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OP-ED: Nigeria's Election: Free and Fair?

Folasubomi K. Salami

February 16, 2019 was the most important and anticipated day in 2019 for the citizens of Nigeria. Nigerians all over the world went to bed in anticipation for the new day. Many believing in the current government, some others in the major opposition party and all ready to fight it out at the polls.  Many anticipated this day as the birth of a new democracy for the country, a day of disruption of the ‘democracy’ held by the old, a day the 'young' become the true leaders of tomorrow. Many people scheduled important personal event like weddings around this date, everyone put their plans on hold in anticipation of a new dawn. February 16 was supposed to be a day for Nigerians - home and abroad - who were on standby waiting to cast the vote of their future or watch their futures be decided. People went to bed with all of this in mind, only to have these hopes and dreams crushed at the early hours of the morning around 3am, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released a press report stating that election was to be postponed till February 23, 2019.


Elections in Nigeria are held every four years, and  since democracy in 1999, the country has had an 'independent agency', independent of political influence run their election process. This body which is referred to as INEC, has only one job which is to run a free and fair election on behalf of the country. A body which essentially had  four years plan, develop and implement all of the processes required to come through with a fair election. After four years of preparation, INEC still needs an extra week before commencement of the election? After the rather “interesting” announcement by INEC in the early hours of February 16, celebrities in Nigeria like Davido, Toke Makinwa, Timi Dakolo amongst others expressed their feelings via social media on the new development regarding the elections. Timi Dakolo in a reply to a fan who said she had given up on the election process due to this postponement said, 'if your children are writing scholarship exams in that village, and you get there and discover they have postponed till next week? Please vote for their future. This is exactly what they want you to do...' This perspective makes quite a lot of sense, but when you consider that the difference here is this is not a child’s exam. This postponement will affect the lives of  over 80 million voters who want to get back to their lives. 80 million various things to go ahead with in life, 80 million different citizens based in different geographical areas who have travelled far and wide, businesses and schools shut down, dedicating this weekend to invest in their future. Have the electorate been compromised? How many will go through all the stress again next week? If the elections are postponed for a month, many believe that citizens will still come out to vote. It is a thing of joy to see the rate of political participation has skyrocketed, but does this still portray a free and fair election?


Right now, one can only see the deception in the process. That INEC’s ability to disappoint a whole nation with the sorry excuse of “logistics” without anyone taking responsibility for the national embarrassment is supposed to slide quietly. As said earlier, reports show a high rate of political participation specifically in this election, a lot of Nigerians in diaspora coming home to make sure their votes count, leaving their jobs to come home to vote, not just those from outside the country but the locals staying in the country, travelling to places where they were registered. Just as important are those who left metropolitan cities like Lagos to go back home to participate  in making their voices heard. Postponing an election by a day, is something that can be overlooked, but a week is atrocious. We can only call this a biased election, not because of whatever rigging might happen on the day and during the process of counting of votes but because voting equipment and the electorate have been compromised. By moving the election date, the disruption not just to concrete plans that have been laid but to the psychological state of mind of Nigerians in unforgivable.

Let us take into consideration those who in service of their country were posted to far flung areas to act as ad-hoc staff. Pictures have surfaced on the Internet showing the sorry state that that the National wards -Youth Corpers- were left in. No on is holding INEC responsible. Why are the lives of young Nigerians inconsequential? Why should these young graduates in the prime of their lives be ill-used without apology? Does the same fate await them next week?

The ruling party has come out to bluntly refuse the claim that this postponement is beneficial to them. However, at this point any results will be heavily contested by the losing parties.


I will end this on the note that unless these bodies start feeling responsible and paying for their actions, there will be no way forward for the nation as a whole. An election a week later, is no election at all even if it’s called free and fair. It might be free but the “fair” part has been annihilated, and such a process deserves a vote of “No confidence”. At this time, there should be a unanimous call for the resignation of the electoral commission leader. The electorate has been compromised and whether there is  rigging or not.



Feb 18, 2019