*(Via TheGuardian) – Free and fair elections distinguish true democracies from those merely masquerading. Though nominally democratic since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria has yet to hold a presidential election free of ballot-rigging, voter intimidation and other decidedly undemocratic practices. The ruling PDP party has ensured victory for itself, by hook or by crook, in every single Nigerian presidential election conducted since 1999.
Relentlessly optimistic, Nigerians had hoped this year’s presidential polls, scheduled for 14 February, would be different. This time, we would get it right. Nigeria, recently declared Africa’s biggest economy, would prove that its democracy was developing.
For a while, reality was benevolent. For the first time since 1999, opposition parties united behind a single presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler. This levelled the playing field.
After weeks of spirited campaigning by both candidates, a January poll showed Buhari and the current president, Goodluck Jonathan, running neck and neck. The election was declared too close to call.
Nigerians usually know the winner of a presidential election months before voting day, so this was a refreshing change. This was real democracy.
Then, on Saturday, Nigeria’s electoral commission (INEC) announced that, while it was “substantially ready” to conduct elections on 14 February, it felt compelled to postpone voting for six weeks (until 28 March). This was because the country’s military “could not guarantee security for the election.”
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