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Poll delay: Is it a coup against democracy?

2015-02-10 11:14

Lagos – So the postponement of the country's general elections has been received with mixed reactions from both the people of Nigeria and the international world.

The elections which had initially been scheduled for 14 February have been moved to 28 March, while the state gubernatorial and legislative votes have been pushed to 11 April.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) made the announcement over the weekend with the head of the electoral body, Attahiru Jega saying the postponement had been necessitated by the need to ensure security during the polls – in the face of the continued Boko Haram insurgents attacks, particularly in the north-east part of the country.

Watch as Jega makes the announcement.

"The security agencies reiterated that they will be concentrating their attention to the insurgency and may not be able to play its traditional role in providing security during the elections," Jega was quoted as saying.

Jega said it was impossible for elections to take place while "a military operation is going on".

The election, which could have taken place this Saturday, was set to be the closest fought since the end of military dictatorship in 1999.

President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking re-election in a contest with main opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, himself a former military ruler.

Buhari has already expressed his disappointment in the delay. Watch as he speaks.

The six weeks delay will allow a new multinational military force to fight against the Boko Haram rebellion and secure the north eastern areas.

But, this is what many are questioning, as they wonder whether this can be taken as a “serious” reason for the delay – as seem from what some posted on Twitter.

Nigeria's military has indeed failed to contain Boko Haram in the past years, and as reports say, there is little reason to believe that anything can change in the next six weeks.

Britain and the United States have criticised the postponement, termed "a coup against the constitution by the security chiefs" by Lagos-based lawyer Femi Falana.

The US envoy John Kerry wrote in a statement: "The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone Nigeria's presidential election, which had been scheduled for February 14".

John Kerry. (File: AFP)

"Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable, and it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process," Kerry wrote.

As reported by The Global Mail, the election delay sparked fears about the Nigeria’s fragile democracy.

"The election delay, virtually dictated by the military and security chiefs, seems to be a sign of the army’s growing ambitions. It is also a major boost for the faltering campaign of Mr Jonathan," the report says.

"Because of its greater financial resources, the ruling party can use the extra time to outspend the opposition and strike deals with regional power-brokers who can deliver blocs of votes."

Major threat

But while the world seems to be concerned about what appears to be the fall of the Nigerian democracy, it could also be worthwhile to consider what could have happened if the elections taken place as planned.

It essentially cannot be dismissed that Boko Haram indeed poses a major threat in the country and as said by an analyst from the South African Institute of International Affairs, Ola Bello, the group was likely to step up its attacks to profit from the intense local and global media attention during the election.

Already Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau has vowed that the group will defeat a yet to be deployed regional force of at least 8 700 troops.

Watch the video below as Abubakar Shekau speaks

"Your alliance will not achieve anything. Amass all your weapons and face us. We welcome you," he said in a 28-minute speech, one of three videos posted by the Islamists on YouTube, according to an AFP report.

Read more on: john kerry  |  inec  |  boko haram  |  muhammud buhari  |  attahiru jega  |  goodluck jonathan  |  politics  |  elections 2015

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