Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nigeria: AEP Statement on Nigeria Elections & Recent Postponement

Road to Nigeria elections 

During the past 16 years, Nigeria has enjoyed smooth democratic transition a move away from the country’s recent past where governments were changed by the barrel of the gun and not through the ballot box. The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has been in power since the country’s return to democracy in 1999 mainly because it had competed against smaller fragmented political parties in all the 4 elections held. However, in 2013, the 4 largest opposition parties: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) managed to put aside their differences and metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress. This landmark APC merger is the first successful unification of its kind in the political history of the oil rich country after other failed attempts, making the 2015 elections the most hotly contested elections where for the first time the incumbent PDP faces a potential defeat.

Why the elections is important 

The now slated March 28 polls will present the strongest test to the democracy and the stability of Nigeria and the 16 year rule of PDP.

Also, the low prices of oil, the country’s main foreign exchange earner, which is predicted to fall further, has already taken its toll on the economy. Nigerians would want to give power to someone who can deal with the downturn of the oil prices and steer the country away from its over reliance on oil revenues while promoting other sectors of the economy and solve the corruption, security and energy challenges facing the country.

As the most populous nation and the biggest economy (in terms of GDP) in Africa, Nigeria is a powerhouse in Africa and must get things right to serve as a beacon for other young democratic countries. Failure to do so, will affect all not only Africa but the world as a whole.

What does the change of date means 

Mixed reactions have already greeted the postponement of the elections with most people expressing their disappointment at the decision. Apart from the reported protest by some Nigerians to show their displeasure at the decision, the Obama administration also described the decision as “unacceptable”. Meanwhile the main opposition leader has called for calm towards the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

AEP analysts are of the view the change of date can play to the advantage of the incumbent president, if only he finds a comprehensive antidote to the insurgency of Boko. It also means that, the over 88 observer groups would have their schedules interrupted and this may come with extra cost and also create uncertainty and anxiety amongst the electorates which has the potential to create space for havoc.

Is the date going to be kept?

Nigeria’s Interior Minister, Abbo Moro, has given assurance that the new date (March 28) will be kept since in the next six weeks, as the military will have enough troops to provide the necessary protection for the presidential vote. Also, President Goodluck Jonathan, has assured the populace that the March 29 handover date remains sacrosanct urging all Nigerians to accept the decision of INEC as necessary to make sure some Nigerians are not disenfranchised. The question still remains, will the elections take place if the military is unable to defeat boko haram, who are the reason for the postponement?

The Boko haram factor 

Boko Haram has posed a terrifying threat to the unity of Nigeria as a state since it launched military operations in2009, it has gained more influence causing mayhem, through a range of bombing, abduction and assassination: key among them is the abduction of over 200 school girls from Chibok and the alleged massacre of 2000 people in Baga. It is estimated that the terror group has caused the death of at least 10,000 and displaced some 1.5 million people. More worrying is the recent gains the insurgent group has made by capturing some towns in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria under its control. To avoid disenfranchising eligible voters, especially the towns under the control of Boko Haram, the elections postponement is the right call as it will afford the security forces a final effort to quell the insurgency and ensure the eligibility of the polls.

Statesment from leading candidates

We commend the key candidates, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Goodluck Jonathan of The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for their call for calm and statesmanship. They should not end it at that but should be ready to accept the verdict of the March 28 elections, call their supporters to order and rally behind the eventual winner for peace to reign in the face of threats from the Islamic jihadist Boko Haram.

AEP call for restraint and getting INEC to work towards this new date

We wish to appeal for utmost restrain and calm towards the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the general elections to the March 28. If we believe in democracy and the independence of the commission, then we must respect its decision. In recognizing the INEC for the significant gains made, we urge them to work assiduously towards the new date with all stakeholders necessary to ensure a free, fair, transparent, credible and violence-free elections come March 28.


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