INEC and the Cost of Poll Postponement

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu copy INEC

INEC Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Before now, ardent supporters of the two leading political parties and other critical stakeholders in the polity relished the prospect of having the much anticipated presidential election. Recent announcement by INEC concerning the postponement of the poll has, however, put pay to all that. The rumpus caused by the sudden decision of INEC to postpone the election has continued to reecho across and beyond the land. While some are berating INEC for what they consider ‘a coup against democracy’, others are actually applauding the electoral body for taking what they consider ‘a bold decision’. This divergent of views is not to be unexpected considering the conflicting political interests of those concerned and the interface of other such variables in the on-going political tussle in the country.

The main pre-occupation of this piece, however, is to examine what might be the possible cost of the postponed general election on the country, political parties and individuals. To begin with, the abrupt putting off of the election has, without a doubt, done much havoc to the not too admirable global image of our country. Being the most populous Black Country in the world, much is expected of Nigeria within the comity of nations in terms of strict adherence to global best practice.

Sadly, however, INEC handling of the deferred election do not in any way portray our nation in good stead. It is, therefore, not surprising that the sudden deferment of the election has further dented our global mage as a country of frivolous and superficial people. Nigeria has now become an object of ridicule across the world. What is particularly puzzling to the world is why a nation of over 170 million people could not successfully plan to hold an election that has been on the card for over four years.

This, certainly, is a bad commentary on our country and it is enough for us to lose whatever honuor and integrity we have within the international community. The argument is that if highly volatile nations such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq could hold elections, it leaves much to be desired that the reverse is in reality the case.

Also, INEC itself has come out of the poll shift’s controversy more battered than before. The truth of the matter is that it is difficult to completely shield the electoral umpire from culpability in respect of the poll shift. Without a doubt, INEC’s image as a competent electoral body has been grossly undermined. It will be recalled that the 2011 and 2015 were respectively shifted by diverse number of days. This shows that INEC has a rich history of ineptitude and this does not in any way does its image any good. It is left to be seen how the electoral body hope to wriggle itself out of the negative tag of lame duck it has been dubbed in certain quarters.

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Besides casting aspersion on the credibility of the country as well as the competency of INEC, the sudden postponement of the election also has far reaching implications for political parties in respect of electioneering campaigns, planning, logistics and financing. Previously, most of the candidates aspiring for various political
offices have zeroed their budgeting and other associated matters on the initial election dates as earlier announced by INEC. The poll shift would, therefore, bring about additional financial strains on the aspirants and their political parties. With the reality of the current economic situation in the country, having to extend campaign programmes and plans for another few days would, undoubtedly, be a serious financial burden on the political parties and their aspirants.

On the social scene, the postponement also gravely complicates things for event managers and planners as they now have to alter previous plans and make fresh ones. The loss in this respect is not by any means negligible. In some cases, invitation cards have been printed and widely distributed while various souvenirs have been produced at
huge cost. The implication is that, based on the current reality, new plans and arrangements have to be made. It is like starting all over again and at no mean cost.

Perhaps more importantly, with regards to the national economy, the last minute postponement of the election could, according to financial experts, cost the nation around $10 billion (N3.6 trillion), 2 percent of 2018 Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This amount was arrived at after carefully considering varied cost of the postponement. The
postponement cost is derived from dividing the country’s $427 billion GDP in 2018 by $1.16 billion. The cost of the postponement on INEC’s budget is also mindboggling. The electoral body’s budget for the 4-week election was initially put at N189 billion. However, with the latest development, financial experts are of the view that INEC must
now make extra budgetary provision in excess of N47 billion.

In terms of business losses, especially with regards to private business interests, the implication of having total paralysis in sectors such as aviation and hospitality for two consecutive weekends is, to say the least, staggering. This is, indeed, escalated by the fact that the announcement for the postponement occurred on the very day the poll was to be held, thereby sharply disrupting various economic calculations. For instance, many people have traveled long
distances just to participate in the electoral process. Equally, many educational institutions had to in the interim close down for the duration of the election.

This ultimately leads us to the whole question of the huge cost of conducting elections in our country which experts claim is among the most expensive in the world. India, the largest democracy in the world doesn’t spend as much as we do on the conduct of election. Experts opine that N189 billion approved for the 2019 polls far exceeds the
total capital outlay of education and health in the 2019 national budget. When this is considered alongside the total sum of N242 billion granted for INEC and relevant security agencies for the conduct of the general polls, it will be realized that much goes into the conduct of elections in our nation.

It is, however, hoped that the poll shift would significantly assist INEC in organizing a seamless election that Nigerians across all divides would be proud of. It is precisely in doing this that the already tense political atmosphere in the country could be sufficiently diffused. On a final note, it is hoped that all vital stakeholders in the country’s electoral process would see the need to embrace peace before, during and after the whole process. God bless

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