Nigeria’s Election Postponement: Safety or Shady?

As you, my readers, know, I follow Nigeria closely.  Especially as it relates to Christian persecution.  This coming election is likely to be a tipping point for Nigeria, and Christian lives are in the balance.

Elections were scheduled to be held February 14.  It is a close race, no one knows who will win.  The candidates are Jonathan and Buhari.  Jonathan is the current President.  He is a Christian.  Buhari is the former President of Nigeria and he is Muslim.  Being that the country is divided equally between Christians and Muslims, you can imagine how close this race is. 

Add in the fact that Nigerians don’t consider themselves Nigerians first, but of their specific tribe, and the politics really get going! Politicians are beholden to their tribal affiliations, and the tribe survives based on the connections it has in government.  There’s just no time to discuss all this here, but suffice it to say that politics in Nigeria are leaps and bounds more complicated than the US.  In fact, these politics stalemate politicians frequently and makes it extremely difficult to get anything done.

So, with that said, lets get back to point here.  Boko Haram has stepped up its game this year (check out “In Chains” magazine for monthly round up of Christian persecution worldwide).  This is partly because of the elections and partly because it’s just what the group does.  In addition, election violence has escalated.  Many believe that Buhari passively allows Boko Haram to operate in the North (AKA: kill Christians) because he lost to Jonathan previously and promised that Muslims would rise up. Many are upset that Jonathan seems unwilling or incapable of dealing with Boko Haram and the Fulani (another extremist group. Check out “Nigerian Genocide” – coming available this month – for more info about Fulani). An example of this is the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.  The girls have been gone almost a full year now with no attempt to rescue them.

This election is important and will definitely define where Nigeria goes from here.

But they are not going to be held. At least not in February.

The government has postponed the election for six weeks. I’m sure there are many reasons for doing so.  The escalating violence is a good reason.  In addition, there are tens of thousands of people (mainly Christians) who are displaced.  People who are displaced cannot vote.  There is no absentee ballot.  If you want to vote, you go back to your home town and do so.  Well, if your town has been taken over by Boko Haram, that is a problem.

The government also states that it wants a fair election.  Keep in mind, Nigeria has only had one election that the world considered legitimate.  It was the election where Jonathan won and Buhari lost; the last election.  It is vitally important that the legitimacy of the elections continue.

Many say that this is a way for Jonathan to ensure that he remains President.  He knows he is losing and he wants to gather more support.  Countries in the West, particularly the US, have chided Nigeria for postponing the elections.

Although I understand the mistrust of the government (it is well earned no matter what party is in power), the criticizing by other countries is ridiculous.

Nigeria has sections of its country that are not under its control.  Parts of this country are unable to vote.  Muslim and Christian alike. Who actually thinks that the residents in Baga are going to return to Baga to vote?  Considering their villages were completely obliterated, the streets were littered with bodies of Christians and Muslims, and Boko Haram is now in control, I’m thinking they won’t vote. 

Without assistance from the UN or some other body, to help run the elections and develop a way for displaced people to vote, there is no way to run a fair election.  And that is just the Boko Haram problem.

There are still corruption issues, violence against political parties by other political parties, and so much more.  This all plays against having a fair election. There have been dozens of attacks against political parties in January alone. I’m talking bombings, stabbings, and more.  Who will protect people when they vote and ensure that no coercion is going on?

That’s an interesting question.  It would most likely by the military or local militias. 

Well, the military, aside from being accused of human rights abuses (one of the reasons the US doesn’t deal extensively with Nigeria), is engaged in battle with Boko Haram.  There are reports of the military abandoning its posts, running away, and sometimes aiding both Boko Haram and Fulani. 

Local militias are very loyal to their tribe.  People who are loyal to their tribe before they are loyal to their nation, will not likely protect the rights of people who are not of their tribe.  So, if you are a Christian in a predominantly Muslim town, that militia made up of Muslim men are not going to stick their necks out for you to keep you from being forced to vote a certain way.  And that goes the other way around too.

With everything going against a fair election, my humble opinion is that it is smart to postpone the election in an effort to put into place a way to ensure fairness.  Without that plan, and actions to implement the plan, the postponement is truly politics.  The African Union is sending in over 8,000 troops to help retake territory and stabilize Nigeria. Already Cameroon and Chad military personnel are making advances against Boko Haram. This may be what is needed to help ensure fair elections.  Hopefully, the government will take this additional six weeks to come up with a plan to ensure fairness, and the AU coalition will help stabilize the nation enough that it can hold a safe election.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!  Post your thoughts below.

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