Yesterday was supposed to be Election Day in Nigeria – but it wasn’t.
Sometime before 3.00am, just five hours before the polls were due to open, the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a postponement of one week. So, after four years of preparation and a budget of US$522 million, INEC was unable to get ballot papers to all of the 774 local government areas because of ‘logistics issues’.
If you’re outside of Nigeria, this will seem preposterous or just plain insane. If you’re a resident or Nigerian abroad, this will feel like déja vu – we have definitely been here before. Four years ago, I went abroad on the advice of friends to avoid potential violence, only to return and experience a delayed election. Thankfully, it was calm and peaceful in Calabar.
Although this delay does not affect me, I have to spare a thought for the thousands of people who travelled across the country to vote in the areas where they are registered. Flights, hotels, bus fares and hours of travel will have to be repeated, or a week of work may be missed if some people decide to stay put and wait for next Saturday. Images have surfaced on social media of the thousands more young people from the National Youth Service Corps who were conscripted to assist with the conduct of the elections – sleeping on floors, in cramped buses and under the stars. What an example to set for Nigeria’s future leaders!
Unfortunately, the chaos will continue with the next administration, whoever emerges as president. That’s because the country’s systems have been decaying for a long time and it will take new thinking to change them. There are signs that a new set of younger leaders are coming forward, daring to challenge the hegemony of the old guard. It is my hope that they will keep advancing over the next four years.
“The only hope for Nigeria is for the middle and upper classes to get involved in politics, just as they were in those early post-independence days. If the work starts now, true democracy can take root, as politics gets infiltrated with the teachers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, engineers, architects, entrepreneurs and intellectuals who will put themselves forward as candidates.
Nigeria cannot afford another wasted election,”