The presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, said on Sunday that neither he nor his party would tolerate any further postponement of the 2015 general elections.
Mr. Buhari, a former military ruler, stated this in reaction to the postponement of the general elections by the electoral commission, INEC.
The electoral body postponed the elections from February 14 and 28 to March and April 11 citing reports by security chiefs that they could not guarantee security for the polls.
While addressing a press conference on Sunday, Mr. Buhari called said the security chief’s stance meant interference with INEC’s duties, a move he condemned.
“I wish to state strongly that our party will not tolerate any further interference with the electoral process,” the opposition leader said. “The rescheduled elections of March 28th and April 11th, 2015 must be sacrosanct.”
Mr. Buhari also asked his supporters to take advantage of the postponement to further mobilise support among Nigerians.
He accused the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of engineering the postponement to avoid defeat; but appealed for calm among his supporters.
“I wish to appeal for utmost restraint and calm by all Nigerians, especially the teeming supporters of our great party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“It is important to note that although INEC acted within its constitutional powers, it is clear that it has been boxed into a situation where it has had to bow to pressure. Thus, the independence of INEC has been gravely compromised,” he said.
Mr. Buhari said as a Nigerian and a presidential candidate in the elections, he shares in the disappointment and frustration of the decision.
“However, we must not allow ourselves to be tempted into taking actions that could further endanger the democratic process.
“Our country is going through a difficult time in the hands of terrorists. Any act of violence can only complicate the security challenges in the country and provide further justification to those who would want to exploit every situation to frustrate the democratic process in the face of certain defeat at the polls.
“If anything, this postponement should strengthen our resolve and commitment to rescue our country from the current economic and social collapse from this desperate band,” he said.
Mr. Buhari’s party, the APC toed similar line when its National Chairman, John Oyegun, issued a statement shortly after the postponement was announced.
Mr. Oyegun lamented the shift, but also called on the party’s supporters to remain calm.
“…though what has happened is highly provocative,” the party leader said, “I strongly appeal to all Nigerians to remain calm and desist from violence and any activity which will compound this unfortunate development.”
“We must not fall into this obvious trap. Change we must. They can only delay it; No one can stop it,” he said.
Jonathan, PDP react
On his part, President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday asked Nigerians to accept the postponement of the general elections in “good faith.”
The president, in a statement by his spokesperson, Reuben Abati, also said he holds the May 29, 2015 handover date sacrosanct and remains committed to vacating office if he is not re-elected.
“The President appeals to all stakeholders to accept the adjustment of the election dates by INEC in good faith, as the electoral body has a responsibility to conduct credible elections in which every Nigerian of voting age is afforded the opportunity to exercise their civic right without any form of hindrance.
“President Jonathan believes that this is not a time to trade blames or make statements that may overheat the polity, but a time to show understanding and support the electoral commission to conduct the elections successfully,” Mr. Abati said.
Mr. Jonathan’s party, PDP, however maintained that contrary to widespread postulations that it was behind the postponement, it would not in any way benefit from the shift.
“We state clearly that the postponement neither confers advantage on our party and our candidates, nor can it ever be described as a set back to our democracy,” the PDP spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, said in a statement on Sunday.
U.S. condemns postponement
The United States government also reacted to the postponement by expressing ‘deep’ disappointment by the decision.
A statement by U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, shortly after the announcement of the poll shift by Mr. Jega, on Saturday, said political interference with INEC is unacceptable.
“It is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process,” Mr. Kerry said.
Also, lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, accused the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, and the military chiefs of plotting a coup against the Nigerian constitution.
Mr. Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said, “In a desperate bid to blackmail the INEC to postpone the election the NSA wrote a letter to the INEC to the effect that the armed forces could not provide security for the election because of the operations in the north east region.
“By writing directly to the INEC on the security situation in the north east region the NSA usurped the functions of the National Security Council.”
Mr. Falana added that “by causing the election to be postponed, the NSA and the security chiefs have staged a coup against the Constitution. They are liable to be prosecuted for the grave offence of treason at the appropriate time.”
At his press briefing, Mr. Buhari said the PDP was simply motivated by desperation to hold on to power at all cost.
“We are clearly dealing with people who feel they can get away with placing their personal interest over those of our nation and its citizens. What is at stake is the very survival of our country.
“We must not allow this temporary delay to abort this great opportunity.
“While I share the pains and frustrations of my fellow citizens over this development, my deep faith in the democratic process assures me that this country, with your support, will overcome,” he said.
Mr. Buhari urged his supporters to remain resolute and rise above all provocations.
“We must continue to trust in the entire democratic process and in INEC, which has been brought under so much pressure in the last few days.
“Our trust can only serve to encourage the electoral body to remain steadfast and remain committed to the rule of law.
Speaking further, the retired army general said the country is definitely greater than any individual, and much more important than individual ambitions.
“Before us there was Nigeria, and long after we are gone there will still be Nigeria,” he said. “Let us continue to do our part to make it the great country that it should be. We must rescue our dear country. God being on our side, we shall salvage Nigeria together.”