Unrest over ‘plans’ to stop Nigeria polls

Muhammadu Buhari with south-west leadership for All Progressives Congress (APC) ruling party

by EMEKA OKONKWO
ABUJA, (CAJ News)
– FACED with the rising menace of the Boko Haram and deadly clashes between farmers and herdsmen, among the most violent crimes afflicting the West African country, reports suggest Nigeria could once more shelve its general elections.

The reports have been met with disdain by critics of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari who believe this could be a ploy by his divided ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC) to put its house in order ahead of the eagerly anticipated poll set for February next year (2019).

The continent’s biggest economy and most populous country of over 190 million people heads for polls under circumstances similar to the 2015 poll held under threat from the Islamist insurgent group, Boko Haram.

Conditions are more volatile now with hundreds killed during resource clashes blamed largely on nomadic Muslim herdsmen against mainly Christian farmers.

In 2015, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed by six weeks polls set for February 14 in the wake of the rising threats by the Boko Haram.

Another irony is that during the last poll, the then-ruling People’s
Democratic Party (PDP), was staring defeat in what would be a two-horse electoral race. The postponement was seen as a ploy to put its house in order before polls.

On a campaign premised on ending violent crime, chiefly the Boko Haram terror, Buhari and his All Progressives Congress defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and PDP respectively.

It was the first time the opposition won an election in the country whose history is littered military coups, until the advent of democracy in 1999.

Buhari came to power after a coup in the early 1980s but was elected in 2014 pledging to be a reformed democrat but has shown traces of his old autocratic self.

His party is fractured in the wake of numerous defections by key members, most prominently head of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of Parliament, Yakubu Dogara. Predictably, reports of a poll deferment have critics claiming a ploy by Buhari’s government to resolve its infighting.

“The shoe is on the other foot ahead of the elections. APC is deploying the same ploy PDP set up in the 2015 polls,” said analyst Rochas Ikpeazu.

INEC is seen as aligned to the ruling party of the day, an accusation its has denied.

Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, the outspoken opposition senator, said reports of a possible poll postponement were “appalling.”

“The idea of putting off the election, for whatever reason, is condemnable because it toys not only with the feelings and aspirations of Nigerians but also the survival of the democratic dispensation,” he said.

The opposition PDP stalwart further said, “It clearly does not inspire
confidence that those in charge are prepared to midwife free, fair and credible polls.”

INEC has dismissed reports of a poll postponement.

Rotimi Oyekanmi, spokesperson of INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said media had misquoted the latter.

“To be sure, INEC has no plan to postpone the 2019 general election,” Oyekanmi said.

The military has since assured INEC of its support and assistance to
enable the commission carry out its constitutional responsibility of
conducting polls, even in volatile regions like the terror-prone
Northeast.

“The Nigerian Army will do all within its power to provide adequate
security to INEC staff and their materials during the election,” said
Brigadier General Abdulmalik Biu, Acting General Officer Commanding (GOC) 7 Division, operating in the vulnerable region.

– CAJ News

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