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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network
(GIN) – In a mounting chorus of voices, Nigerians from north to south, from the diaspora and at home, both Christian and Muslim, flooded Facebook, blogs and Twitter, and turned out in street rallies over the weekend demanding that the people be allowed to vote, after the National Electoral Commission called off the nation’s presidential poll for reasons of national security.
Voting was moved from Feb. 14 to March 28 by official decree, allegedly to allow the army to first pacify the regions occupied by Boko Haram, which, to date, they have been unable to do.
“The commission cannot lightly wave off the advice of the nation’s security chiefs,” said Attahiru Jega, election commission chief, who announced the vote change. “Calling people to exercise their democratic rights in a situation where their security cannot be guaranteed is a most onerous responsibility.”
The incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, and the opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari, are said to be nearly tied in what has been called one of Nigeria’s closest elections.
A press report titled, “Nigeria Under Fire Over Vote Delay,” was one of many that were filled with comments such as this one from “Deji of Otta,” who wrote, “It is precisely to take advantage of a chance to get rid of those who cannot defend the integrity of our country that we needed this election NOW. Instead, we are being made, by those who cannot defend our lives and properties, to wait another six weeks before we get a bite at choosing those who would defend our lives and properties.”
Jibrin Ibrahim, a political analyst with Nigeria’s Centre for Democracy and Development, said Nigeria’s security agencies forced Jega into the delay on “frivolous” grounds.
“They say they need six weeks to defeat Boko Haram,” he said. “Boko Haram has been growing for six years. If in six weeks Boko Haram has not been defeated, they could call for another delay and ultimately destroy Nigerian democracy.”
Noted Nigerian lawyer and human rights activist Femi Falana added that “by causing the election to be postponed, the national security advisor and the security chiefs have staged a coup against the Constitution. They are liable to be prosecuted for the grave offense of treason at the appropriate time.”
Sambo Dasuki, the national security advisor, first raised the prospect of a postponement last month, when he noted difficulties in distributing voter identity cards.
But as recently as last week, Jega said the electoral body was ready for the vote and that 68.8 million voters had been registered.
Jonathan stalwarts include Rita Dominic, a leading “Nollywood” actress. “James,” a supporter of the vote-date change, questioned online the haste to go to election: “The essence of democracy is that everybody who is entitled to vote gets the opportunity to do so. Millions, including myself, do not yet have a voter card through no fault of ours less than a week to the election. That in itself is an invitation to chaos and violence.”