Nigeria’s candidates blame each other in surprise vote delay

Nigeria's main opposition party presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar speaks to reporters, after the postponement of the presidential election in Yola, in Adamawa State, Nigeria February 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 February 2019
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Nigeria’s candidates blame each other in surprise vote delay

  • The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of “instigating this postponement” with the aim of ensuring a low turnout

KANO, Nigeria: Nigeria’s top candidates on Saturday condemned the surprise last-minute decision to delay the presidential election for a week until Feb. 23, blaming each other but appealing to Africa’s largest democracy for calm.
The decision, announced five hours before polls were to open, is a costly one, with analysts at SBM Intelligence estimating an economic hit of $2 billion, plus a blow to the country’s reputation. Authorities now must decide what to do with already delivered voting materials in a tense atmosphere where some electoral facilities in recent days have been torched.
Electoral commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu told observers, diplomats and others that the delay had nothing to do with insecurity or political influence. He blamed “very trying circumstances” including bad weather affecting flights and the fires at three commission offices in an apparent “attempt to sabotage our preparations.”
If the vote had continued as planned, polling units could not have opened at the same time nationwide. “This is very important to public perceptions of elections as free, fair and credible,” Yakubu said, adding that as late as 2 a.m. they were still confident the election could go ahead.
The new Feb. 23 election date is “without equivocation” final, he said.
Bitter voters in the capital, Abuja, and elsewhere who traveled home to cast their ballots, including from Nigeria’s vast diaspora, said they could not afford to wait another seven days, and warned that election apathy could follow. Some anguished over rescheduling weddings, exams and other milestones.
If the electoral commission knew about complications, why wait until the final moment to announce a delay, asked Godspower Egbenekama, spokesman for the Gbaramatu kingdom in Delta state in the restive south. “This shows that someone is pulling the strings from somewhere.”
The party backing top opposition challenger Atiku Abubakar accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of “instigating this postponement” with the aim of ensuring a low turnout. It urged Nigerians to turn out in greater numbers a week from now.
“You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny,” Abubakar tweeted.
Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” after the electoral commission had “given assurances, day after day and almost hour after hour that they are in complete readiness for the elections.” His statement appealed for calm and asserted that his administration does not interfere in the commission’s work.
A spokesman for the president’s campaign committee, Festus Keyamo, accused Abubakar’s party of causing the delay to try to slow Buhari’s momentum.
But a ruling party campaign director in Delta state, Goodnews Agbi, said it was better to give the commission time to conduct a credible vote instead of rushing into a sham one “that the whole world will criticize later.”
A civic group monitoring the election, the Situation Room, blasted the “needless tension and confusion” and called on political parties to avoid incitement and misinformation.
Nigeria’s more than 190 million people anticipate a close race between Buhari and Abubakar, a billionaire former vice president. Both have pledged to work for a peaceful election even as supporters, including high-level officials, have caused alarm with warnings against foreign interference and allegations of rigging.
When Buhari came to power in 2015 — after a six-week election delay blamed on extremist insecurity — he made Nigerian history with the first defeat of an incumbent president. The vote was hailed as one of the most transparent and untroubled ever in Africa’s most populous country, which has seen deadly post-election violence in the past.
Now Buhari could become the second incumbent to be unseated. This election is a referendum on his record on insecurity, the economy and corruption, all of which he has been criticized by some Nigerians for doing too little too slowly.


TIMELINE: Theresa May’s three tumultuous Downing Street years

Updated 24 May 2019
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TIMELINE: Theresa May’s three tumultuous Downing Street years

  • May bowed out after nearly three years as prime minister on Friday
  • Marked the end of a rocky spell in 10 Downing Street

LONDON: Theresa May bowed out after nearly three years as prime minister on Friday, defeated by her inability to deliver Brexit.
Here are highlights of her tumultuous time in office:

July 13, 2016 - In her first speech as prime minister, May appears in Downing Street, pledging to fight the "burning injustices" that hold people back. She promises "a country that works for everyone" but will in fact find herself spending much of her time struggling with Brexit.

(AFP)


Jan 18, 2017 - A triumphant May is portrayed on the front page of the Daily Mail next to the headline "Steel of the New Iron Lady". She has just given a defiant speech, telling Brussels: "No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain."

 


May 22, 2017 - May is forced to backtrack on an election pledge to force the elderly to pay more for care after her opinion poll lead fell by half. "Nothing has changed," she says to general incredulity.

June 4, 2017 - Responding to Britain's third militant attack in three months - the killing of seven people at London Bridge - May declared "enough is enough" and added: "Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time."

(AFP)


June 8, 2017 - Despite an apparently impregnable opinion poll lead, May loses her parliamentary majority in a general election called early. Despite repeated promises of a "strong and stable" government, her authority is in tatters.

Oct 3, 2017 - May's big speech to the Conservative Party conference was interrupted by repeated coughing fits, a prankster, and even letters of her slogan falling off the stage scenery. As a bid to reassert herslf, it had limited success.

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RELATED: British PM Theresa May resigns over Brexit failure

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Oct 3, 2018 - May startles the audience at the Conservative Party conference when she appears on stage for a speech jigging to Abba's "Dancing Queen." It was apparently a self-deprecating reference to her dancing during a recent visit to Africa, but she was nonetheless widely mocked.

(Screenshot/YouTube)

Dec 14, 2018 - A furious May is embroiled in a public row with Jean-Claude Juncker at a Brussels summit after the EU chief publicly called Britain's Brexit demands "nebulous" and "vague". Juncker joked that they had later kissed and made up, but the incident showed that relations were sub-optimal.

(Screenshot)

Dec 17, 2018 - At an EU summit in Salzburg, an unforgiving photo shows a red-jacketed May cold-shouldered by a phalanx of male leaders in dark suits.

Jan 19, 2019 - Lawmakers vote down May's Brexit divorce deal by the crushing margin of 432 to 202, the worst such defeat in modern British history. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn calls a vote of no confidence, which May however survives.

May 21, 2019 - In a last roll of the dice, May promises a "new deal" on Brexit. It is immediately rejected by large numbers of Conservative lawmakers and the opposition Labour Party.

(Screenshot)

May 24, 2019 - May announces she will quit, her voice breaking with emotion during a Downing Street address to the nation. She describes herself as "the second female prime minister, but certainly not the last."