Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham writes for The Hill on the Nigerian elections this weekend and the economic and security factors driving the debate:
Since their country is by far and away Africa’s most populous, its biggest economy, and home to both its largest Muslim community as well as its largest Christian community, any time Nigerians go to the polls, their collective decision not only reverberates across the continent but sends ripples through the international system. However, the stakes have never been higher, as voters prepare to go to the polls this Saturday in what is perhaps the most competitive general election in the country’s history.
The presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place on Feb. 14, but Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed them less than a week before voting was to begin, citing concerns that military and security officials would be unable to provide security and logistical support for the vote because they were engaged in operations against the militant group Boko Haram, which had overrun large parts of three northeastern states. Moreover, although the INEC did not officially cite it as a reason for the decision to delay the polls until March 28, there was also concern that the backlog in distributing biometric permanent voter cards (PVCs) — only 45 million out of some 68 million had been handed out at the time — would effectively disenfranchise more than a third of the electorate.