BY AKINLOYE JAMES
As a Nigerian, I can bet that all year long, day in day out, at least one politician, religious leader or motivational speaker somewhere is charging an audience (regardless of size) with these famous words of JFK “Ask not what your country can do for you- ask what you can do for your country” or something akin to it.
Many of us, are tired of these charges which don’t also consider that daily, we are overburdened by the failures in our systems, and that each Nigerian home is now a local government unto itself. We sink boreholes to get water, buy generators to provide electricity, and join neighbours in contributing to fix the roads that pass by our gates. Yet we still pay bills; borehole licence bills get stuck on our gates every once in a while; DISCOS deliver their grossly exaggerated bills for the power which they did not supply; and we are taxed at every turn. We do everything for ourselves in this country, and we have stopped asking a long time ago what our country will do for us, we do everything for it every single day. Just as we prepared to do one more thing for this country – vote for the future of our children and those yet unborn- and when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, and have even begun to hope that things were getting better, INEC foists this last-minute postponement on us while we slept. Haba!
People left businesses, folk and kin, travelled hundreds of kilometres to perform this civic duty, and then at the last minute, INEC suddenly realises that it is not ready. Really? Is this not the same INEC that hitherto emphatically assured us of its readiness, and bragged about its expertise and creativity to meet the peculiarities of the Nigerian election terrain heads on? Then, like the Nigerian tailor, INEC tells us on the morning of our big day, “madam, your cloth never ready oh!”. And again, like the tailor, INEC offers no apologies, only excuses, and words like “we regret”.
The inability of INEC to foresee a reasonably expected challenge is mind boggling. The Chairman told us that they were unable to deliver election materials to some areas by air because of the bad weather. Any reasonable person could have easily foreseen this difficulty given that even in February, harmattan clings to our skies like a child stalking its mother. That INEC did not foresee this makes it necessary to question the capacity of its management to plan anything, let alone our national elections. Nigerians deserve better. INEC has indeed failed us, and the grand arrogance that prevented its Chairman from offering us a decent apology is disheartening.
The unfortunate result of this poor behaviour by INEC is that it has left many Nigerians angry and seeking answers. As always, the ever-ready spin doctors have begun spinning fables, in a bid to score cheap political points and further divide us. Some say it is President Buhari who has interfered with INEC’s processes and caused this postponement, some says it is APC and PDP that influenced INEC to do this. I choose not to be carried away by these baseless spins, INEC and INEC alone is fully responsible for this postponement which has now become a monumental disgrace locally and internationally.
We, as enlightened Nigerians should objectively assess this situation for ourselves and leave the spin doctors to buy their own mischief. President Buhari has demonstrated his commitment to respecting and protecting the independence of INEC because this is necessary to protect the credibility of our elections. Therefore, he has refused to interfere in the activities of INEC, and only made sure INEC had all it needed for the elections. INEC told all of us it was ready for this election, and we all believed.
If indeed President Buhari did not respect the independence of INEC and had become meddlesome in its affairs, he would have used that influence to ensure that INEC allowed APC (his own party) to field candidates for Zamfara and Rivers states. If he did not interfere at a time when he could have got a clear benefit for his own party, why would he interfere now to cause this kind of monumental embarrassment to the Nation and inconvenience the same electorates whose votes he is working hard to secure. There really is no way an incumbent government which is seeking re-election will orchestrate or approve such a disastrous move to its own detriment.
INEC has not claimed to have been influenced by anyone or any political party, it has taken full responsibility for it, so let the spin doctors stop trying to absolve INEC of the responsibility for its ineptitude by looking for where else to place a blame that clearly belongs with INEC.
As Nigerians, we must resolve to move forward, and not allow this setback to cause us to despair. Elections will hold on Saturday 23rd February, and we must make our votes count, use it to secure the future of our children and their children yet unborn. Of course, we are frustrated, angry and disappointed with INEC, because this postponement has caused hardship for many Nigerians, and honestly, INEC’s approach at managing this development has been very disappointing. Nevertheless, we must not give up. The question of who will lead us for the next four years should be decided by all Nigerians, not just a few. Our votes are very important to this process. Please don’t be discouraged, we all need to fight for the soul of our nation.
I will be out to vote again on Saturday, because Nigeria belongs to me too.
James is the president of the Initiative to Save Democracy.