Nigeria has postponed its 2019 presidential elections. The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for February 23rd and the gubernatorial, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled for March 9th.
The Independent National Electoral Commission made the announcement hours before voting was scheduled to start on February 16.
The country’s electoral commission had three years in which to prepare for the poll. The postponement can therefore be viewed as a display of utter incompetence and inefficiency. It is the first time since 1999 – when Nigeria shunned military rule for democracy – that a Nigerian electoral commission has failed so spectacularly.
This is not the first time an election has been postponed in Nigeria. But reasons cited on previous occasions – such as the threat posed by Boko Haram – had more substance and felt more legitimate.
This time the electoral commission cited logistics as the reason for the postponement. This was despite the fact that just 24 hours before the poll it said all systems were in place for the election to go ahead.
The postponement therefore raises a number of serious questions. For example, where the logistical problems foreseeable and preventable? What will be done to ensure the safekeeping of ballot materials that have been deployed to various polling agencies? How will this affect the competitive edge of smaller political parties with limited resources who have already planned on elections happening on the scheduled dates? And how does this affect the future participation of millions of Nigerians who already travelled to their home states to vote and may not be able to do so on the new scheduled dates?
As a result, the decision has left many Nigerians wondering about the effectiveness of the electoral commission. Since the announcement of the election, various political parties and political analysts have debated its ability to run an efficient poll. This in turn has fuelled a sense that the commission doesn’t have the ability to conduct free and fair elections.
Members of the main political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress and the main opposition People’s Democratic Party – are already trading allegations over what could be interpreted as a plan to rig the elections.
In their press statement the All Progressives Congress alleged that supporters of the main opposition party were confident a day before the election that the poll was going to be postponed. The suggestion is that the People’s Democratic Party strategy had always been to orchestrate the postponement of the elections as it did during the 2015 elections when it was the ruling party.
For their part, members of the People’s Democratic Party allege that the postponement is an indication that the ruling party is afraid of losing. They claim that the party is plotting to rig the poll.
These allegations and counter-allegations lend credence to the notion that it is near impossible to hold free and fair elections in Nigeria. They affirm those who long claimed that the election process often usurps the will of the people.
A new record
Most Nigerians believe that rigging is a very familiar strategy in Nigerian political circles. This postponement, however, coming just hours before the poll, sets a new record.
There have been previous postponements. A week before the 2015 presidential elections, the poll was postponed for six weeks. This happened after the former head of the electoral commission announced that the military needed more time to manage the Boko Haram menace in Borno State if residents were to vote in peace.
In 2011, the elections were postponed when voting for Members of Parliament had already started in some states. This was ostensibly due to the late deployment of ballot materials.
This postponement, in particular, led to accusations that the decision was taken to weaken the main opposition party. Although there was never any formal evidence for this, the delay fuelled the general sense of mistrust among Nigerians that the election process can’t be trusted.
There are mixed perceptions about the credibility of the electoral commission to hold free and fair elections. Some political parties have expressed confidence in its ability to implement a successful election while others have called on the resignation of the chairperson.
The electoral commission will have to work wonders to regain the electorate’s trust. It will need to let Nigerians know exactly what happened to scuttle the vote given that it has had three years to prepare.
It will also need to be clear about which states were affected by poor planning, and how it intends to come up to speed in before the new election dates.
The commission must also assure Nigerians that the ballot materials that were already transferred to polling stations will be safeguarded.
There are also implications for voters who had to take time off work to travel to their home states to cast their ballots. The sudden postponement means that they may not have the time or the money to participate in the new polls.
In addition, the postponement has disrupted the lives of workers and businesses who have lost income and will continue to do so until the election cycle is completed.
If indeed the Independent National Electoral Commission postponed the presidential election due to logistical reasons, the competence of its officials comes into play.
A great deal of emphasis has been placed on their perceived independence. And in the past there have been calls by several civil rights groups that the powers to appoint the chairperson of the electoral commission should not exclusively rest with the President.
But, in fact, the problem may lie elsewhere – too little attention has been given to the technical competence of the officials the commission employs.
They are often professors or retired judges, people who clearly do not have the technical ability to run a body like the commission where logistics play a huge role in the success of elections.
Going forward, Nigeria’s National Assembly needs to take its vetting exercise more seriously as it selects officials to run elections in the country.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd on Wednesday unveiled a nearly $2,000 folding smartphone in a bid to top the technology of Apple Inc and Chinese rivals and reignite consumer interest amid slumping sales.
The Galaxy Fold will go on sale on April 26 and take advantage of new and faster 5G mobile networks. The device looks similar to a conventional smartphone, but then opens like a book to reveal a display the size of a small tablet at 7.3 inches (18.5 cm).
The device "answers skeptics who said that everything that could be done has been done," DJ Koh, chief executive of Samsung Electronics, said at an event in San Francisco. "We are here to prove them wrong."
Samsung remains the world's largest smartphone maker with nearly a fifth of global unit sales but underperformed a slumping market last year. Chinese rival Huawei Technologies Co Ltd - whose Mate series of phones also command premium prices - gained market share. Other Chinese makers like Xiaomi Corp have also been increasing prices, leaving Samsung to defend its turf against upstart rivals in addition to its longtime foe Apple.
With the foldable phone, Samsung is going on the offense on two fronts in the smartphone race: It is offering an eye-catching new feature with the big, bending screen and the first 5G connection in a premium phone, a feature analysts do not expect Apple to match until 2020.
Samsung is also making improvements to its flagship Galaxy S devices and plans to offer a 4G version of its folding phone.
It also challenges the notion of what a phone can cost, debuting at nearly twice the price of current top-of-the-line models from Apple and Samsung itself.
Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy, said the new folding device could help Samsung stay at the top and lure consumers to upgrade devices that have looked largely the same over the past five years.
"Samsung and Apple go back and forth" to lead the premium smartphone market, Moorhead said. "I think this is Samsung's chance to take back the innovation crown."
And even though the $1,980 starting price is steep, some dedicated Samsung fans said they would pay it. Navneet Kumar Singh, a Samsung enthusiast from India who traveled to San Francisco to watch the launch, is ready to place his order.
"The prices of the flagship models have been a little aggressive in India," he said, "But in the end, if you invest the money you're getting a different experience."
Samsung also introduced several accessories to compete against Apple, including a pair of wireless headphones called Galaxy Buds. The headphones include wireless charging, a feature that Apple has promised to put into is competing AirPods but has not yet released.
Samsung also said that its new Galaxy phones will be able to wirelessly charge its headphones and new smartwatches by setting the accessories on the back of the phone.
Along with the folding phone, Samsung also added new cameras and a 5G version to its Galaxy series of phones.
Verizon Communications Inc will be the first carrier to offer service for Samsung's 5G phones. The networks are expected to be 10 times faster than current ones, improving viewing of live news and sports events.
With the 5G versions of its flagships, the Korean electronics maker looks to have beaten Chinese rivals in the 5G race, although the device will operate only on the small number of networks launching later this year. Apple is not expected to release a 5G smartphone until late 2020.
The new networks are not available in many places yet but will roll out this year and next. Consumers who want to hold on to their phones for several years before upgrading may be tempted to buy a 5G phone now so that it will be able to take advantage of those networks later, said Bob O'Donnell of TECHnalysis Research. That could sway some Apple buyers over to Samsung and other Android makers with 5G devices.
"People are going to be thinking about, am going to be able to use this a year from now? Two years from now? Three years?" he said.
Rival smartphone makers are expected to announce 5G models at next week's Mobile World Congress, the industry's top annual event, in Spain. Samsung said its 5G handset would be available in the early summer.
The Galaxy 10 series needs to appeal to consumers who are reluctant to upgrade for only incremental technological improvements in performance.
All of the Galaxy series of rigid phones except the 5G will be available from March 8, with the S10+ priced from $1,000, the S10 priced from $900 and the smaller S10e from $750.
The mainline S10 compares with $999 for Apple's iPhone XS and $858 for Huawei's premium Mate 20 Pro.