Nigeria’s Pre-Election Violence Rooted In Political Intolerance May Have Led To The Loss Of About 100 Lives Since July 2010
As the all-important April general elections draw near, it may be correct to say that about, if not over 100 Nigerian citizens were killed and over 300 injured in pre-election related violence since July 2010. July 2010 was the peak of the pre-election activities in Nigeria as a result of the INEC’s earlier
schedule to hold elections in December 2010 and January 2011 respectively. Strictly speaking, these deaths did not include deaths arising from sectarian killings that rocked different parts of the so-called Northern Nigeria in recent times. An internationally respected human rights watchdog, the Amnesty International believes that between July 2010 and middle of March 2011, “at least, 50 people have been killed in election-related violence in Nigeria.” But further findings by our leadership show that between 15th and 22nd March 2011, more than 30 persons have been killed in different parts of the country. In the locally and internationally image-barren 2007 general elections, “at least, 300 people were killed” (Human Rights Watch).
Some of these killings are as follows: 9-01-2011, four persons were killed in the home town of Mr. Timi Alaibe, a former presidential aide and the Labour Party governorship candidate in Bayelsa State during a campaign rally;28-01-2011,Engineer Fannami Gubio , the ANPP’s governorship candidate in Borno State and seven others, including Alhaji Godi Modu Sherrif and a ten year old boy, were shot dead near a Mosque in Maiduguiri, the capital city of Borno State;1st February 2011, a political party aspirant and MOSOP activist, Mr. Richard Nima was killed in Eleme LGA of Rivers State;9-02-2011, two children were shot dead near the palace of the Emir of Lafia in Nassarawa State when the security forces fired at the anti government demonstrators;12-02-2011, between 12 and 20 people were killed in the security forces-instigated stampede that occurred in Port Harcourt, Rivers State during the PDP’s presidential rally.
Others are: 3-03-2011, four persons were killed in Suleja, Niger State, in a bomb blast that went off moments after the political rally attended by Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State;19-03-2011, three persons were killed in Izzi LGA of Ebonyi State during a campaign rally organized by the ANPP(All Nigerian People’s Party) governorship candidate;21-03-2011,three persons were killed in Lagos State (Lagos Island) during a clash between the supporters of the Action Congress of Nigeria and those of the People’s Democratic Party;21-03-2011,seven persons were killed in Jos, Plateau State during a rally attended by the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, Alhaji Muhammed Buhari; and on the same day, one person was nearly lynched in Awka, Anambra State by some supporters of Senator Annie Okonkwo during an attempted political rally near Eke-Awka Market. A security detail attached to Senator Uzamere was also reportedly shot and killed on March 21, 2011 by some assailants who reportedly made an attempt on the life of the senator. Just like the 34,000 Nigerians killed outside the law since 1999, including over 200 political assassinations that mostly went uninvestigated, not to talk of being prosecuted, these killings are meted with the same fate, and the perpetrators have remained on the prowl.
Similarly, Anambra State has remained the most peaceful and violence-free in terms of election campaigns and conduct of elections proper in recent times until Monday, 21st 2011, when this enviable feat was nearly broken. Our investigations, using criminological methods, clearly showed that the media reports of what transpired was grossly misleading and contradictory, In the Eke-Awka incident, it appears that no assassination attempt was made on Senator Annie Okonkwo, instead, a young man who shouted the slogan of another party was beaten to a pulp and murderously wounded, framed up (labeled assassin) and handed over to the police by some die-hard supporters of Senator Annie Okonkwo. A ban was indeed placed on all the markets lately by the branch of the Government of Anambra State overseeing the market affairs. The inability of the Senator Annie Okonkwo’s campaign team to enter the market was as a result of the ban.
In the Onitsha Main Market incident, the same ban was enforced by the market leadership and allied bodies, which made Dr. Chris Ngige’s visit to the Market difficult. He chose to visit the Market on that fateful day because it was the Market’s prayers’ day. Nobody was shot and no life was lost. The ban so imposed was as a result of confrontational attitudes adopted by some candidates which have heightened tensions in the Markets lately. For instance, in the course of our investigations, we found that candidates vying for restricted legislative posts have resorted to taking their campaigns beyond their legislative jurisdictions and in the course of such campaigns, “psychology of politics” is indiscriminately applied so as to deceive traders, many of whom hardly read and write. Promises of building roads, etc, when elected as a legislator, are a part of the said psychology of politics being clannishly applied by such candidates. In many occasions, inflammatory comments form the backbone of campaign speeches. In some, candidates sponsor the disruption of their opponents’ campaigns, including those attended by the governor to draw supports for his party’s candidates.
For instance, on Wednesday, March 16, 2011, an attempt was made to disrupt a rally attended by Governor Peter Obi at the Bridgehead Market in Onitsha. In the middle of his speech, a group of young men emerged from somewhere with bundles of posters and brooms belonging to Dr. Chris Ngige and his ACN. At a point, the governor discontinued his speech and offered to leave. He was persuaded not to leave by teeming traders. Eventually when he was leaving, the same group of young men trailed him violently, brandishing the said posters and brooms. The next day being March 17, 2011, Dr. Chris Ngige stormed the Market and heaped his speech on the incident, thereby suggesting his involvement. The traders of the Tools & Allied section of the Market and other concerned traders who mobilized for revenge, were profusely persuaded to calm their nerves to avoid breach of public peace. It is obvious that it is only one out of ten State governors in Nigeria that would tolerate such unprovoked attack and assault.
Also, there is no decency and decorum in the public conducts of many of the candidates, including Dr. Chris Ngige and Senator Annie Okonkwo. Their entourages are like an army of invasion. The number of siren blaring vans, suspected thugs and hired security escorts accompanying them are very intimidating, and three times more than those in the governor’s convoy, in fact, they are public nuisance. And they hardly respect the office of the governor of Anambra State. In some, if not in most cases, the duo, especially Dr. Chris Ngige, appear very combative and confrontational. The Anambra State Police Command is also not helping matters. We are not in the know of any actionable code of regulations designed for the public conducts of the candidates by the Command.
However, that is not to say that the restrictions so imposed by the Government of Anambra State are in tandem with the universal rules guiding electioneering campaigns, even though security of lives and property always takes precedent. It is our advice that all candidates gunning for legislative posts must restrict themselves to their areas of legislative jurisdictions and refrain from making inflammatory comments and resort to the criminal use of psychology of politics to deceive potential voters. As far as we are concerned, most of these legislative candidates are still beating about the bush with respect to quality legislative representations, which our State is direly desirous of. The Government of Anambra State is hereby called upon to remove the restrictions so imposed on condition that the candidates must not engage themselves in any acts that would endanger public lives and safety. The atmosphere of peace reigning in the State must not be compromised.
A Public Statement By International Society For Civil Liberties And The Rule Of Law (Nigeria) 23-03-2011