No more excuse, elections must hold!

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It is plausible that for every success recorded by another country, an article emerges entitled ‘Lessons for Nigeria from…’ that success or country. Yes, articles abound pointing out lessons for Africa’s most populous country and largest economy; be they from Barack Obama’s emergence as the United States President, Steve Jobs’ success at Apple or Osama Bin Laden’s death. The list is endless.

But as the country continues to flirt with self-destruction, it appears that for every lesson the nation ought to have learnt, it comes up with a myriad of excuses about why it is incapable of learning anything new. Many of them are linked to the long-dead Lord Lugard.

Perhaps, the country has also been unable to learn anything from Steve Maraboli’s profound quote, “There is no greater symphony of self-destruction than the beautifully poisonous melody found in our excuses.”

And so, it goes that four years after Nigerians held unto hope, defied the trappings of poverty and hardship only to be told that the elections for which they had assembled had been shifted by a week, they have had to contend with a similar situation, albeit with more serious implications.

When the Independent National Electoral Commission under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega postponed the 2011 general elections, it cited logistic challenges as its reason.

Four years later, it has justified its decision of asking Nigerians to wait for six more weeks to exercise their right to choose their leaders with a controversial excuse.

Jega informed Nigerians that the military, which were expected to provide security during the polls, would not be able to do so as they had scheduled an onslaught on Boko Haram.

He insisted that the commission had been ready to hold the elections and that he had made that clear to the Council of State days earlier.

“The summary of my presentation was that for matters under the control of INEC, the commission was ready for the elections despite the challenge of the PVCs and we have been doing all we could for that,” he had said.

The excuse lacked credibility to many, including the United States and the United Kingdom – as have many other excuses Nigeria has come up with for its heart-wrenching failures. Some of those against the move argue that if after five years, the military has been unable to tackle the insurgency, then there is little it can do in six weeks.

On the flipside, supporters of the poll delay believe that if the military goes on to achieve a major success in its campaign and more Nigerians get to collect their Permanent Voter Cards, the elections would be more reflective of the wishes of the citizenry.

A week after the move, however, the country is worse off.

Apart from virtually becoming an object of ridicule in the international community, the economy has been badly hit.

Although the economic challenges facing the country has been mostly attributed to the slump in crude oil prices, the political risk and security challenges are also critical.

This became more pronounced last week.

As a result of the poll delay, the country’s stock market plunged by eight per cent with equities value dipping by N801bn in contrast to a 1.61 per cent appreciation the week before the announcement.

Also, the naira faced even more pressure, leading to increased calls for it to be further devalued. After hitting an all-time low of N196.30 against the dollar on Monday, it ended up hovering between N202 and N206 against the dollar for the week.

To worsen the situation, the defiant Boko Haram threatened to attack voters and on Saturday moved to expand its control beyond the 14 local governments it previously occupied by attacking some communities in Gombe State.

There has also been increasing talks about the likelihood of an interim government.

It should, therefore, be obvious to Nigerians, regardless of their views that the country won’t run out of excuses to shift the elections soon.

But like Afghanistan, which held elections despite threats from Al-Qaeda, Nigeria must make the most of a bad situation, hold elections and face the consequences.

Like Ghana, which has held a presidential election on December 7, regardless of what day of the week it fell and the challenges the country or its electoral commission faced, five times since 1996, we must be better organised.

We must also bear in mind that although we have ignored the plight of Nigerians who have had to bear the cost of rescheduling weddings, funerals and other programmes due to the election postponement, what we risk this time round should we fail to get it right is the collapse of our economy and the country. That is something we cannot ignore or afford.

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