So Nigerians will not be voting on Valentine’s Day after all. The new date is 28 March, the delay officially justified by the worsening Boko Haram-inspired insecurity in the north-east, and the military’s refusal to guarantee the safety of the poll. “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,” said Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The announcement late on Saturday sparked a flurry of outrage both within Nigeria and abroad, with Nigeria’s democracy viewed as the main victim. Few bought Jega’s statement, seeing instead the underhand machinations of under-fire President Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling People’s Democratic Party.
“This is clearly a major setback for Nigerian democracy,” said a spokesperson for the All Progressive’s Congress, the opposition coalition headed by the veteran politician and reformed military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari is running neck and neck with Jonathan in the polls.
Western diplomats and journalists have echoed this sentiment. “The United States is deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone Nigeria’s presidential election,” said US secretary of state John Kerry. “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable.”
British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Philip Hammond agreed. “The security situation should not be used as a reason to deny the Nigerian people from exercising their democratic rights.”