Dawn of tumultuous future for Nigeria?
Nigeria has postponed next week’s presidential election due to concerns over attacks by terrorist Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram.
The election, scheduled for 14th February, has been pushed back six weeks to 28th March. The move hopes to allow military and police forces more time to ensure safety in the regions of the country most at risk of attack from the group during the election.
The current president and leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Goodluck Jonathan, is seeking a second and final term challenged by the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Muhammadu Buhari.
However, the delay only serves to prove what power this terror organisation has over Nigeria and its democracy at large.
Public reaction to the postponement has been hugely negative, with riots in some of the country’s biggest cities expected to take place.
But chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, said it would be “unconscionable to have elections without adequate security,” following advice given by security agencies.
Speaking at a press conference, which began five hours behind schedule, Jega said the countries troops would be focusing their attention on the ongoing battle against Boko Haram in the north-east of the country and would not be able to provide security for next week’s election.
However, a Boko Haram attack on polling stations undoubtedly falls under the security agents’ battle against insurgency. Delaying elections until 28th March makes no apparent sense.
With opinion polls showing Buhari further in the lead as a result of the current government’s failure to control Boko Haram, the delay has been seen by APC as a tactic to help Jonathan’s campaign.
If this is the case, it highlights a startling issue whereby a sitting president, in a democracy, can influence an electoral commission.
The delay is perplexing, raising the question: how does the government and the military expect to suppress Boko Haram in the next six weeks, when it has failed to do so since its inception in 2002?
Further testament to the uncertainty of Nigeria’s future was the Independent National Electoral Commission’s early January decision to exclude some communities currently under control of the terrorist group from getting their voting cards for the upcoming election, due to fear of combat.
If that fear of Boko Haram, in light of the democratic voting right, was apparent six weeks ago, more should have been done then to ensure that the election took place this coming weekend. As a result, it looks dubious as to whether much will be done in the next six weeks.
Moreover, there is a limit to how long the election can be delayed. Under Nigeria’s constitution, elections must be held within a period of 30 to 90 days before 29th May, making the last possible date for an election 29th April.
The clock is now ticking for the future of Nigeria.