Nigeria’s electoral commission has delayed the Presidential election, which was to occur this Saturday, by six weeks in order for the military to launch an operation to secure the northeast from Boko Haram and guarantee the safety of voters in the region. President Goodluck Jonathan, whose government is undeniably corrupt and who could well lose the election to his challenger, the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, stands to benefit from the postponement. It’s true that people in the northeast would find it difficult to vote: more than a million and a half of them have fled their homes, while others are living under Boko Haram occupation or have been warned by the Islamist terrorists not to participate in the election. It’s also true that Boko Haram’s insurgency began almost six years ago. If the government can neutralize the group in just six weeks, what has taken so long?
Given the current crisis, it’s time for a reckoning with the country’s divisions. When Britain brought together ethnic groups with no particular allegiance to each other to form Nigeria in the early twentieth century, it set the stage for intensely ethnic politicking that continues today. Most Nigerians identify with their ethnicity first, their nationality second. Their home state government, which most often shares their ethnic affiliation, has been their most direct provider of education, employment, and social services. They have long voted on an ethnic basis rather than on issues; issue-based campaigning barely exists because politicians distribute their resources and attention along ethnic lines. It is in this context that Jonathan operates. He is a southerner from the minority Ijaw group, and his home region, the Niger Delta, has been mired in extraordinary poverty compared to the rest of the country. When he took office, after President Umaru Yar’Adua died from heart failure in 2010, he inherited an intensifying Boko Haram insurgency and seemed not to think much of it. The northeast was the domain of the Hausa and Fulani groups, and, particularly because northeastern politicians were widely believed to be involved in Boko Haram’s creation and growth, Jonathan saw the group’s campaign as a problem for local state leaders to deal with on their own.
Full Article: An Election Postponed in Nigeria.