Nigerian politics, a pseudo, modern equivalent of Thomas Hobbes’ imagined state of nature, is a sometimes sand-like entity where everything built can capsize at will.
The presidential elections, previously planned to be held on Valentine’s day, were dramatically re-scheduled to March the 28th, and the Governorship elections to follow on April 11th. Or so we are lead to believe.
Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of the INEC electoral commission and a name you likely won’t have heard before, finally confirmed the news at a press conference at almost midnight on Saturday.
The characteristically pensive former academic, pulled the pin on a grenade that had been coming for over half a day; the Associated Press had broke the then speculative news in the morning. They reported that the delay was to allow a multi-national force to secure Boko Haram areas.
But who was behind the delay?
Jega told the press conference that the INEC was fully prepared to hold the elections but that National Security advisors and Military security forces had informed the INEC that they could not secure Boko Haram affected areas for voting. They would need just 6 weeks to deal with the 6 year insurgency before any elections could begin.
Jega’s point was crystal clear. He, as the Chair of the electoral commission, had no choice but to announce the postponement, but he did not cause it.
The supposed rationale of the Military, that Boko Haram areas could be secured in just over a month, is farcical beyond belief, but their rationale plays little part in this. The convenience of the postponement to the PDP and to the embattled President Jonathan is suspicious.
The PDP has never experienced electoral defeat and will not want to now. But the extent to which a defeat, that for the first time in a short electoral history is a reasonable probability, is being averted is deeply worrying. If there are fingers behind these strings, as many Nigerians will now suspect, they can only belong to one leader.
If President Jonathan and the PDP are the antagonists, they have since gone dangerously further to undermining the credibility of the elections when they happen.
The PDP released a statement on Sunday commending the postponement but criticising the INEC for failings in getting the election ready. The Punch, the biggest tabloid newspaper in Nigeria, reported this morning that a plot to remove Jega as Chair was underway. The mood in Nigeria is tense enough, but such a move would be highly charged as largely, Jega is seen as bi-partisan and astute. If he was to be replaced by someone with sympathy to the PDP, it would flame resentment further.
At an event in Abuja, the President’s Chief Media Advisor and Twitter-rottweiler Doyin Okupe spoke on stage and began to boast that God would not let General Buhari achieve power in Nigeria. The guests, in the video released by Sahara Reporters yesterday night, became incensed.
It is plausible that the President’s desire to buy time will only reinforce the defeat they are desperate to prevent. It is also plausible that elections will be delayed further but likely not beyond April, as the constitution prevents the President from retaining power beyond May, unless there is a national security threat.
We are closer to all the worst consequences. Any onslaught on Boko Haram will likely lead to more civilians dying and more displaced. If the elections are delayed further, the likelihood of violence will only increase. And now the military, a force which has never acclimatised to sidelines, are now the biggest significant factor in the country’s immediate future. It’s hard to see how all of this will end well.
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Emmanuel Akinwotu is a History and History of Ideas student at Goldsmiths, University of London, with a special focus on the Arab Uprisings of 2011. He has written for the Guardian in Lagos, covering Politics and Education. He has been a commentator on Nigerian politics on Ben TV and has also written for student publications and online news forums. He tweets at @ea_akin and blogs at http://britiko.wordpress.com/.
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