You are here
Home > HEADLINES > Election: A moment with national destiny

Election: A moment with national destiny

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

IT was a date major political actors and other critical stakeholders anxiously looked up to. Having engaged in rigorous campaigns for the attention of the electorate, the party candidates knew it was a day of decision for the former to pass their verdict.

For the newshounds, the eve of February 16 was spent doing update on last-minute preparations of politicians, their foot soldiers and the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC.)

The INEC publicity unit was a beehive as journalists made frantic efforts for accreditation tags, car stickers and other items that would facilitate their ease of movement on the day of election.

The special tags for accredited journalists to access the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, venue of collation centre, were not ready as of 10pm, on Friday, February 15.

Journalists within the Abuja metropolis and those from outside the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) converged on the room dedicated to INEC officials saddled with the responsibility of issuing the items.

When it was getting to 11pm, I approached the fellow assigned to give the items who leisurely told us to be patient. An agitated colleague raised his voice. “How long will it take you to issue out tags and car stickers? We have been here since 6pm! Do you know some of us aren’t from Abuja and we haven’t even booked hotel rooms?”

The INEC official responded: “Listen, sir, it isn’t my fault. My boss who is to sign the accreditation tag isn’t here and you have to wait. Please, those who can’t wait can come back tomorrow morning.”

Tomorrow morning? The day of election? The hint of imminent postponement was not lost on all of us, news hounds!

It was getting to 11.30pm when my credible source from the INEC headquarters sent me a text message, to alert me: “Taiwo, where are you? If you are in town, stay back. The INEC chairman would brief journalists tonight.”

A briefing on the eve of an election? I called a senior colleague who asked me to inform my other colleagues to proceed to INEC secretariat in Maitama.

The number of journalists on ground offered me an instant illumination of what was in the offing: a postponement of an election; the abortion of a process on the date it was to commence by the INEC leadership with latitude of statutory four years as incubation period!

The INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, had, on Friday, February 15, at a press briefing in company of the acting Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Adamu, assured Nigerians that he and his national commissioners were on top of the logistics for the exercise and were ready.

But why would the umpire want to abort the process? Instructions from the Presidency? Desperate politicians had procured court injunctions? A few days to the election, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN), had in a letter dated, February 13, 2019 and addressed to the INEC chairman advised the latter to postpone conduct of State, National Assemblies and governorship elections in Zamfara State. So many posers were running in my head.

Few minutes after 2am, of February 16, Rotimi Oyekanmi, media aide to the INEC chairman, came to tell us that his boss was ready for the media briefing.

Unlike the normal exchange of pleasantries with journalists, a beleaguered Professor Yakubu and his national commissioners kept a straight face as they entered the INEC Conference Centre.

He read a five-paragraph statement to disclose that the commission decided to shift dates for the election “following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan.”

He announced Saturday, 23rd February 2019 and Saturday, March 9, 2019, as new dates for the conduct of presidential/National Assembly and governorship/state assemblies elections, respectively. The session with the INEC chairman turned out to be a monologue as he refused to entertain questions.

In the afternoon of February 16, the INEC chairman offered anxious Nigerians, party chairmen and the gathering of both local and international observers reasons for the postponement.

He was clever enough to point fingers of scorn at abstract, impersonal elements that could not be interrogated by inquisitive newsmen. He blamed it on flight disruption, due to bad weather and sabotage by arsonists.

Apologising to Nigerians, the INEC chairman set a new date of February 23, 2019 for both the presidential and National Assembly election. He promised to do daily media briefing ahead of the new date to update Nigerians and inspire lost confidence in his commission.

In the last one week, he showed fidelity to his pledge: he updated Nigerian regularly on his plans for the election which he ultimately fulfilled at the weekend.

Three days to the election, speculation was rife that there was an impending plot to force the INEC chairman to dismount from his exalted office. For a discerning reporter, such was not a speculation to dismiss with a wave of the hand.

Monday, last week, the national chairman of APC, Adams Oshiomhole, had, at his party’s expanded national caucus meeting, demanded for the removal of the INEC chairman and certain Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs).

There was also a report that INEC National Commissioner, Logistics and Operations, Professor Okechukwu Ibeano, was picked up by the Department of State Services (DSS). Professor Ibeano was alleged to have cooperated with certain individuals in the main opposition party to sabotage the election.

Newsmen took the INEC chairman to task on the pressures to compel him to throw in the towel and the alleged deals of his commissioner. He denied both allegations, insisting that he would neither resign nor sacrifice any of his lieutenants.

Reprieve came the way of APC in Zamfara State. Less than 48 hours to the election, the electoral umpire agreed to put the party on the ballot in Zamfara for the National Assembly election and March 9 exercise, citing judgment of an appeal court. The ruling party however lost out in Rivers State.

When asked by the Nigerian Tribune reporter on the fate of APC in Rivers, the INEC chairman insisted that the party would not be allowed to field candidates, submitting that a judgment of the Supreme Court had since upheld the judgment of Justice Cbiwendu Nworgu of the Rivers State High Court which nullified the party primaries.

The election was eventually held last Saturday, with some apparent fundamental lapses, across the country.

Yet, another moment of waiting after the election. The INEC chairman, on Tuesday night, adjourned the session at 10pm and promised to reconvene by 2am to give the final result. Journalists and party agents waited with bated breath and there were discussions on what would be the pronouncements of Professor Yakubu on the volume of cancelled votes across states.

The PDP agent, Osita Chidoka, had also raised instructive posers on the smartness of the smart card reader in the North, particularly the North-West and the North-East which were the strongholds of the APC presidential candidate, Buhari.

After three days of announcing results, albeit in piecemeal, from the states, the final results of the presidential election was announced on Wednesday morning.

The INEC chairman, who returned to the hall at 2.20am on Wednesday, addressed some of the posers before giving the total results of the election. He admitted discrepancy in number of accredited voters and number of votes but said it was not enough to discredit the entire process. Professor Yakubu said it was a mere two per cent.

He said: “Some of the state collation officers for the presidential elections have also made detailed submission explaining what happened during the conduct of the elections on Saturday 23 February and in some cases, the elections repeated in places where it couldn’t hold on Sunday. We are studying these documents as well.

“But I think in relation to the issues raised, there are specifically three of them that the commission wishes to make preliminary statements on. It is a preliminary statement because during collation, we haven’t had all the time in the world to look at these issues in depth.

“The first one is that the figures of accredited voters in relation to the votes cast weren’t adding up in one or two instances. We have noticed that and our preliminary investigation and analysis revealed that there are a number of figures that were coming from the field and we are adding up and the state were also adding up from a 17, 600 locations, nationwide as polling units and voting point.

“From there, the figures were added up first at the ward level which we have 8,809 nationwide. From there to the local government nationwide from which we have 774 and then the state declaration or collation centres. From what we have seen, the disparity cumulatively isn’t up to two per cent. So, it isn’t that substantial really.”

After giving his explanations, he announced that the APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, polled 15, 191, 847 to defeat his main rival and Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who scored a total vote of 11, 262, 978.

The duo of President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo received their Certificates of Return, on Wednesday at the ICC.

For the Nigerian Tribune reporter, it was a fulfilling moment. It was my first experience of having a direct access to the inner recess of the INEC Situation Room and its collation centre.


The post Election: A moment with national destiny appeared first on Tribune Online.

Facebook Comments

Please follow and like us:

  • 0
  • Share

Leave a Reply