Nigerians are currently outraged at the postponement of the 2019 general elections just hours before the opening of the polls on Saturday, February 16.

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, announced in the early hours of Saturday that proceeding with the elections was no longer feasible after a careful review of the implementation of its logistics and operational plan.

He said the Presidential and National Assembly elections that were supposed to take place on February 16 will now take place on February 23, while the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections initially scheduled for March 2 have been moved to March 9.

While the postponement has drawn widespread criticism from all sides of the political divide and Nigerians in general, the postponement of elections is nothing new to Nigerian politics.

In fact, it is becoming something of a tradition as elections have been postponed for the past three election cycles starting from 2011 and then later in 2015.

Elections postponed for security reasons in 2015

Unlike the 2019 elections that were postponed just hours before the polls were supposed to open, INEC postponed the 2015 elections a week before its initially scheduled date.

Even though then-chairman, Attahiru Jega, disclosed that the commission was ready to conduct the elections as initially scheduled, the National Council of State advised that the exercise should be postponed for six weeks due to security reasons.

Ex-INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega
Ex-INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega

With Boko Haram running rampant in the northeast at the time, the council informed INEC that Security Services needed more time to conclude a major military operation against the terrorists.

He said, "The Commission held a meeting after the consultations, and decided to take the advice of the Security Chiefs and adjust the dates of the elections.

"INEC not being a security agency that could by itself guarantee protection for personnel and materials, as well as voters during elections, the Commission cannot lightly wave off the advice by the nation’s Security Chiefs. 

"The Commission is specifically concerned about the security of our ad hoc staff who constitute at least 600,000 young men and women, together with our regular staff, voters, election observers as well as election materials painstakingly acquired over the last one and half years."

The elections were subsequently postponed for six weeks from the initial February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015.

The decision to postpone the elections attracted widespread outrage with President Muhammadu Buhari, an opposition candidate at the time, alleging that it was a ploy by then-president, Goodluck Jonathan, to buy more time to plot how to rig the elections in his favour.

Then-United States president, Barack Obama, also sent his Secretary of State, John Kerry, to meet with Jonathan to discuss the postponement, an act Jonathan recently slammed in his book as foreign interference.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited then-president, Goodluck Jonathan, to discuss what led to the decision to postpone the 2015 general elections
US Secretary of State, John Kerry, visited then-president, Goodluck Jonathan, to discuss what led to the decision to postpone the 2015 general elections

2011 National Assembly elections postponed after voting had started

While many have expressed outrage over the fact that the 2019 elections were postponed only hours to voting, INEC postponed the 2011 National Assembly elections after people had already started voting.

Voting was already taking place in some parts of the country on April 2, 2011, when Jega announced that it would be suspended due to the late arrival of result sheets in many parts of the country.

He said, "The result sheets are central to the elections and their integrity. Accordingly, in many places, our officials have not reported at the polling units, making it now difficult to implement the Modified Open Ballot Procedure that we have adopted. 

"Not only do we have to enter the results in the sheets, the number of accredited voters is also to be entered in the result sheet."

The elections were postponed by two days and held on April 4.