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Nigeria elections, Goodluck Jonathan met top political leaders

By on February 5, 2015

Nigeria–Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan met the country’s top political leaders on Thursday to discuss postponing next week’s scheduled election, a proposal that has infuriated the opposition in the closely contested campaign.

Nigeria’s Council of State, an influential advisory body chaired by Mr. Jonathan, is considering a delay in the vote of up two months, three people close to the discussions said. The army is pressing for the postponement, saying it would give it more time to eliminate Boko Haram, the Islamist insurgency that has waged a nearly six-year-war against Africa’s most populous nation. There is wide, though not unanimous, support for the military’s stance in the council, the sources said. But it wasn’t immediately clear when or how the panel, which is made up of legislative leaders, the attorney general, and former presidents and chief justices, would disclose its views. The opposition derided calls to delay the vote, saying they were attempts by Mr. Jonathan to buy time to secure his election for a second, four-year term. The latest opinion surveys show him running neck-and-neck with Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army general and one of a long line of military dictators who, except for a four-year civilian interlude, ruled Nigeria from 1966 to 1999. «We are very united in this matter, that the election should not be postponed,» said Lai Mohammad, spokesman for the All Progressives Congress. As Mr. Jonathan and other senior political figures weighed putting off the scheduled Feb. 14 vote, the country’s Independent Electoral Commission said it was ready to go forward with the balloting as planned. «We are working on making the election as scheduled,» said spokesman Nick Dazang, adding: «People are merely making their noises. We are just amused.» It remains to be seen whether the commission, which has formal oversight over scheduling and running elections, will be able to preserve its independence and conduct an election seen as credible by all parties. Nigeria has held only four presidential votes since military rule ended in 1999 and a new constitution was adopted that provided for multiparty elections. Only the most recent presidential poll, in 2011, was seen as credible by outside observers. Campaigning is also occurring amid a war focused in the northeast of the country, where Boko Haram is fighting to replace the country’s formal democracy with a strict form of Sharia-led rule. The bloodshed has uprooted 1.5 million Nigerians from their homes, the United Nations says, and eligible voters among them will have to cast the ballots in camps for displaced people. Boko Haram has warned that it will kill Nigerians who vote. Suggestions that the vote should be delayed have been percolating for weeks. Citing the daunting logistics of holding an election in the shadow of war and in a sprawling country of 177 million people, a close aide to Mr. Jonathan said last month in London that a delay would be sensible. «That is what we are encouraging,» said national security adviser Sambo Dasuki. «It doesn’t cost you anything, is still within the law and it is safer for all of us.»

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