The announcement of the postponement of the general elections for the 2nd time in 2 days left many disappointed. Many people hoped to not go to work on Monday, but had their hopes cruelly dashed by the INEC Chairman at 5.30pm on Sunday. Nigerians are right to be upset when their plans (or lack thereof) are disrupted for the small matter of an election that will happen once every four years.
However, it is impossible to have perspective about the last 2 days without looking back at the last 4 years. The 2007 elections were decried by Madeleine Albright as the worst she had witnessed. There were governorship re-runs in Delta and Anambra, with results overturned in Ekiti, Edo and other states. There are yet more cases pending in court. Any mess that takes 4 years to clean up is something that must not be allowed to happen again.
This is why the postponements are preferable to a situation anything like what happened in ’07. A lot of money has gone into this process, but we must remember that much of the structure which produced that the 2007 elections is still in place. The overall lesson here is that money cannot stand alone. Only the right people in the right places and the right processes can ensure the smooth running of an operation as large as trying to conduct an election for a country whose voting population alone is nearly equal to the populations of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya combined.
Criticism of the INEC Chairman must thus be tempered by the knowledge of the situation he met on the ground. This Commission is clearly in need of reform, and Attahiru Jega is caught between trying to deliver an election when he said he would and also trying to deliver one he can put his signature on, as they are not the same thing.
All that matters now is that we have credible elections. If that objective is achieved, then the inquest and very necessary root-and-branch reform of INEC can begin. A postponed election is better than a rigged one.