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NIGERIA’S opposition warned of “anti-democratic acts” yesterday after a shock 11th-hour decision to cancel presidential and parliamentary elections five hours before polls opened for “logistical reasons.”
President Muhammadu Buhari and his main rival Atiku Abubakar appealed for calm with tensions rising after the decision to delay voting for a week.
Mr Buhari has been president since 2015 and was head of state between 1983 and 1985, seizing power in a military coup. He described the electoral commission’s decision as “deeply disappointing.”
But Mr Abubakar accused Mr Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of trying to manipulate the vote.
“Its plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts,” he said.
In a press conference on Saturday Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) Mahmood Yakubu chairman denied the accusations, claiming the decision to delay had “nothing to do with political influence.”
The campaign has been marred by accusations of “fake news” made by both main parties — the APC and Mr Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party.
Both presidential candidates have been targeted by online smear campaigns, with videos and other material making false claims being shared. Both parties deny involvement in spreading the misleading information.
One video — from the Facebook group Make Nigeria Worse Again — accuses Mr Abubakar of striking a deal with the Boko Haram jihadist group in exchange for land and oil.
Another claims that Mr Buhari has been replaced by a double who stands in for him at official events.
Mr Buhari called for Nigerians to “refrain from civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derails our democratic development.”
Inec said the election, in which 84 million are eligible to vote, would now be held on February 23.
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