In celebration of Valentine’s Day, some residents of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, staged a rally to let the Nigerian Government know that the newly fixed dates for the 2015 general election should be left sacrosanct.
Organized by the Nigerians United for Democracy, a coalition of professional associations, civil society organisations and political parties, the protest, witnessed hundreds of protesters who took off from the Unity Fountain in Abuja to Three Arms Zone.
The protesters were escorted by many police officers from the fountain to the seat of power.
They marched carrying placards with various inscriptions chanting solidarity songs.
Speaking to PREMIUM TIMES, one of the protesters, Aisha Yesufu, said there was no better way she could show love for her country on Valentine’s Day than protecting its democracy.
Ms. Yesufu said after all if Nigeria ends up unstable, she would not have the time and kind of environment she would need to spend time with her loved ones.
“We are saying we are standing for democracy, the democracy that a lot of people fought so hard for, some even gave their lives for it, and so it should not be truncated,” she said.
She said that March 28, the new date for the presidential election, must be revered. Ms. Yesufu said she joined the protest for Nigeria not for any individual or political party.
“Unfortunately, the elections were postponed and what we are saying right now is the fact that March 28 is Sacrosanct, I listened to my president on the Media Chat saying that May 29 is sacrosanct; but he never said anything about March 28 and so we are letting them know that on no conditions should the elections be postponed again.
“Nigeria needs to do this and get it done with,” Ms. Yesufu said.
Also speaking, another protester, Jubril Ibrahim, said the coalition intends to keep vigilance for the defence of Nigeria’s democracy, for free, credible and violence free elections, peace and the sustenance of fourth republic.
He said the need for this vigilance is pertinent given the pressure on the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission, by the security agencies to postpone the elections.
The INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, in the past week announced a postponement of Nigeria’s general election from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 29.
The electoral body, which had earlier announced its preparedness for the election, cited security concerns as it main reason for postponing the elections. The INEC chairperson, Attahiru Jega, had said Nigeria’s security chiefs submitted that the military will not be available to provide security on the originally scheduled election date.
Mr. Ibrahim said the coalition is worried that there is a plan to scuttle the elections.
“We think it’s not convincing because the Boko Haram insurgency have been on for the past six years and it has only grown from strength to strength; wherefore the six weeks is not enough time definitely to come to a conclusion on the Boko Haram,” Mr. Ibrahim said. “We feel therefore it’s a situation similar to what we had in 1992, 1993 over the June 12 elections.”
He added that there are fears that after six weeks, the security agencies might come with the same excuse for any extension that will lead to another shift in the newly fixed poll dates.
Twice before the shift of the poll dates, protesters had stormed the INEC Headquarters and the Eagle Square, where they were prevented by security operatives from entering the Presidential Villa.
Before these two anti-postponement protest, some youth numbering about 100, whom critics say were hired by the Nigerian Government, had on Monday marched to the INEC headquarters demanding the postponement of the elections.
The youth had gathered in front of the electoral body’s headquarters, asking the commission to delay the polls because of the difficulty in the distribution of the Permanent Voters Card, PVCs.
The youth carried banners and placards with the inscriptions such as “Election is for general participation, not for selective few”, “INEC, do the right thing”, “Don’t disenfranchise Nigerians”, and “We demand for the extension of election to allow Nigerian exercise their franchise.”
After the protest, the youth returned to the Unity Fountain where they were sighted sharing money.
It was not clear if they were sponsored by the Presidency or the PDP, but there were allegation that they were hired by some unnamed individuals who promised them money.