"It isn't what you do, but how you do it"
- John Wooden.
The one word in Nigerian lexicology that is capable of application in multiple contexts and situations. It is the reason adduced for starting a music concert four hours behind schedule; it is the perfect way to describe the job function of that individual who gets paid for doing next to nothing in the office; it provides a way out for the event planner who fails to deliver even after receiving advance payment two weeks earlier, and it was the catchphrase employed by Efe Ejeba when he convinced millions of Nigerians to pour in their votes, enabling him to win the 2017 edition of the Big Brother Nigeria reality show.
No, this is not about what a young man did with 25 million naira, or an assessment of that subjective thing called Talent. This is about the concept of Logistics, and the import of the term on the Nigerian condition.
The second week of February witnessed an unprecedented frenzy over the anticipated general elections. Campaigns intensified as deadline day approached, people scrambled to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards in a bid to ensure that nothing stood in the way of exercising their franchise, transport companies tweaked the fares as individuals fought to get to the places where they had registered to vote, and firms across the country made plans to either operate for only half the day on Friday the 15th or close up shop altogether. The foreign observers had taken position, the journalists were baying for blood (figuratively), and everyone was waiting for the morning of February 16th, eager to see out what has been touted to be the election that would impact Nigeria’s political and economic future like never before.
Everyone, except for the players most pivotal to the game: the electoral officers.
While half the world was asleep in the early hours of February 16th, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, subjected Nigerians to a treatment that they had hitherto only been used to receiving from tailors. After a night of speculation, over 84 million registered voters were greeted by the news that they would need to wait for another seven days before deciding on whether they wanted to vote in a new leader, or go on with the current program.
“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.”
The above statement as contained in Mr. Yakubu’s 2a.m press release is open to multiple interpretations: it means that the wedding moved to Saturday the 23rd would have to be moved once more in spite of whatever costs have been incurred, it means that the corps members who slept under unfavourable weather conditions that night apparently braved the mosquito bites and chilly winds in vain; it means that those who either took long road trips or flew in would have to purchase tickets yet again if they are to participate in this year’s polls, and it means that entrepreneurs who opted to stay away from business ended up losing hours of productivity and potential profits for nothing.
Nigerians at all levels have made their feelings known: the angry tweets have swarmed the timelines, candidates have expressed their “disappointment”, and a former governor has called for Mr. Yakubu to resign. Theories (from the seemingly valid to the downright implausible) have sprung up, and accusations of a possible collusion have flown around, but shouldn’t these so-called logistics be analysed?
In the Commission’s press statement, reference was made to “identified challenges”. Away from sentiment, the Commission is within its rights to postpone elections in the overall best interest of the electoral process. Section 26 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides thus:
“Where a date has been appointed for the holding of an election, and there is reason to believe that a serious breach of the peace is likely to occur if the election is proceeded with on that date or it is impossible to conduct the elections as a result of natural disasters or other emergencies, the Commission may postpone the election and shall in respect of the area, or areas concerned, appoint another date for the holding of the postponed election, provided that such reason for the postponement is cogent and verifiable.”
From the reports that have made the rounds over the past couple of weeks, there have been challenges in getting ballot papers and other voting materials to certain parts of the country. Besides, the citizenry cannot claim to be unaware of the fire incidents that have erupted at the Commission’s offices in a number of states. Call it foul play, call it underhand politicking, but the fact remains that there is sufficient reason for the Commission to hold off on conducting elections for another couple of days.
Be that as it may, emotional reactions are not solely influenced by the situation; they are also triggered by the manner in which it is presented. The Commission may have valid reasons for its decision, but couldn’t these “logistics” have been sorted earlier? Couldn’t the public have been informed of the existing challenges long before, to avoid the monumental waste of time and resources that we had to deal with? What’s the guarantee that the electorate would be able to carry out its civic duty on the rescheduled date? No, the events of 2011 and 2015 do not suffice as an adequate excuse, and at least the people got a chance to regroup in the latter. A situation where people would be afforded a short window to get their Permanent Voters’ Cards would have provided a little respite, but that’s not even the case.
To this extent, those who have been screaming in the lines of “the Commission had one job, one job!” have every right to do so. There would (understandably) be little motivation to vote, people would slowly lose faith in the process, there would possibly be a low turnout at the polls and political apathy would slowly creep in, all because of logistics.
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