EFFECTS, IMPLICATIONS AND LESSONS OF THE POSTPONEMENT OF NIGERIA’S 2019 GENERAL ELECTIONS
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1.1 Background of the study
The credibility of Nigeria’s previous elections had been doubted, though the situation has been improving lately. The Nigeria’s 2019 General Elections earlier slated for 16th February and 28th February, 2019 for the national elections (National Assembly and Presidential) and the state elections (Governorship and State Assembly) respectively were rescheduled for 23rd February and 9th March 2019 respectively. Despite the fact that the rumour of likely postponement had been rife in the public space, its announcement by the chairman of The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on 16th February, 2019 was a rude shock, not only to majority of the internal stakeholders, but also to the international community. While political parties have been recognized as indispensable to any democratic system (Stokes, 2019), it is clear that developing democratic institutions also bring maturity in the political system, making it more transparent, equality based and efficient (Singh, 2019).
According to Barrett (2019), four years of preparation, billions of naira expended, and loud assurances of preparedness notwithstanding Nigeria’s prime organiser of the proposed 2019 polls has displayed an incredible level of strategic impunity as far as its responsibility to the interests of the public is concerned. Its decision to announce postponement of the elections barely four hours before they were due to commence indicates that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) considers its basic commitment to ensure that voters are enabled to exercise their rights to be an expendable objective (Barrett, 2019). This unfortunate development further confirms that the huge cost of conducting elections in Nigeria is about the highest in the world even surpassing that of India, the world’s largest democracy with a population six times bigger than Nigeria. It is recalled that the sum of N189 billion was approved for INEC for the 2019 election. This amount is more than the capital components of education and health budgets put together. Considering the total sum of N242 billion approved for INEC and five other agencies for the conduct of the 2019 general polls, it is money that could have gone a long way in fixing critical infrastructure in this country (Kesalu, 2019).
The simplicity and lack of posturing and judgmental bias that the contributor of this list exhibits in his or her anthologising of problems caused by the postponement represents the common sense position that any concerned stakeholder would be expected to adopt in considering the consequences of INEC’s decision. The excuse that elections have been postponed before is disingenuous to say the least. When weeks or even days before a poll, reasons are given for its postponement the public have time to absorb such reasons. In addition any such decision should be made before the electorate has been primed to the point at which their normal mode of everyday conduct has been irredeemably inconvenienced (Barrett, 2019). Obviously in this latest circumstance this was not the case. It is unforgiveable for officials who have not complained of logistic deficiencies before to offer such excuses only four hours before voting is scheduled to start. This is especially disingenuous after they have observed the electorate doing all that it takes to meet the conditions that they claim to have put in place for the proper conduct of the polls. In such a circumstance it will be truly difficult for any objective analyst to blame those who read political mischief into the motivation behind the INEC decision (Kesalu, 2019). However, by failing to take obligation to manage public perception into consideration at such a crucial point in the run-up to the polls INEC has compromised its right to be regarded as an independent and trustworthy arbiter. The loss of credibility emanating from this most dangerous and ill-timed event will reverberate through all subsequent voting in the 2019 edition of Nigeria’s electoral process.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Overall, the postponement of the elections due to logistic reasons was avoidable and does not bode well for the nation’s economy. Airlines shut down business. No aircraft on ground for next day service. School boarders were sent home and midterm holidays were declared in almost all schools. Weddings and social events were postponed; some to 23rd Feb, which is the new date fixed for Presidential election. Borders closed. Huge revenue lost to import and export. INEC staff and paramilitary personnel posted to different parts of country for elections. Large numbers of the electorate travelled to their respective homes to fulfil electoral obligations. Some can’t even be reached by phone. Some surgeries and medical procedures might have been shifted because of the elections. The major issue that INEC should have been considering in the last hours before scheduled voting is what effect its operations would have on the public’s perception of the credibility and representative acceptability of the elections result.
1.3 Objective of the study
The general objective of this study is to examine the effects and implications of Nigeria’s postponement of the 2019 general elections.
The specific objectives of this study are:
- To examine the effects of elections postponement
- To assess the implications of elections postponement
- To discuss the lessons learned from the elections’ postponement
- To recommend measures to prevent elections’ postponement
1.4 Research questions
- What are the effects of elections postponement
- What are the implications of elections postponement
- What are the lessons learned from the elections’ postponement
- What is the recommend measures to prevent elections’ postponement
1.5 Significance of the study
The study will be of immense benefit to the federal government of Nigeria, the INEC, the citizens of Nigeria, the political bodies, the students and other researchers that wish to carry out a similar research on the effects, implications and lessons of the postponement of Nigeria’s 2019 general elections.
1.6 Scope of study
The study will cover the 2019 postponement of Nigeria’s general elections. This study will also examine the effects, implications and lessons learned from the elections’ postponement
1.7Limitations of study
The attitude of the respondents may tend to be the constraint for this study. Also, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently may cut down on the time devoted for the research work.