Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has expressed disappointment in the Independent National Electoral Commission over the postponement of the general elections.
“I am deeply disappointed that despite the long notice given and our preparations both locally and internationally, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the Presidential and National Assembly elections within hours of its commencement,” Buhari said in a statement on Saturday.
Buhari, who is also seeking re-election, said Nigerians believed in INEC after the Commission assured “complete readiness for the elections.”
The INEC Chair Mahmood Yakubu Saturday morning announced the postponement of the 2019 presidential and governorship election by a week.
Mahmood said the postponement was necessary due to some “logistics and operational plan” problems.
“This was a difficult decision for the commission to take, but necessary for the successful delivery of elections and the consolidation of our democracy,” Yakubu said.
Polls were due to open at 8 a.m. on Saturday, February 16, and will now take place on Saturday, February 23, INEC said.
Elections for governorships, state House of Assembly and area councils are on hold until March 9, the INEC said.
Buhari therefore urged INEC to “ensure a free and fair election on the rescheduled dates” and to ensure that “materials already distributed are safe and do not get into wrong hands”
“While I reaffirm my strong commitment to the independence, neutrality of the electoral umpire and the sanctity of the electoral process and ballot,” Buhari added.
Political analysts said that INEC decision may heighten tensions in what has been a tight race between Buhari and ex-vice president Abubakar.
“There is a possibility that popular anger and the manner of the postponement could galvanize more people to come out to vote,” said Cheta Nwanze, head of research at SBM Intelligence in Lagos, the commercial capital. “If there is a higher turnout then, the PDP will win the election. But if the turnout is successfully repressed, the APC will win.”
Both Buhari’s All Progressives Congress and Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party condemned the delay.
The two parties accused each other of using the delay to their advantage.
“We condemn the postponement of the elections, but urge our teeming supporters to be patient and determined,” Buhari’s Campaign Council said in a statement.
It said Buhari had fully cooperated with the INEC and that the council hoped the commission would “remain neutral and impartial in this process” and not collude with the PDP.
Abubakar of the PDP said in a statement on Friday that Buhari’s administration has had “more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections” and accused his opponent of delaying the vote in “hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low” on the new polling date.
Abubakar urged voters to come out in even greater numbers on February 23, adding that the APC “are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid” being rejected by the Nigerian people.
“You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” he said.