The people of Osun State, like every other Nigerian, woke up last Saturday, to the news of the postponement of the much awaited presidential and National Assembly elections slated for the day.
It was like a dream too difficult to believe, until Nigerians heard it from the horse’s mouth, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, chairman, that indeed, the election has been shifted to Saturday, February 23, while the governorship and state House of Assembly elections earlier slated for March 2 rescheduled for March 9.
The announcement became a talk of the town with reactions from stakeholders which included political parties, local and international election observers, civil society groups, student bodies, trade unions among numerous others.
Reacting, the governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, urged citizens to remain calm and peaceful without losing interest in the electoral process.
The governor implored the people to turn out in a large number next Saturday to exercise their voting rights, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Adeniyi Adesina.
He said, “Let all citizens of State of Osun remain calm and peaceful in spite of the disappointment of the one-week postponement of the general elections.
“I implore our people not to lose interest in the electoral process as a result of this temporary setback.
“All eligible voters should not be deterred but turn out en masse on February 23 and March 9 to cast their votes for the candidates of their choice.
“We should continue to have confidence in INEC, and the electoral agency’s ability to conduct credible, free, fair and transparent elections as promised by its chair, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.”
But, a member of Osun House of Assembly, representing Obokun state constituency on the platform of the APC, Hon Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, said the postponement of the elections was genuinely upsetting in view of the level of readiness of ordinary Nigerians to exercise their civic duty.
The lawmaker noted that the postponement of the elections would have ripples effect on all stakeholders, including political parties, not only in terms of unbudgeted expenses, but physical and psychological effects.
Oyintiloye, who is the House Committee Charman on Information and Strategy, however, opined that if the decision of INEC was in the best interest of advancement of democracy and ensuring that the 2019 elections was successful, then there was the need for everyone to align with the commission.
The lawmaker urged Nigerians to accept the postponement in good faith.
“If the decision will enable them to organise a flawless election, why not?
“The burden of proof is on INEC, all stakeholders must abide by the rules, all supporters of political parties and candidates must put their hand on deck”
“We should believe INEC that this temporal setback should yield to better election management in the overall interest of democracy in Nigeria,” he added.
Oyintiloye appealed to INEC to puts its house in order and safeguard all materials distributed so that nothing undermines the integrity of the process.
Also the Osun State chapter of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, described the decision of INEC to postpone the elections as a bad omen for the country.
The party spokesperson, Hon.Taiwo Akeju, in a telephone conversation said the development would dampen the spirit of Nigerians, maintaining that there would be dire consequences for such action.
According to him, “What INEC has done has put Nigeria’s democracy in bad light before the international community. The postponement is a very bad omen. It is not good for our democracy and the image of the country.
“Until few hours to the election, INEC had assured that the elections would hold and that they have no excuse to shift the elections now. What now happened between then and now? This is not too good for our democracy.”
In a separate statement in Osogbo, the state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, frowned at the development, which it described as de-rating to the democratic advancement.
Speaking through its spokesperson, Bisi Sunday, the party querried, “How can INEC postpone the elections few hours to the exercise? This is gross abuse of office and it is saddening and this clearly shows that INEC is no longer independent.
“We have mobilised our supporters across the state for the elections and now they called the process off. This will affect the morale of the people.”
On the part of Bola Adebisi, who had fixed her wedding ceremony for March 23, which is now the new date for the rescheduled presidential and National Assembly elections, the postponement is devastating.
The economic effect of the postponement is the concern of Ademola Kolade, a baker, who had already lost a colossal amount to the February 16 fixed day and the loss to be repeated on February 23.
As tongues continues to wag on the sudden postponement, what appears to be a loss to some people is definitely an advantage to others, who may however be few.
However, the expectation and prayers of Nigerians is that the disappointment turns out to be a blessing through the conduct of free, fair, credible and acceptable elections by INEC.
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