Nigeria’s electoral commission has called on politicians to ‘moderate their rhetoric’ ahead of Saturday’s delayed presidential election.
The chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu called for calm as both president Muhammadu Buhari and the opposition’s Atiku Abubakar have become more combative in their tone following the postponement of the election.
“Please speak in a manner that does not contribute to heating the polity and the political atmosphere,” Yakubu said.
I have always said that General Buhari is not a democrat.
Presidential and parliamentary elections were called off just hours before polling on Saturday, with logistical difficulties blamed for the distribution of materials.
Buhari’s veiled threats
On Monday, during a meeting with the National Caucus of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari warned that the security agencies were ready to neutralise anyone who tampered with electoral processes.
“I really gave the military and police order to be ruthless… Anybody who thinks he has enough influence in his locality to lead a body of thugs to snatch ballot boxes or disturbs the voting system, will do so at the expense of his own life,’‘ Buhari said.RAED MORE: Nigeria poll delay angers Buhari
Violent ballot-snatching has been a feature of elections in Africa’s most populous nation and the comments drew the backing of APC supporters.
Nigeria’s main opposition on Tuesday accused Buhari of paying “lip service” to democracy, accusing APC of trying to rig the vote, by using dead voters, foreigners and technological manipulation.
Both parties have claimed the other is in league with INEC. INEC itself denies any political interference.
Atiku, who is the presidential candidate for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), said Buhari’s words were “a painful reminder of the era of dictatorship and military rule”.
Buhari, 76, is a former army general who seized power in a coup in 1983. At the last election, he called himself a “converted democrat” and dropped the title “general”.
“I have always said that General Buhari is not a democrat,’‘ Atiku told senior members of PDP.
“He’s never been a democrat… It’s lip service. He’s more of a power-monger than a democrat.”
He added: “It’s quite shocking for any head of state to utter such words in a democracy and we will not accept it from General Buhari in this country.”
Abubakar, 72, said a “pre-condition for free, fair, and credible elections is that the people are able to cast their votes without fear or violence”.
Lessons from 2015
The 2015 election saw Buhari become the first opposition candidate in Nigerian history to defeat a sitting president.
The vote was also considered to be the country’s most credible.
Abubakar told Buhari: “You owe it to our people to let them give their verdict in the same way you were elected.
“If you do so, history will commend you for it. If you do not, history will condemn you for it. But before history does it, we will condemn you for it.”
The election is the sixth in the 20 years since Nigeria returned to civilian rule after decades of military government and security has always been an issue.