A national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has urged Nigerians to remain committed and not allow the election postponement to deter them from exercising their rights on February 23.
Mr Tinubu made the call in a statement made available to newsmen on Saturday in Lagos by his Media Officer, Tunde Rahman.
Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for February 16 were shifted till February 23 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Saturday, hours to the commencement of the polls.
Governorship, state houses of assembly and Federal Capital Territory Area Council polls, earlier fixed for March 2 were also moved to March 9 by INEC due to some challenges.
According to Mr Tinubu, there were reports of eager voters rising early to leave their homes to cast their ballots on Saturday only to be told upon arriving at their appointed polling stations that the election had been postponed.
He said that this should not have happened for it could well discourage people from coming out when the election takes place.
Mr Tinubu, however, urged people who came out and other Nigerians who intended to cast their votes to maintain their commitment and prepare to do so on February 23.
“Do not allow this delay to deter you from the expression of your democratic rights.
“What you had set your mind to do on February 16, keep your mind and heart on for February 23, ” he said.
Mr Tinubu expressed dissatisfaction over the late hour postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections by INEC.
”As the National Leader of the APC and simply as a Nigerian, I must express my profound concern and dissatisfaction with the unexpected, late hour postponement of the presidential and national assembly elections by INEC.
“While we appreciate the enormity of the logistical challenge that elections in a vast nation like ours poses to INEC, we are still pained that the Commission could not meet this challenge within the time allotted.
“We are also perplexed that INEC literally waited so late in the day to make known the obstacles preventing it from keeping faith to the election schedule.
“INEC could have and should have given the nation more ample and earlier warning. This could have perhaps lessened the pervasive disappointment that we all now feel. It also would have helped people better order their steps today,” he said.
The former Lagos governor urged political parties and Nigerians to support and encourage INEC to conduct a smooth election on February 23.
“We must take INEC’s statement at face value and hold to the belief that INEC understands even more than ever the sober and grave responsibility it has to our nation and our democracy.
“INEC can only properly discharge that responsibility by conducting free and fair elections.
“While we cannot go back to repair what did or did not happen to cause this postponement, we all must encourage INEC to do all that is necessary so voting can smoothly proceed on February 23.
“Whatever our political affiliation, we must encourage INEC to overcome the difficulties in order to rise to this most important occasion, ” he said.
Mr Tinubu also urged INEC to commit itself more than ever before to perform to its utmost so that the elections would be remembered as a free and fair exercise consonant with the best of international standards.
“In the end, elections must be held in such a manner that every vote carries the same weight and no vote is minimised because elections took place much earlier or later in one place than in another.
“Thus, it is better to experience a slight delay to conduct the elections properly rather than to conduct the elections piecemeal and uneven fashion.
“No one will absolve INEC if such a fate befalls this all-important election. The electoral body must use the one-week extension mend its logistics gaps and lapses, ” he said.
Mr Tinubu urged Nigerians to contain their anger, remain calm and not be tempted to breach the peace in the country because of the delay.
“This delay has clearly provoked significant anger and disappointment among the people. The voters were ready and INEC should have been equally as prepared and ready as the voters.
“In the greater scheme of things, a one-week delay is not overly burdensome when compared to the importance of conduct of free and just elections in the establishment of representative democracy and good governance in our land.
“Please, persevere just a bit longer to ensure that the elections on February 23 truly reflect the will of the people.
“Whatever obstacles may come, be they large or small, let us show the world the Nigerian people will not be deterred from realizing the democracy for which we have fought and sacrificed so long and so hard to achieve,” Mr Tinubu said. (NAN)