and lack of consequences for electoral offenders.

He also revealed that because of the primary elections recently held by political parties, INEC had been dragged to court over 200 times.

INEC assures on readiness to conduct free, fair elections

In January, the Osun State Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner, Olusegun Agbaje, expressed the commission’s readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible poll.

He spoke in Osogbo, the state capital while making case for media and other stakeholders’ support in achieving the purpose.

“Let me use this opportunity once again to reiterate the commission’s determination more than ever before to conduct a very peaceful, free, credible and acceptable election that will meet the aspirations of all and sundry.

“It is, however, important to point out that if this broad objective must be achieved, all stakeholders must join hands with the commission by playing their various roles in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended,” Agbaje said.

Agbaje who disclosed that the commission had concluded arrangements to take PVCs to the rural areas for collection by their owners, stated that the collection would take place between Wednesday, January 16 and Monday 21.

INEC ready for general election – Yakubu

In the same month, Chairman of the Commission, Mahmood Yakubu said it was ready for the conduct of the forthcoming general election.

He gave the assurance when he received a delegation from the European Union(EU), led by its Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ketil Karlsen, at the commission’s headquarters in Abuja.

Yakubu said the commission was at the moment putting finishing touches to the preparations for the election.

Meeting with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria

Early this month, the INEC Chairman assured members of the Administrative Board of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) on the Commission’s resolve to conduct free, fair and credible 2019 general elections.

Speaking at an interactive meeting with the Catholic Bishops, as part of the nationwide consultation with stakeholders on the Commission’s readiness for the general elections, Yakubu gave a detailed background of the measures already put in place to ensure a successful outing.

He said the Commission was determined to improve on the gains recorded in the 2015 general elections, just as he affirmed that only the votes cast by citizens would determine the eventual winners at the polls.

LEADERSHIP Conference/Awards: We Are Ready For Elections – INEC

Exactly one week to the day of the election, the INEC Chairman again gave assurance that the Commission was fully ready to conduct free, fair and credible general elections.

He gave this assurance in Abuja while speaking at the 2018 edition of the annual LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, with the theme: “Multiparty Democracy, Stability and Peaceful Elections: Connecting The Dots.”

He said: “We are set for the elections and all logistics have been put in place to ensure hitch-free conduct of the polls.”

But amidst allegations from the opposition parties that the All Progressives Congress-led federal government had concluded plans to rig the upcoming general elections, INEC has asserted that it had put in place fool-proof measures to stop any form of fraud at all stages of the exercise.

The INEC boss said that no matter how dubious or malicious such persons or organisations may be, there was no way they can manipulate the electoral process in their favour. He insisted that with the stringent measures INEC had put in place from the polling units to the collation centres, Nigerians and the international community should expect nothing less than credible and acceptable elections from the electoral umpire.

Represented by INEC national commissioner for Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, Yakubu said that anybody without a Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) would not be allowed to come near the polling booths, let alone vote during the elections.

 

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