Few hours to the presidential and National Assembly elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shifted the poll.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Chairman of the commission at the headquarters of the electoral umpire in Abuja, early Saturday, told the nation that the commission has decided to postpone the election.
This came hours before Nigerians were slated to head to the polling units.
The announcement, which caught many Nigerians unawares, was made at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
It has earlier been gathered that logistics challenges in some parts of the country may force the commission to move the elections.
The new dates for the elections are February 23 for presidential and national assembly elections and March 9 for governorship and state assemblies elections.
Yakubu said further details of the postponement would be disclosed at a conference scheduled for 2:00 p.m. Saturday.
The statement read by the INEC Chairman, said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission met on Friday, 15 February 2019 and reviewed its preparation for the 2019 general elections scheduled for Saturday, February 16, and Saturday, March 2.
“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.
“Consequently, the commission has decided to reschedule the Presidential/National Assembly elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. Furthermore, the Governorship/State House of Assembly/Federal Capital Territory Area Council elections are rescheduled to Saturday, 9th March 2019.
“This will afford the Commission the opportunity to address identified challenges in order to maintain the quality of our elections. This was a difficult decision for the commission to take but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and consolidation of our democracy.
“The Commission will meet with key stakeholders to update them on this development at 2 P.M at the Abuja International Conference Centre.”
Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, has condemned the postponement.
In a statement, his spokesperson, Ike Abonyi, Secondus described the development as a deliberate plot by President Muhammadu Buhari to cling on to power even when it has become obvious to him that Nigerians want him out.
Secondus warned that the party will not accept anything short of a well organised electoral process devoid of manipulation, harassment and intimidation of voters and opposition elements.
“Having failed in all their nefarious options to enable them cling on to power, the APC and the INEC came up with the idea of shifting election an action that is dangerous to our democracy and unacceptable”, Secondus said.
He alleged that the APC in connivance with the INEC has been trying to undermine the exercise, including burning down INEC offices in some states and destroying electoral materials to create artificial problems upon which to stand for their dubious act.
“With several of their riggings failing, they have to force INEC to agree to a shift in the election or a staggered election with flimsy excuses pre-manufactured for the purpose.
“For the avoidance of doubt the PDP sees this action as wicked and we are also aware of other dubious designs like the deployment of hooded security operatives who would be ruthless on the people ostensibly to scare them away,” Secondus said.
The National Chairman recalls that the PDP had earlier alerted Nigerians that the APC was coming up with lined up rigging strategies including burning down of INEC offices and engineering crisis in PDP strong hold areas to scare away the people.
Secondus also blamed the killing of about 66 persons, including women and children, in Southern Kaduna on the APC, saying it was a scheme by the ruling party to frighten the people away from voting states.
Secondus did not present any evidence to support his allegations against the APC on either the elections shift or the deaths in Kaduna State.
Atiku Abubakar, the PDP’s presidential candidate, also condemned the postponement and accused the Buhari administration of inflicting it on Nigerians to disenfranchise them.
Atiku said: “As you know, the Independent National Electoral Commission has announced a postponement of the elections until 23 February and 9 March respectively.
“The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.
“This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively.
“Knowing that the Nigerian people are determined to reject them, they are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid their rejection by the Nigerian people.
“Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts.
As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.
“Maintain the peace and be law abiding. Do not react to this provocation with anger, violence or any action that might be exploited by those who do not want this election to hold. Remain calm. We will overcome this. You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny.
“Please come out to vote on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively. Frustrate those who do not want this election to hold by coming out in very large numbers. That is the best antidote to their plans.
“May God bless you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”