(Adds comment from President Goodluck Jonathan, detail,
By Julia Payne
ABUJA Feb 8 Nigerian opposition presidential
candidate Muhammadu Buhari called for calm in the country and
cautioned against any violence following the election
postponement, which he said was engineered by the ruling
People's Democratic Party.
Foreign powers are closely following events in Africa's
biggest economy and have voiced concerns there could be a
repetition of violence that followed 2011 elections when 800
people died and that a delay would stoke unrest in opposition
The poll will pit incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP
against former military ruler Buhari of the All Progressives
Congress (APC) in what is likely to be the most hotly contested
election since the end of military rule in 1999.
"Any act of violence can only complicate the security
challenges in the country and provide further justification to
those who would want to exploit every situation to frustrate the
democratic process," Buhari said.
The decision to postpone was widely viewed as the
Independent Electoral National Commission (INEC) yielding to
pressure by the PDP, which the opposition said feared it could
Nigeria's electoral commission said it postponed the Feb. 14
elections to March 28, after security chiefs told INEC that it
could not guarantee security owing to operations to combat the
Sunni jihadist group Boko Haram.
"It is important to note that although INEC acted within its
constitutional powers, it is clear that it has been boxed into a
situation where it has had to bow to pressure," Buhari said.
"What they (security forces) cannot do in 6 years, they
cannot do in 6 weeks."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was
deeply disappointed by the postponement and criticised
"political interference" in the election process. Britain also
The insurgents have taken over swathes of territory in the
northeast an attempt to establish an Islamic state. Nigeria's
army has been lagging in the fight, with Chad now sending in
troops to assist while Cameroon has been pushing back incursions
into its territory.
Buhari said the presidential and state level elections on
March 28 and April 11 must now be sacrosanct and that the party
would not tolerate any further interference in the vote.
Earlier on Sunday, President Goodluck Jonathan said he was
committed to May 29 as the terminal date of his first term in
office and also called for calm.
"President Jonathan believes that this is not a time to
trade blames or make statements that may overheat the polity,"
Reuben Abati, presidency spokesman, said in a statement.
(Editing by Ralph Boulton and Stephen Powell)