Nigeria’s risky decision to postpone elections © Washington Post, February 8th, 2015
Boko Haram’s latest victim may just have been Nigeria’s national election.
At least on first glance, it would appear that way. On Saturday evening, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its decision to postpone Nigeria’s national election scheduled for February 14th. These elections were widely expected to be Nigeria’s closest electoral contest yet, between the increasingly unpopular Goodluck Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and retired General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive’s Congress (APC). These elections represent a serious challenge to Jonathan’s PDP, which has won every election since 1999.
The reason for the delay? According to INEC, Nigeria’s security services say they need at least six weeks to launch a major offensive against the Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country, that they could not guarantee security for the February elections. The new date for the presidential elections is set for March 28th. State elections will be held on April 11th.
Boko Haram has been rampaging since 2009, killing tens of thousands of civilians (5,000 in 2014 alone), razing towns, seizing Nigerian territory, threatening and attacking other countries, but now, with less than a week to go before the presidential elections, the Nigerian military promises to rout the scourge by late March? This is the same military that falsely claimed 200 schoolgirls were released after being kidnapped by Boko Haram. This is the same military that claimed a ceasefire with Boko Haram,only to have Boko Haram deny any such deal. This army reportedly sends soldiers to combat Boko Haram without adequate weapons, and has had soldiers flee in the face of Boko Haram’s assaults. This military has beenguilty of committing human rights abuses against Nigerian citizens in its fight against terrorism. These are the same security forces whose leader said they didn’t need the African Union or the United Nations to help counter the Islamist insurgency.
But after years of Boko Haram’s carnage, what will the army do in six weeks that they couldn’t do in five years and with a $5 billion security budget? Where was this urgency hiding for the past six years? And why escalate tensions and anger Nigerians who have been eagerly waiting to cast ballots by making this announcement with only a week to go before the polls?