There has been widespread criticism of the decision to delay the election date in Nigeria. Originally set for 14 February, the election is now to be held on 28 March, following a request from the military for more time to deal with the Boko Haram activities in the north-east.
On 3 January, Boko Haram overran the fishing village of Baga, on the shores of Lake Chad. Then they simultaneously raided Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, and the city of Monguno on 25 January. Fortunately, the Nigerian military successfully defended Maiduguri but Monguno, with 100,000 civilians and a large military base, was overwhelmed. As Boko Haram relentlessly continues it’s attacks across the north-east, it is now estimated they control an area about the size of Belgium.
In a recently released video, Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader, vowed to disrupt Nigeria’s elections at any cost. Dr. Bitrus Pogu, a prominent leader in Chibok, has said that Boko Haram’s offensive is meant, in part, to deny President Goodluck Jonathan, a christian, a second term after the 2015 elections.
One of the major difficulties to holding a free and fair election is that the electoral law states that voters must vote where they are registered. Apart from those who have been killed by Boko Haram, around one million Nigerian’s have been displaced from their towns and cities. Nevertheless, Nigeria’s electoral commission says it will distribute voter cards to all 68.8 million voters before the election.
In a surprising development, Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has resigned from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). He was a founding member of the PDP and led the party to two victories following military rule which ended in 1999. His action may persuade undecided voters to support the opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), formed in 2013 and regarded as a Muslim alliance with much support from the north. It is led by retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari, a muslim military ruler deposed in a coup in 1985.
Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel Prize winning author is critical of both contenders in the Presidential election. To him, both President Goodluck Jonathan and opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari are “problematic candidates.” He said, “We cannot continue this cycle of evil and irresponsibility.”
Increasing uncertainty and instability will continue since there has been a legal challenge to Buhari’s eligibility to contest the election. The case is to be heard in the Federal High Court in Abuja on 23 February. Mr. Obasanjo has warned that there may even be a coup. Instability reigns..