The Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) has decided to grant an additional three days to candidates for the presidential, legislative and senatorial elections, which were postponed at the last minute on 16 February and re-scheduled for Saturday 23 February.
A postponement of a week that continues to raise concerns about the ability of the Commission to ensure the transparency of the ballot.
After postponing the presidential, legislative and senatorial elections, the Independent Electoral Commission ( INEC ) decided on Monday, February 19, to grant an additional three days of campaign to the parties competing.
They now have until Thursday, February 21 to convince the 84 million voters registered on the electoral lists, to remobilise again to fulfil their civic duty on Saturday, February 23.
The extension of the election campaign comes as questions and concerns persist over INEC’s ability to guarantee the regularity and transparency of the ballot. Although Commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu had associated the postponement with logistical problems, the two main parties in the running for the presidency are still blaming themselves for this confusion.
While the PDP of former Vice President Atiku Abukar accuses the president of wanting to delay the vote to “keep the power.” Muhammadu Buhari was very critical of INEC, assuring that his regime would not tolerate any attempt at fraud or sabotage of elections.
Buhari raises his voice
In a statement delivered Monday, February 18, during an emergency meeting in Abuja with members of his party, the presidential candidate explained that
the National Electoral Commission has had all the time it wants and all the necessary resources to organise the election on time.
The president then wondered why it took less than 6 hours before the opening of the offices for the INEC to announce not being able to organise it.
It is clear that the reasons for such incompetence are to be explained to the nation. After the elections, we need to know exactly what happened, promised the APC candidate.
Resuming office as President and Grand Commander of the Armed Forces, Muhammad Buhari, took the opportunity to warn those who would try to disrupt the process, announcing that he has already appealed to security agencies to be firm and ruthless with troublemakers.
I have already ordered the police and the army to be ruthless. We will not be blamed or held responsible for trying to rig those elections. Anyone who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to order thugs to steal ballot boxes or disrupt the ballot will do so at the expense of his life, “warned President Buhari.
The statement of the president stirred counter-reaction from the PDP, which is a statement, denounced it immediately as “a threat for Nigerians and a direct call to a justice of jungle”.
It is by electoral bidding between the two major parties in the election that the electoral campaign continues. The ruling party and opposition blame each other for the unrest observed so far. And while the APC and PDP continue to call for calm, tension is rising in many parts of the country.
Accusations on both sides portend risks of post-election violence, a scenario that the country has experienced several times as well as in addition to the ability of the INEC to successfully organise the poll, the other challenges are to be met. These include security threats especially with the resumption of hostilities by the Boko Haram sect in the North-Eastern part of the country. So far, and despite some troubles in many parts of the country where election materials have been ransacked, the situation remains mostly contained. The army has assured that it will put itself above the political bickering to ensure the security of the process.