The Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, on Saturday accused President Muhammadu Buhari of plotting to disenfranchise Nigerians, moments after the general elections were formally postponed.
Mr Abubakar, however, urged Nigerians to exercise patience and not be provoked before the new dates announced for the exercise.
Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, announced at about 2:40 a.m. Saturday that the election had been postponed, barely hours after Nigerians were set to hit the polling units.
The elections would now hold on new dates scheduled as February 23 for presidential and National Assembly elections and March 9 for governorship and state assemblies elections.
Mr Yakubu said the announcement came hours after a string of strategic meetings were held by top INEC officials to review preparedness for the exercise. It was concluded that a rash of logistics challenges that arose on Friday informed the postponement.
Ekiti, Niger and Taraba States were identified as some of the states that faced glitches of distribution of voting materials that would be difficult to resolve in time for the elections Saturday morning, thereby forcing the postponement.
Nigerians online expressed severe disappointment in INEC's eleventh-hour decision, with many criticising the umpire for displaying incompetence since it had four years to prepare for the exercise.
Mr Abubakar's statement followed the reaction of Mr Buhari's campaign office, which blamed the PDP for the postponement and called on Nigerians to support INEC in rejecting alleged opposition plots to compromise the commission.
"This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement," Mr Abubakar said in a Saturday morning statement to PREMIUM TIMES.
"The Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively," the former vice-president added.
Read his initial reaction in full below:
Election Postponement: Remain Peaceful In Face of Provocation
Yola, Nigeria, 16 Feb 2019: Dear citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
As you know, the Independent National Electoral Commission has announced a postponement of the elections until 23 February and 9 March respectively.
The Buhari administration has had more than enough time and money to prepare for these elections and the Nigerian people were poised and ready to perform their civic responsibility by voting in the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday, 16 February, 2019.
This postponement is obviously a case of the hand of Esau but the voice of Jacob. By instigating this postponement, the Buhari administration hopes to disenfranchise the Nigerian electorate in order to ensure that turn out is low on the rescheduled date. Nigerians must frustrate their plans by coming out in even greater numbers on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively.
Knowing that the Nigerian people are determined to reject them, they are desperate and will do anything in their power to avoid their rejection by the Nigerian people.
Their plan is to provoke the public, hoping for a negative reaction, and then use that as an excuse for further anti-democratic acts.
As such, I call on all Nigerians to be patient. We have tolerated the maladministration of this government for four years. We can extend our tolerance a few more days and give them our verdict via our votes.
Maintain the peace and be law abiding. Do not react to this provocation with anger, violence or any action that might be exploited by those who do not want this election to hold. Remain calm. We will overcome this. You can postpone an election, but you cannot postpone destiny.
Please come out to vote on Saturday, 23 February and Saturday, 9 March respectively. Frustrate those who do not want this election to hold by coming out in very large numbers. That is the best antidote to their plans.
May God bless you and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party & Vice President of Nigeria, 1999-2007.