Nigeria’s military pledged not to get involved in party politics on Wednesday, after concerns grew about its role in pushing for the country’s presidential election to be delayed by six weeks.
Defence spokesman Major-General Chris Olukolade noted “the palpable tension being generated … with regards to the roles of the Nigerian military in the ongoing political activities and recent developments, especially in relation to electioneering.”
“It is important to reassure Nigerians that the military will remain professional, apolitical and non-partisan in all operations … related to (elections),” he said in a statement.
The military faced accusations of interference when chairman of the electoral commission Attahiru Jega revealed that the office of the National Security Advisor had written a letter to him saying that unless he delayed the Feb. 14 election, it could not guarantee his security.
It urged a six week delay to enable them to contain the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency.
There have also been reports in the local press that the military colluded with the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to try to influence the election in Ekiti state in May, a claim the military has not directly commented on.
Nigeria’s decision to delay the poll on the advice of security forces was a worrying echo for some of the annulment of 1993’s democratic vote by a military government.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP had pushed for a delay, while his main opponent Muhammadu Buhari of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) had urged the vote go ahead on time, arguing that a six-year old insurgency was hardly going to be solved in six weeks.
But the PDP also argued that the commission was not ready because millions of voters had not picked up their ID cards.