John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Why Were Nigeria’s Presidential Elections Postponed?

by John Campbell
February 9, 2015

A vendor displays newspapers with headlines about Nigeria's elections in traffic in Lagos, February 6, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)


On Saturday, Nigeria’s Independent National Elections Commission (INEC) announced that Nigeria’s presidential election would be delayed until March 28. According to Attahiru Jega, chairman of the INEC, National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki directed the postponement of the February 14 elections for at least six weeks. Dasuki said that starting February 14, the military and security services will launch a campaign against Boko Haram, the militant Islamist movement in northeast Nigeria. Therefore, they can not provide the necessary security for the electoral process.

Predictably, the opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari, leaders of civil society, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have expressed frustration and disappointment. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) support the postponement. Buhari has called for calm, and thus far there has been no violence. Yet, there are reports of soldiers patrolling the streets of Lagos, one of the world’s largest cities and a center of opposition to the Jonathan government.

Jega’s statement makes it clear that the postponement was not caused by the logistical challenges of organizing the polling, specifically the distribution of permanent voter cards. Rather, postponement is the direct result of the national security advisor and the security services call for postponement.

Skepticism abounds about the postponement. Buhari’s momentum had been building. A delay may allow Jonathan and the PDP to recapture the momentum. Cynics – or realists – suggest that a delay will also enable the PDP to put in place the necessary arrangements to rig the elections. Others suggest that the military and the security services will do all that is necessary to block a Buhari presidency. When Buhari was chief of state for twenty months, 1983-1985, he cracked down on the ubiquitous corruption within the military and elsewhere. Accordingly, he was ousted from office in a military coup led by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.

Given the government’s failure over the past five years to address the resilient militant movement’s violent insurgency, Dasuki’s claim that the security services can defeat Boko Haram in the next six weeks rings hollow. Despite the short period to fulfill such an enormous task, Dasuki is claiming that the general election will not be postponed any further. Nevertheless, if his new military initiative against Boko Haram falls short and the elections are again postponed in March, the possibility of popular unrest will increase.

The de facto contract among the cooperating and competing elites that have run Nigeria is fractured. Signs include the recommendation of the Council of State, comprised of former heads of state and former chief justices, that the elections go forward on February 14. Nigeria is in unchartered territory, with political developments no longer following familiar precedents.

Post a Comment 4 Comments

  • Posted by Nick

    We are loosing confidence in the sincerity of the government of the day. However, it should be noted that any attempt to truncate Nigerian democracy will be dangerous. In fact, what happened in Burkina Faso will be seen to be a child’s play. There is no integrity in climbing up smoothly and peacefully, then crash land in pieces, all due to selfishness.

  • Posted by Akpodigha

    The INEC Chairman, Jega, was not truthful when he said he was prepared for elections when he towards the end of his press conference admitted that only 96% of the PVCs (permanent voter cards) had been printed.

    That would have amounted to a forced disenfranchising of 4% of registered voters. In a very close election that may be decided by a 1% difference, the resulting election may not have returned a validly elected President. So, logistics was enough reasons to postpone the elections. I believe that Nigeria, though seemingly close to the brink as Campbell stated in his book, will survive and the winner of the Mar 28 elections will become President.

  • Posted by Bernard thankgod

    The issue is not only security but inec was not prepare as regard the distribution of permanent voters card

  • Posted by HF Rano

    Type your comment in here…Honestly Nigerians are disappointed with both the election & the boko haram issues.

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