Nigeria’s main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party said its presidential candidate, former General Muhammadu Buhari, will not accept any attempt by the government to postpone the February 14 vote.
APC National Public Secretary Lai Mohamed said the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is seeking re-election, has been canvassing media houses trying to influence editorial opinion in favor of a postponement.
The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has not directly come out in favor of postponement, but National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki suggested last week that the elections should be delayed because not all voter cards had been distributed.
The government has accused the opposition of politicizing the threat of the Islamic insurgency, Boko Haram.
Mohamed countered that the government is using the violence as an excuse not to have the election because Jonathan knows he would lose badly in areas under Boko Haram’s control.
“The PDP is going around media houses trying to influence editorial opinion to make a case for the postponement of these elections. Only this (Monday) afternoon, a pseudo non-governmental organization went to block all roads leading to the election commission office asking for 60 days extension. If any other group, which is not sponsored by the government [had done this], they would have been dispersed by the police,” he said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it received no communication to postpone the elections and was going ahead with its preparation to hold them.
Mohamed rejected suggestion the Boko Haram insurgency, which has intensified in recent weeks, could be seen as a war against the Nigerian state, thereby rendering the climate not conducive for free and fair elections.
“Moreover, INEC has told us it will make provision for all those who are internally displaced to vote,” Mohamed said.
He said the ruling PDP wants to use the insurgency as an excuse not to have the elections because Jonathan is not popular in areas under Boko Haram control.
“A while ago, when I was in Washington, I made the case that this government is profiting from the Boko Haram insurgency because they want to use [it] as an excuse not to have [an] election. And, they know also that they are widely unpopular in the Boko Haram-held areas and, if the elections are held in those areas, the opposition will win massively,” Mohamed said.
Jonathan’s government has accused the APC of constantly criticizing the government in its fight against Boko Haram instead of allowing the nation to speak with one voice.
Mohamed said Jonathan, as commander-in-chief, lacks the political will to fight Boko Haram.
“You should ask him (Jonathan), what does he expect the opposition to do? Of course, we are going to fight the government when our soldiers go to the battlefield without any ammunition, when our soldiers have to buy their own medication and their own food. You can’t expect the opposition to support that kind of thing,” Mohamed said.
Mohamed said the APC has a better plan to fight and defeat Boko Haram if and when it General Buhari wins the next election.
“The first thing [you] do is that you revamp the entire intelligence gathering apparatus of government and you increase the fighting capacity of the army. You improve their welfare,” Mohamed said.