When the Boko Haram fighters swept into her town, Salamatu Billi fled for her life, running so fast that she didn’t even think about her identification documents. Today, after five months of homelessness, she has learned that she cannot cast a ballot in Nigeria’s crucial election next month, the most closely contested in the country’s history. Having already lost her life’s possessions when Boko Haram captured her town in northeastern Nigeria, she has now also lost the right to vote. … Many displaced people, such as Ms. Billi, cannot get voting cards because they lack documents, missed the chance to be registered when they fled, or are too frightened to return to their home state, where they must vote under election rules. As much as 20 per cent of Nigerian territory is under Boko Haram’s control, and voting will be virtually impossible there.
There are widespread suspicions that Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, will use the voting-card problems and the Boko Haram crisis to seek a substantial delay in the election. The government’s national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, last week called for a delay in the election, claiming that 30 million voter cards have not been distributed to eligible voters.
Nigeria’s election commission has denied the charge, saying that only 13 million cards were uncollected as of last week, and many of those will still be distributed before the election.
But the claim of 30 million disenfranchised voters is still circulating, promoted by those who want to postpone the election. Anonymous brochures have begun appearing in the capital, Abuja, demanding a 60-day delay in the election. “Please support this call to save our nation from imminent disaster,” the brochures say.