Nigerian opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari called for calm after the election, scheduled for Feb. 14, was postponed.
“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,” Buhari was quoted as saying.
The opposition charged that the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pressured the country’s Independent Electoral National Commission (INEC) to postpone the poll to March 28 because it feared it would lose.
The election commission, however, said it made the decision after security chiefs said it could not guarantee security owing to operations to combat the Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram.
Foreign powers are closely following events in Africa’s biggest economy and have voiced concerns there could be a repeat of the violence that followed the 2011 elections when 800 people died.
The poll will pit President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP against former military ruler Buhari of 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,” Buhari said.
“What they [security forces] cannot do in six years, they cannot do in six weeks.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was deeply disappointed by the postponement and criticized “political interference” in the election process. Britain also voiced concern.
Boko Haram militants have taken over wide areas in the northeast in an attempt to establish an Islamic state. Nigeria’s army has been lagging in the fight, with Chad now sending in troops to assist while Cameroon has been pushing back incursions into its territory.
Buhari said the presidential and state level elections on March 28 and April 11 must now be sacrosanct and that the party would not tolerate any further interference in the vote.
Earlier on Sunday, Jonathan said he was committed to May 29 as the terminal date of his first term in office and also called for calm.
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