The delay of Nigeria’s elections, originally scheduled for Feb. 14 and now set for March 28, did not exactly come as a surprise for Nigeria watchers. The Associated Press reported nearly 12 hours before the announcements that the elections would be pushed back six weeks, referencing an anonymous source. Princeton Lyman, in Foreign Policy, advocated for a delay of the elections due to the difficulties posed by the “nearly one million people displaced or controlled by Boko Haram.” Others, including National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, noted that the low levels of voter ID card distribution would hamper the election’s credibility. In particular, the uneven distribution of voter ID cards among Nigeria’s states portended political violence in a country with a short history of democracy and a long history of inter-regional distrust. And yet, when Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, arrived at the press conference to announce the delays, after a delay of more than five hours, voter ID distribution and IDPs were not on the agenda.
Instead, Jega asserted that “INEC is capable of delivering free and fair elections…. However… there are other factors to conduct while planning elections, like security.” Reflecting the influence of Nigerian military leaders, Jega concluded that “it would be unconscionable to have elections without adequate security” and announced that “the security agencies reiterated [to him in private meetings] that they will be concentrating their attention to the insurgency and may not be able to play [their] traditional role in providing security during the elections.” The six-week delay announced by Jega was justified as a means of allowing the Nigerian military to secure the country’s northeast by “putting down” the Boko Haram insurgency.
Putting aside the immense willing suspension of disbelief it would take to conclude that, having struggled to adequately respond to the Boko Haram insurgency since its founding in 2002 and having contributed to its lethal escalation in 2009, the Nigerian military will be able to contain the militants in six weeks, the government’s postponement of the elections reflects the sort of governmental mismanagement and political games that have created fertile territory in Nigeria for the rise of armed insurgencies. When AP broke the news of the potential delay, social media erupted with conspiracy theories as to how the delay would benefit incumbent President Goodluck Jonathon and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It is unclear how much truth there is to these claims, but the very existence of these political rumors suggests a widespread frustration with the Nigerian government that does not bode well for Nigerian democracy. During the deliberations, a number of protestors demanded that the elections be held Feb. 14. Last month, a poll by Gallup revealed that, of those who were supportive of Jonathon, “only 13% expressed confidence in the honesty of elections,” trust among those who were unsupportive of the incumbent came in at a paltry eight percent. The delay of the elections can only serve to reduce citizen confidence in the elections.
Full Article: What’s next for Nigeria’s democracy? – The Washington Post.