Nigeria Election and Media Coverage
The Nigerian elections committee has postponed the national election until March 28, 2015. The election was scheduled to take place on February 14, but growing concerns about violence and security issues have triggered this cautionary response. Yet, there are some who believe that postponement will not substantially result in improved security, and instead will worsen conditions. Nigeria’s security chiefs are not confident that they can keep voters in the northeastern region of the country safe from the extremist militant group Boko Haram. Hundreds of schoolgirls were abducted in the northeast Nigeria last spring, and Boko Haram fighters attacked a village in neighboring Chad in February.
President Goodluck Johnathan’s decision to postpone the election until security improves does not align with his position for most of 2014 in which he attempted to diminish the militant threat. As Boko Haram’s attacks have become more blatantly daring, the popularity of Muhammadu Buhari has increased in concert. Touting his experience as a former military ruler, Buhari claims he will crack down on Boko Haram if he is elected President. Notably, Buhari must fund his own campaign, while Johnathan dips into state funds to keep his campaign front and center. Nigerian voters face an out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire sort of choice: Buhari successfully launched a coup against a democratically elected government in 1983 and ruled for two years — that Nigerian voters are considering Buhari at all is indicative of the degree of unease conditioned by the Boko Haram threat that includes bombings and terrorist atrocities. Any step back from a democratic election opens the way for Boko Haram to assert more control. Nigerians can ill afford an electoral crisis or any further weakening of the Nigerian armed forces. As it currently stands, Johnathan has said that he would welcome American forces to fight Boko Haram.
This editorial from The New York Times did not sit well with Ambassador Adefuye of Nigeria, who responded with a letter to the paper, which was published on February 18 and 19.
Stressing that the decision to postpone the election was made by the Independent National Electoral Commission, and not [pointedly] by President Goodluck Johnathan, Adefuye said, “While Boko Haram poses a serious threat to our country, we have made great progress to eliminate the scourge; Boko Haram will soon be a thing of the past.”
The rationale put forth by Adefuye was that it was not practical to simultaneous fight Boko Haram and provide security for the election. The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, said that security chiefs advised a postponement as military troops would not be available to provide security during the election as planned because of the military was conducting operations against Boko Haram in the north – especially in Borno state. “If the security of personnel, voters, election observers and election material cannot be guaranteed, the lives of innocent young men and women and the prospect of free, fair and credible elections will be greatly jeopardized,” Jega said. This rationale lead to concern about how long this stalemate will be allowed to continue: in Nigeria, the police force and not the military is constitutionally bound to provide election security. Moreover, Professor Adefuye did not mention the opinion coming from the Council of State and elsewhere in Nigeria that no convincing evidence for postponement of the election exists.
For his part and representing All Progressives Congress (APC) — President Johnathan’s opposition — former General Muhammadu Buhari stated, “the government is not prepared to fight Boko Haram…The government has failed to do its principle duty of protecting life or property of all beings inside its territory, in Nigeria…The government is not serious about curbing the insurgency in the northeast.” It is worth noting that Buhari’s political home, where in the 1970s he served as governor, is located in Nigeria’s northeastern state — in the region now dominated by Boko Haram. Over his 72 years, Buhari has been engaged in the political and military arenas, doubtless bolstered by his training at the U.S. Army War College in the United States. Buhari is said to have conducted secret tribunals, curtailed civil liberties, and executed people for crimes not punishable by death in Nigeria.
Further reports reveal that it was Nigeria’s National Security officer, Sambo Dasuki, who urged the postponement of the elections. Dasuki claims that the election will not be moved again and told reporters that, “All known Boko Haram camps will be taken out. They won’t be there. They will be dismantled.” Dasuki’s confidence comes in part from the new military cooperation between Nigeria and Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Dasuki believes the military collaboration will prove decisive against Boko Haram. Hopes are pinned on the military promises from Nigeria’s for neighboring nations who have promised after a meeting in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, to deploy 8,700 troops, police, and civilians in an effort to rid the area of the Boko Haram terrorists.
Dasuki said, “Those dates will not be shifted againâ€¦ There is no need for it [the delay].” Moreover, Dasuki argued that no political motive was behind his call for a delay. Indeed, Dusaki suggested that improved security could actually help the opposition party, All Progressive Congress (APC), as heightened security in the northeast could boost voter turnout in the area, which is considered an APC stronghold. Regarding Dasuki’s expressions of military confidence, Bahari publicly reasoned, “If the same military can not secure 14 local governorates out of 774 in six years, how can they be sure they can secure those 14 in six weeks?” And, too, referring to the African military deployment, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said: “We can seize them one by one.”
Mohamad, a Cameroon taxi driver, said, “Boko Haram overshadowed all other problems like poverty and the lack of potable water that we had. People do not know if they should be finding food or try not to get killed.” Holding the national election is seen as urgent, yet it pales against the exigencies of the day-to-day violence.
____. (2015, February 16). The Editorial Board. Nigeria’s miserable choices. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/opinion/nigerias-miserable-choices.html?_r=0
____. (2015, February 19). Nigeria Ambassador Adefuye refutes New York Times editorial on election postponement. Sahara Reporters. Retrieved from http://saharareporters.com/2015/02/19/nigeria-ambassador-adefuye-refutes-new-york-times-editorial-election-postponement
____. (2015, February 8). Muhammadu Buhari: Nigeria “reduced to a failed state.” Al Jazeera. Retrieved from http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/talktojazeera/2015/02/muhammadu-buhari-nigeria-reduced-failed-state-150208121316691.html
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