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Three conspiracy theories to the postponed general elections

Millions of Nigerians went to bed on Friday evening hoping to wake up on Saturday to cast their votes. By the time they woke up on Saturday, a familiar story had played out: the elections had been postponed. For the third successive general election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) failed to keep its oft-repeated promise of “we’re ready”.

Immediately, theories started pouring forth from various factories. Uche Secondus, the national chairman of the the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), accused INEC of working hand-in-glove with the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), because of imminent defeat. The APC, in return, accused INEC of acting out PDP’s agenda. Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, said it was “hand of Esau and voice of Jacob” — accusing APC of being behind the poll shift. On social media, APC supporters wondered why PDP fans already tweeted that the elections would be shifted at a time other Nigerians did not have any inkling. And so on and so forth.

After sifting through the various conspiracy theories, herr are three major categories.

THEORY NO. 1: INEC WAS PRODDED BY FOREIGN POWERS

This theory, suspected to be coming from the PDP, says APC wanted INEC to conduct “staggered elections” in which only 26 states would vote on Saturday while elections would be postponed in 10 states. The presidential poll would be declared inconclusive. Based on the pattern of results, APC, using federal might, would then deploy full security and financial resources to the remaining 10 states to suppress PDP’s votes and claim victory. This strategy, according to the conspiracy theory, was used effectively by APC in Osun state whereby the governorship election was declared inconclusive and voting was allegedly suppressed in the run-off and APC carried the day. This theory says the US, UK and EU, sensing what APC wanted to do, mounted pressure on Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, not to stagger the elections but shift them to a date on which every state could vote simultaneously.

THEORY NO. 2: PDP COLLUDED WITH INEC TO AVOID DEFEAT

Faced with the reality that most pre-election opinion polls did not favour them, PDP decided to collude with INEC to postpone the elections and buy time — according to another conspiracy theory propounded by some APC supporters. It is alleged that most of the personnel at INEC were appointed or recruited when PDP was in power and they still owe their allegiance to the party. Therefore, the theory goes, the INEC personnel decided to sabotage the elections at the prompting of PDP so that there would be more time to gain support for Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate. PDP supporters have countered this claim, asking why the same INEC staff did not sabotage 2015 elections in favour of the PDP government. Meanwhile, some APC supporters are asking why PDP fans knew beforehand that the elections would be postponed if indeed their party was not working in tandem with INEC.

THEORY NO. 3: APC, SENSING DEFEAT, SABOTAGED LOGISTICS

There is yet another theory — that APC leaders met in Abuja on Wednesday and concluded that the elections were not looking good for them. Security agencies and other government agencies were directed to sabotage the election, thus paving the way for INEC offices and card readers to be burnt, the theorists allege. They further claim that working with INEC insiders, the APC made sure materials did not get to some locations ahead of Saturday so that elections would not hold simultaneously across the country. Those who believe in this theory also link it to theory no. 1 above, concluding that but for the international community, INEC would have gone ahead with staggering the elections. APC supporters have a counter-argument: why would they want the elections moved when they were the favourites to win?

CONCLUSION

No matter the conspiracy theory that you believe, there is a consensus that INEC was right to have postponed the elections as a result of the issues it highlighted. Many commentators have blamed the electoral body for poor preparations, but Yakubu, in his address to stakeholders on Saturday after the postponement, said there was sabotage, although he did not point his fingers at any particular direction. Whatever theory is right, the indisputable conclusion is that the postponement has created room for conjectures and allegations. It would be difficult to persuade the purveyors that there was no political motive behind the postponement, either in favour of APC or PDP.

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I am disappointed in INEC – Buhari

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has expressed disappointment in the Independent National Electoral Commission over the postponement of the general elections.

“I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement,” Buhari said in a statement on Saturday.

Buhari, who is also seeking re-election, said Nigerians believed in INEC after the Commission assured “complete readiness for the elections.”

The INEC Chair Mahmood Yakubu Saturday morning announced the postponement of the 2019 presidential and governorship election by a week.

Mahmood said the postponement was necessary due to some “logistics and operational plan” problems.

“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,” Yakubu said.

Polls were due to open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 16, and will now take place on Saturday, February 23, INEC said.

Elections for governorships, state House of Assembly and area councils are on hold until March 9, the INEC said.

Buhari therefore urged INEC to “ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates” and to ensure that “materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands”

“While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot,” Buhari added.

Political analysts said that INEC decision may heighten tensions in what has been a tight race between Buhari and ex-vice president Abubakar.

“There is a possibility that popular anger and the manner of the postponement could galvanize more people to come out to vote,” said Cheta Nwanze, head of research at SBM Intelligence in Lagos, the commercial capital. “If there is a higher turnout then, the PDP will win the election. But if the turnout is successfully repressed, the APC will win.”

Both Buhari’s All Progressives Congress and Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party condemned the delay.

The two parties accused each other of using the delay to their advantage.

“We condemn the postponement of the elections, but urge our teeming supporters to be patient and determined,” Buhari’s Campaign Council said in a statement.

It said Buhari had fully cooperated with the INEC and that the council hoped the commission would “remain neutral and impartial in this process” and not collude with the PDP.

Abubakar of the PDP said in a statement on Friday that Buhari’s administration has had “more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections” and accused his opponent of delaying the vote in “hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low” on the new polling date.

Abubakar urged voters to come out in even greater numbers on February 23, adding that the APC “are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid” being rejected by the Nigerian people.

“You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” he said.

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What APC, PDP said as INEC postpone elections

Nigeria’s two main political parties have condemned a decision by the country’s electoral authority to delay presidential and national assembly elections by one week.

Polls were due to open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 16, and will now take place on Saturday, February 23, authorities said.

“Following a careful review of the implementation of the logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the election as scheduled is no longer feasible,” the chairman of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, said at a news conference early Saturday.

“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,” he said.

Elections for governorships, state House of Assembly and area councils are on hold until March 9, the INEC said.

Parties react

The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) accused each other of using the delay to their advantage.

“We condemn the postponement of the elections, but urge our teeming supporters to be patient and determined,” a statement released Saturday by incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Campaign Council read.

It said Buhari had fully cooperated with the INEC and that the council hoped the commission would “remain neutral and impartial in this process” and not collude with the PDP.

The statement alleged hat the PDP was “never ready for this election,” and accused the party of using the postponement to “orchestrate more devious strategies to try and half President Buhari’s momentum.”

Opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar of the PDP said in a statement on Friday that Buhari’s administration has had “more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections” and accused his opponent of delaying the vote in “hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low” on the new polling date.

Abubakar urged voters to come out in even greater numbers on February 23, adding that the APC “are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid” being rejected by the Nigerian people.

“You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” he said.

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Why we postponed general elections – INEC

Nigeria’s electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has explained its reasons for postponing the general elections a few hours to the commencement.

“Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan, and the determination to conduct free, fair, and credible elections, the commission came to the conclusion that proceeding with the elections as scheduled is no longer feasible,” INEC boss Mahmood Yakubu said at a press briefing on Saturday morning in Abuja.

The general elections were scheduled to commence Saturday, February 16 with the presidential and National Assembly elections.

Yakubu said the presidential and National Assembly elections have been rescheduled to hold on February 23 while the governorship and state houses of assembly elections will take place on March 9.

It was not the first time that INEC would postpone a scheduled general election.

In 2015, the presidential election was shifted from February 14 to March 28th, 2015, while the governorship and assembly elections scheduled for 28 February were shifted to 11 April. The elections were postponed because of security issues.

Similarly, in 2011, the National Assembly elections were postponed on the day the election was to be held due to logistics failure. The same situation was repeated in 2019.

Polling centres were initially meant to open Saturday at 8:00 a.m. with more than 84 million registered voters across 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The postponement may heighten tensions in what has been a tight race between incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, and his main challenger from the People’s Democratic Party Atiku Abubakar. The political parties of both candidates have accused each other of trying to rig the vote.

Prior to the election date, INEC offices in three states of the country- Plateau, Abia and recently Anambra, were engulfed by fire outbreaks, all within ten days to Nigeria’s 2019 general elections.

Despite fire outbreaks at three offices of INEC that has claimed thousands of permanent voters’ cards (PVCs) and other election equipment, the Nigeria electoral body had said it has no plans to postpone the elections.

But INEC reversed the decision. INEC chairman Yakubu said, “This was a difficult decision for the Commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of the elections and the consolidation of our democracy.”

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PDP asks INEC chairman to resign, accuses APC of ‘grand conspiracy’

The national chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, has asked the Mahmood Yakubu to resign as the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Speaking through Ike Abonyi, his media aide, shortly after the elections were postponed by INEC, Secondus said his party was rejecting the new dates.

He said it was a “deliberate, pre-determined agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari to cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out”.

Secondus said the postponement was part of a “grand design” by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to thwart the will of Nigerians “at all cost”.

He said the APC “in connivance with INEC have been trying all options including but not limited to burning down INEC offices in some states and destroying of electoral materials to create artificial problems upon which to stand for their dubious act”.

“With several of their rigging options failing, they have to force INEC to agree to a shift in the election or a staggered election with flimsy excuses pre-manufactured for the purpose,” he said in the statement sent to TheCable.

“For the avoidance of doubt the PDP sees this action as wicked and we are also aware of other dubious designs like the deployment of hooded security operatives who would be ruthless on the people ostensibly to scare them away.”

Secondus said the “wicked killing” of over 60 persons mostly women and children in southern Kaduna on the eve of election “is a copious ploy by the APC to frighten the people away from voting knowing too well that they were not going to record any vote from the area”.

“Recall that the Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai had earlier threatened international election observers of going to their country in body bags and with the fatal violence in the state on the eve of election, it’s clear what the motives are, to frighten the observers from the state so that he can carry out his nefarious acts,” he said.

The PDP chairman also drew the attention to the statement of President Muhammadu Buhari that nobody can unseat him from office as an indication of what he wanted to do.

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Jega disappointed me on how he conducted the 2015 general election- GEJ says

In a book scheduled to be launched on Friday April 28th, former spokesperson of late President Musa Yar’Adua and Chairman of Thisday editorial board, Segun Adeniyi, revealed that Former President Goodluck Jonathan was unhappy with the manner former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, went about conducting the 2015 general election which he lost in to President Buhari. Part of the book quotes Jonathan to have said;

“I was disappointed by Jega because I still cannot understand what was propelling him to act the way he did in the weeks preceding the election. As at the first week in February 2015 when about 40 percent of Nigerians had not collected their PVCs, Jega said INEC was ready to conduct an election in which millions of people would be disenfranchised.”

Jonathan is also quoted to have accused that Americans were urging Jega to go on with the elections despite the fact that some Nigerians had not collected their voters card.

“Of course, the Americans were encouraging him to go ahead yet they would never do such a thing in their own country. How could we have cynically disenfranchised about a third of our registered voters for no fault of theirs and still call that a credible election? The interesting thing was that the opposition also supported the idea of going on with the election that was bound to end in confusion” he said

Jonathan in the book defended his decision to postpone the election by six weeks.

“When the military and security chiefs demanded for more time to deal with the insurgency, the reasons were genuine. As at February 2015, it would have been very difficult to vote in Gombe, Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. But moment all the arms and ammunition that had been ordered finally arrived, the military was able to use them to degrade the capacity of Boko Haram to the level in which they posed the threat to the election.”

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INEC begins PVC distribution in Lagos April 29

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will begin distribution of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in Lagos State on April 29.
Femi Akinbiyi, Head of Publicity and Protocol, INEC in Lagos, said in a statement that the step was important, especially in preparation for the July 22 local government elections in the state.
He said: “INEC will as from Saturday, April 29 begin distribution of Permanent Voter Card (PVC) in all the 245 Registration Areas in the state.
“This is purely for the purpose of the Local Government elections coming up soonest in the state.
“The exercise is for those that have registered before but had not collected their PVCs. It will last for five Saturdays starting from Saturday, April 29 to Saturday, May 27.”
According to him, any eligible resident who is in doubt of the Registration Area of the Polling Unit of where he or she registered can contact the Electoral Officer for the local government.
“The nationwide Continuous Voter’s Registration (CVR) exercise will commence throughout the state as from April 27 and remains continuous all the year round.
“The CVR will be in all the 20 INEC local government offices in the state between the hours of 9am and 3pm, excluding public holidays.
“All residents that have reached the age of 18 years after the last registration exercise are to come out and register.
“Also, all registered voters who have their Temporary Voters Cards but whose names are not on register of voters and those that are above 18 years but could not register in the last registration exercise are eligible to register.”
He said that registered voters who were seeking transfer of the PVC could also come for registration.Voter-register-INEC-2015-election-620x345