Dinosaur Public Servants Postponed Nigeria's Elections
A hatchet job to postpone the general elections or cause spontaneous violence required a patsy and INEC fit the bill. And all Nigerians were left with a N2.7 trillion bill.
Barely six hours to poll stations opening Saturday morning, February 16, Nigeria's electoral umpire put off presidential and legislature elections for which the entire nation had already mobilised and was ready.
After repeatedly assuring Nigerians and international observers that it was fully prepared, INEC - the electoral body - hastily assembled a press briefing at 2:30 am, and gave logistic delays as reason for the postponement. It added the torching two weeks back of three important local centres as further excuse. At one centre, it claimed, some 4,600 smart card readers to authenticate voters were consumed in flames, more than half the number it needed for an entire state.
But Nigerians were not amused. Many were angry, perplexed, ''disappointed''. Postponement of general elections, it seems, has become a recurring decimal in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 polls with scant thought for the Nigerian citizen, whose money is carelessly frittered by public agencies. Business sector experts put the losses due to the postponement at up to N2.7 trillion ($7.4 billion). Mr Bismark Rewane, a noted expert and commentator told a newspaper: “With Nigeria’s GDP at about $427 billion, divide that by 365 days, you will get the GDP per day of $1.170 billion. So, the fact that everybody stopped work [Saturday], there is a direct cost of $1.170 billion.”
Indeed, many Nigerians had journeyed hundreds of kilometres the previous day to their country homes, in order to vote and were taken aback when they woke up Saturday morning. Some were already queued at poll stations as early as 6:00 am, anticipating to beat the voter rush. They learnt of the date change on the queue.
Local and foreign election monitors had deployed to the 8,809 wards across 774 local councils in 36 states. The media, the police, the army, CSOs and INEC electoral staff had all deployed. Across the country, schools had shut down and sent home students for a brought-forward mid-term break.
In all, everyone was caught off-guard by the shift in date. Except those that advocated, instigated and planned the ''change''.
''__Act One:__'' The country’s chief legal officer, Abubakar Malami, wrote to INEC, asking it to move the polls, perhaps to accommodate an eleventh hour electoral list from Zamfara state APC, that had earlier failed to simply comply with the deadline for submission specified in the Electoral Act. Like other public officers, he did not disappoint with his loyalty to political interest rather than the law. Though the Appeal Court in Sokoto had within the week struck out a suit filed by an APC member on its Zamfara primaries, it did not order INEC to do anything. The crux of the matter, which Malami glibly ignored in his letter to INEC was that whatever list the APC ''had submitted'' did not meet the deadline, causing INEC to rule them off from participating in the Zamfara poll.
The lingering Zamfara embarrassment plus the infighting in Rivers, had marked both states off for the APC. Indeed, by its own hand, the APC had whittled the northern numerical advantage of 19 of 36 states. And with the middle belt states prepared for the opposition by violent Fulani herders, the northern vote was more likely to be split half way by the APC and PDP. Opinion polls had suggested this weeks back. Taking Zamfara out of the equation was needlessly strengthening the opposition. And with the other three zones going 1-2 against the APC, Zamfara state increasingly became central to a perceived APC victory. Thus the hatchet plan was made.
Act Two:__'' Kaduna state governor Nasiru el-Rufai wakes up the nation to the astounding news that 66 Fulani villagers were slaughtered in their sleep in Kajuru local council, a day to the elections. The gadfly governor had 10 days earlier issued death threats to expatriates monitoring the elections. The electrifying news promised more developments as reporters uncovered that the focal villages had been deserted.
''__Act Three:__'' Saturday morning, came news that the army had confirmed that 66 persons had truly been killed, after discovering the shallow graves of 33 of them near a river. They appealed for calm and no retaliation.
''__Act Four:__'' By early Friday afternoon President Muhammadu Buhari was in Daura, in order to vote the next day. He too feigned surprise and shock at the postponement next day.
On Sunday morning, governor Rufai’s claim of 66 deaths was dismissed as a lie by Kaduna state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the National Emergency Management Agency, and the senator representing Kaduna central district. There was no independent confirmation of the army’s claim of bodies in a shallow grave. Indeed, Kaduna state CAN chairman, Rev. Joseph Hayab, stated: “We see this as an illogical intentional, premeditated attempt at stirring violence in the state for whatever expected gains. The incidence of raising false alarm by the Kaduna State Government should make Nigerians realise that some of our leaders are also guilty of hate speech and that makes them major actors in the game that has denied us peace and has claimed the lives of our love ones.’’
A hatchet job requires a yeoman, or as the Americans say, a patsy. INEC fit the bill. And the security agencies were there to nudge it in the right direction. Just like in 2011 and 2015.
Like any other public agency, INEC, is funded from the national purse, the people’s money. But public servants don’t agree. They believe that they are funded by government, not the people. And government means President Buhari, in their understanding. So, to the public servant, he is the president's employee, not the people's employee.
To fully understand this dysfunction, take a look at the civil service bible, the so called General Orders. The names and titles may be different but the philosophy is still that of the colonial, occupier's public service that was drilled to be loyal to Britannia and the throne of Queen Victoria, rather than to the Nigerian people. So, in 2019, we still have a dinosaur public service reflexively conditioned to be loyal to the president, or whoever usurps that ‘throne’, rather than to the Nigerian people. They are not even loyal to the Constitution, and this includes the police, the armed forces and the internal agencies uniformed or not. The people are seen as ‘subjects’, incidental to governance.
Which is why INEC had no compunction to postpone general elections a mere five and a half hours to voting. Whatever cost the people had incurred in order to be ready to vote was immaterial and not their business. Their business: conduct the polls, just like their masters want.
INEC does not intend to postpone election – Yakubu, 07-Feb-2019. https://www.sunnewsonline.com/inec-does-not-intend-to-postpone-election-yakubu/
Nigerians React As INEC Postpones The 2019 General Elections, 16-Feb-2019. https://m.guardian.ng/life/nigerians-react-as-inec-postpones-the-2019-presidential-elections/
How Nigerians reacted to postponement of elections, 17-Feb-2019. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/313217-how-nigerians-reacted-to-postponement-of-elections.html
Elections postponement caused Nigeria's economy $1.5bn loss - LCCI boss, 17-Feb-2019. https://www.legit.ng/1222429-elections-postponement-caused-nigerias-economy-15bn-loss-lcci-boss.html
Businesses Suffer N2.737tn Loss on Election Postponement, 17-Feb-2019. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2019/02/17/businesses-suffer-n2-737tn-loss-on-election-postponement/?amp
FG asks INEC to postpone elections over Zamfara, 14-Feb-2019. https://guardian.ng/news/fg-asks-inec-to-postpone-elections-over-zamfara/
Despite criticisms, Nigeria’s attorney general insists on request to INEC to postpone Zamfara elections, 15-Feb-2019. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/313019-despite-criticisms-nigerias-attorney-general-insists-on-request-to-inec-to-postpone-zamfara-elections.html
UPDATED: Appeal Court did not order INEC to accept Zamfara APC candidates,13-Feb-2019. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/top-news/312589-updated-appeal-court-did-not-order-inec-to-accept-zamfara-apc-candidates.html
66 people killed by gunmen in Kaduna, says Gov el-Rufai, 15-Feb-2019. https://punchng.com/66-people-killed-by-gunmen-in-kaduna-says-gov-el-rufai/
Army Confirms 66 Killed In Kaduna Attack, 16-Feb-2019. https://www.channelstv.com/2019/02/16/army-confirms-66-killed-in-kaduna-attack/
El-Rufai lied over killing of 66 Kaduna residents — CAN, NEMA, 17-Feb-2019. https://punchng.com/el-rufai-lied-over-killing-of-66-kaduna-residents-can-nema/