Abdullahi Hassan, Zaria

 Chairman, Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Prof. Ango Abdullahi, has said that the postponement of last Saturday’s elections was a good decision taken by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to arrest the planned rigging by some incumbents.

Barely twelve hours to the presidential poll, INEC suddenly announced the postponement of the election. How do you see this development?

Well, I can say that this is yet another indication of cumulative failure of this government and its leadership. They have told Nigerians over and over again that they have every confidence under the leadership of this government that a free and fair  and credible election would be held in 2019. And we have been in this for over 15 months. And each time the president’s spokesman or any senior government official speak while addressing Nigerians or foreigners who have keen interest in the democratic process about 2019 elections, they had always reiterated the intention or commitment of the government to ensure that there is free and fair elections in the promotion of democracy in Nigeria .This has been their position for almost two years. Shall we say that they have failed the country in this regard? My assessment of the situation is that apart from the shame that this has brought to Nigeria at the international community, I think it is very clear that someone, somewhere feel that the elections if allowed to take place last Saturday, there is every likely hood that the sitting government will fall by the votes of Nigerians. This must be at the back of the mind of those who have found it necessary to perhaps, pressurised INEC to postpone the elections.

Whatever it is that this postponement is intended to serve we are not very sure yet, may be in the next two to five days, we will determine the real reason why the elections were postponed. As it is now, from reports reaching me, which is credible, I understand that fake ballot papers which had been thump printed have been recovered in some states and some facilities of INEC were destroyed by fire in some certain states, so there must be reason. Those who had planned to take certain advantages of incumbency have also been disappointed. Security apparatus must have discovered too that the chances of winning this election by the government are very slim. What is even more shameful is what I saw at the end of the APC rally in Abuja where journalists pushed certain questions to Mr. President. The one that would be of special interest is the one where the president responded by saying nobody will defeat him in the election. So I could not see how someone of this status or someone with his antecedents and background, spiritual and otherwise, would make this kind of careless statement. What he was saying by other interpretation is that he was indispensable, so nobody could replace him.

But do you think he can be defeated?

Look, every life has an end. Every era has an end; therefore to say that this could not happen in an election is careless. He has forgotten that he defeated others who were also incumbents. So why can’t he be defeated? What is the difference between him and others that had been defeated in election before? But then, some will say this could be the idea nurtured by the cabals because some people say if you see the president err in what he says or do, the cabals are behind it. But I thought, he ought to be sensible and reasonable in whatever he says at least for public consumption so that he can discard what the cabals may tell him or wanted him to say on anything that may go down well with common sense both spiritual and otherwise.

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This is not the first time presidential elections had been postponed by INEC, similar thing happened in 2011, and 2015, don’t you think the reasons given by INEC this time appear cogent enough?

Well, it is, as I have said before. But I felt disappointed in the commission because it consistently said it was ready for the election. However, I also commend it because there is the possibility that the chairman having assured himself, and commission assuring Nigerians that it is ready to conduct elections, some interventions must have ‘cross over’ without the commission’s knowledge and possibly that of the chairman . So, he is absolutely right in this direction, by arresting the process having discovered that it was going to be abused. 

Are you saying that the postponement has links with planned rigging of the presidential election?

Oh yes, it must be, this is the contention. The contention is that there must have been a plan to rig the elections. And the chairman and commission haven discovered the plan, took the right decision by saying that he rather postponed the elections than allowing some people to rig the elections.

What do you have to say to the Nigerian electorate on this postponement?

It depends on the disappointment they have. They have seen the kind of planned rigging. INEC has stopped the rigging at least for now, but for those who want to exercise their voting right, they feel disappointed. People have traveled to long distance to go their towns and vote, but to their disappointment this voting could take place for good reasons that it was rather better to delay or postpone than allow some people to come and steal their votes.