Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan sought to reassure the nation in a televised “media chat” Wednesday night, saying the war against Boko Haram will intensify in the weeks ahead, but that elections, already pushed back once, will hold.
Nigeria has been a swirl of doubt and conspiracy theory since elections were delayed to March 28, ostensibly to give security forces more time to fight Boko Haram. Some are skeptical that six weeks can accomplish much against the five-year insurgency.
Jonathan said he wanted to set the record straight.
“Nobody is saying that they must wipe out Boko Haram completely before we can conduct elections in this country. What they say is security-wise there are certain things they need to do so they will be able to get enough manpower and recalibrate and reconfigure the security architecture,” he said.
The president said Boko Haram controls 15 local government areas in the northeast.
He promised “serious advances” in the next six weeks in large part, he said, due to the troop deployment by neighboring countries. The African Union has authorized a 7,500-troop regional force to fight Boko Haram.
Jonathan spoke on state television flanked by four reporters. He took their questions for a bit more than an hour.
“I don’t see why we continue to doubt that elections will not hold. Elections will hold and the inauguration of the next president will take place the 29th of May this year,” said Jonathan.
Jonathan is facing fierce competition in his bid for re-election from challenger Muhammadu Buhari.
Jonathan tried to squash speculation that he wants to dismiss the electoral commission chief, and accusations that the vote postponement was politically motivated. He said the military did not consult him before requesting the delay.
The president did raise concern about the country's level of election preparedness at the time of the postponement, saying uneven distribution of voter cards, as low as 30 to 50 percent in some states, posed a risk.