Editors' note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, analyses the statements made by the presidential candidate of the APC and PDP, Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar, in the wake of INEC's postponement of the 2019 elections. She notes that Atiku's response is quite similar to that made by Buhari in 2015, when that election was also postponed; and wonders if the eventual outcome of this election would be for Atiku, as it was for Buhari.
I got the news at about 4:15am on Saturday, February 16 just as I woke up to get prepared for what I thought would be a long, tasking day of reporting political stories from around the country. Alas, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had postponed the presidential and National Assembly elections by one week.
Instead of holding that particular Saturday, the elections had been moved to Saturday, February 23 by the electoral commission.
INEC's reason for postponing the exercise was logistical challenges in certain parts of the country.
In a statement released subsequently, the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said: "The Independent National Electoral Commission met on Friday, 15 February 2019 and reviewed its preparation for the 2019 general elections scheduled for Saturday, February 16 and Saturday, March 2.
“Following a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plans and its 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.
“Consequently, the commission has decided to reschedule the presidential/National Assembly elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the governorship/state House of Assembly/Federal Capital Territory area council elections are rescheduled to Saturday, 9th March 2019."
And just like that, it was 'déjà vu' all over again!
See, this is not the first time elections have been postponed in Nigeria. In 2011, just as the National Assembly elections had gotten underway in some states, then INEC boss, the legendary Prof Attahiru Jega, announced that the exercise had been postponed.
In that instance, logistical reasons - late deployment of election materials and absence of some INEC staff at their polling stations - were also cited as reasons for the postponement.
In 2015 as well, the elections were also postponed - by six weeks - but this time, it was for security reasons. According to the electoral commission, security chiefs had requested the time to be able to clear out Boko Haram terrorists from certain areas in the North.
Well, elections have been postponed again. And just like it happened in 2015, the announcement set off a torrent of accusations and counter-accusations from the two dominant political parties.
From his home state of Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), described the development as "the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob", and accused incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of instigating the postponement to disenfranchise voters in order to ensure that turnout is low on the rescheduled date.
He, however, urged Nigerians to be patient, saying: "We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes."
On its part, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Campaign Council also expressed anger at the postponement, saying: "We condemn and deprecate this tardiness of the electoral umpire in the strongest terms possible.
"This news is therefore a huge disappointment to us and to our teeming supporters nationwide and around the world; many of whom have come into the country to exercise their franchise."
President Buhari also personally reacted to the development with a statement released from Daura, Katsina, where he had gone to cast his vote.
He said: “I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission postponed the presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement."
However, this would not be the first time the man, Muhammadu Buhari, would be reacting to the postponement of an election in which he was a candidate for the presidency.
In 2015, Buhari was the presidential candidate of the APC, contending against Goodluck Jonathan for the highest seat in the land.
As news about the postponement filtered out, the former general was visibly upset.
When Channel 4 News caught up with him, he wasted no time in venting, stating: "It took INEC one month to work out…I see no reason why we should postpone it.
“There are 14 local governments where there is (security) problem...and there and 774 local governments in Nigeria. Should we postpone the election because of 14 local governments?”
He went further: “Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria were fighting wars and they conducted elections, what is Boko Haram?"
Buhari, however, asked his supporters to take advantage of the postponement to further mobilize support among Nigerians.
He would go on to win the election...unseating an incumbent...a truly historic feat in this part of the world!
So, as I read the response of Atiku Abubakar to the latest postponement, I wondered - can this work out for Atiku's good as it did for Buhari in 2015? Will Atiku somehow manage to unseat this former general who has the power of the incumbency behind him and who clearly believes that he is 'irremovable'?
Will this be 'déjà vu' again?
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I did notice that Atiku's response also followed the lines of that of Buhari in 2015. The same way Buhari accused the Jonathan administration of engineering the postponement to avoid a defeat, Atiku also accused his opponent of same (as I outlined before).
Also, just as Buhari subsequently appealed for calm amongst his supporters in 2015, Atiku has urged his own followers to be patient and come out to cast their votes on the rescheduled date.
Well, only time will tell if Atiku comes out victorious and if this postponement turns out to be a blessing in disguise for the former vice president.
Atiku certainly speaks like a man who believes he is on the verge of victory. And in spite of the postponement, he does not sound deflated. Maybe it's because he realizes that his opponent was faced with a similar scenario in 2015 and came out on top...despite also going up against an incumbent.
Maybe he believes it is his destiny to become president in 2019 - postponement or otherwise.
As Atiku rounded up his response, he made a very significant statement: "You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny."
We shall see!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of Legit.ng.
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