Via The New York Times: Nigeria Postpones Elections, Saying Security Is a Concern. Excerpt and then a comment:
DAKAR, Senegal — Nigeria’s election agency on Saturday night put off a closely contested presidential election after weeks of pressure to postpone it from the ruling party, which analysts say was facing potential defeat for the first time in more than 15 years.
The move is sure to anger the opposition, which has been arguing against a postponement, and inflame its supporters in a volatile electoral environment.
The election, originally scheduled for next Saturday, will now be held March 28, the election agency head told a news conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, late Saturday night. The elections official, Attahiru Jega, after days of what were reportedly heated meetings with the government, cited “security” concerns for the delay. He said that Nigeria’s top military men — themselves close to the government — refused to ensure that security would be “guaranteed” if the vote went ahead as scheduled.
The country’s northeast has been in the grip of an Islamist insurgency waged by the Boko Haram terrorist group for nearly six years, with the country’s military unable to contain it. It was not immediately clear how that standoff might change in the coming six weeks.
But days ago the national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, who is close to President Goodluck Jonathan, made it equally clear that he favored putting off the vote.
Darren Kew, a Nigeria expert at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said: “This is a sign of panic on the part of supporters of the president and the ruling party. The real reason behind it is the opposition is surging right now.”
Mr. Jega, the elections official, was presented with a “fait accompli” by the country’s generals, Mr. Kew said, when security for the election was “withdrawn,” adding that “most of the upper brass is very close to the presidency.”
In a statement, the opposition All Progressives’ Congress said that this is clearly a major setback for Nigerian democracy.
Mr. Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has faced sharp criticism for his failure to contain Boko Haram, for a series of large-scale corruption scandals involving the government and for a faltering economy battered by the falling price of oil.
He is running against a general who ruled the country as a military dictator in the early 1980s. The general, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north, has promised to crush Boko Haram and bring corruption to heel: a campaign pledge previously enacted by him with brutal rigor in his previous stint as head of government 30 years ago.
I know very little about Nigerian politics except that it suffers under the burden of being a petro-state with a population of 173 million. Despite that, the Nigerians responded well to the importation of Ebola last year from Liberia, doing an extraordinary job of contact tracing.