The government has decided to postpone the legislative and presidential elections to March 28. The official motive was the necessity to secure Nigeria’s north-east regions, stronghold of the Boko Haram. Monsignor Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of Sokoto, capital of an ancient caliphate on the Saharan border said that there is wide frustration in Nigeria and the race between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and his challenger Muhammadu Buhari could be decided by “a handful of votes”. We talked with him
Monsignor, what were the reactions to the postponement of the elections? And, will they really be held as announced on March 28?
In Nigeria there is a lot of concern, though it is also true that there has been no unrest or violence connected to the delay. Also because there is nothing anyone can do and the people want a return to peace. I feel that, in the end, all will benefit from the postponement. In regard to a new delay, I would exclude it, because not consented by the law. Also and above all, because everything necessary will be done by March 28.
On a political level, what were the main consequences of the crisis linked to the Boko Haram?
The consequences have been immeasurable and affected different sectors of national life: individual, family, communities. There has been a strong impact on trust and mutual understanding built over years. They are also destined to exacerbate suspicions on a religious level. Christians will continue feeling the wounds and pain, which will condition their relations with Muslims and the way they look at their Muslim neighbours. But also Muslims will feel the wounds, internal wounds. Nigeria will have to unite in a collective process of healing, which will be a hard journey for all. All will depend on how the government will attempt to rebuild trust and, mainly, how it will help the people rebuild their lives”.
A regional intervention against Boko Haram, backed by the African Union, is underway in these weeks. Could this really be a solution or are there deeper rooted reasons for military force not to be sufficient?
This intervention is a solution, mainly because it means that trust has been created between the nations of the region. The Boko Haram criminals have taken advantage of the porous borders, and this has allowed their supporters to find refuge”.
How have the two favourite presidential candidates reacted to the crisis? What have they promised in the case of victory?
All have proposed solutions, but commitment and promises of politicians must be taken with the benefit of the doubt. There are no easy or fast solutions. Let’s see what the future holds. Undoubtedly the candidates will continue to exchange accusations.
Does Nigeria remain a divided nation on a political level? Will we see the same division that we witnessed in 2011, with the north backing Buhari, and the south Jonathan?
Both candidates have supporters in all of the nation’s regions. Both Buhari’s campaign head and party leader are Christians, for instance. While there are Muslims also among Jonathan’s team. It is difficult to individuate precise lines of division. The sensation is however that there is room to exploit the frustration over the lack of progress, or however insufficient in many sectors, from electric power supply to the fight against corruption. Undoubtedly, in respect to 2011 a lot has changed and the election could be decided by a handful of votes.