Nigeria, Feb 16: Nigerians awakened on Saturday to find the presidential election delayed a week until Feb. 23 because of what the electoral commission called unspecified “challenges.”
The top candidates condemned the decision and blamed each other but appealed to Africa’s largest democracy for calm, while they rushed back to the capital to learn more about what went wrong.
The postponement was announced a mere five hours before the polls were to open. The decision is a costly one, and authorities now must decide what to do with already delivered voting materials in a tense atmosphere where some electoral facilities in recent days have been torched.
Some bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who traveled home to cast their ballots said they could not afford to wait another seven days. They warned that election apathy could follow.
The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of “instigating this postponement” with the aim of ensuring a low turnout at the polls.
“Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts,” the party said in a statement. It urged Nigerians to remain calm and turn out in greater numbers a week from now.
A calm-looking Abubakar, speaking to reporters outside his home in northern Adamawa state, said his party would decide on the way forward after an electoral commission briefing Saturday afternoon. A party spokesman in Delta state in the restive south said the commission “has destroyed the soul of Nigeria with this act.”