As Nigerians troop out to vote in the presidential and National Assembly election Saturday, concerns over the outcome of the poll and its aftermath have continued to occupy discussions on the election. This is because of what happened immediately after the result of the presidential election was announced in 2011.
The major contenders in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and Muhammadu Buhari of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, are still the major contenders today. Mr. Buhari is however running on the platform of the All Progressives Congress after his former party, alongside two others, dissolved to form the APC.
Riots broke out in 12 states in the north and after three days of violence, about 800 Nigerians lost their lives, according to Human Rights Watch.
Rioting and violence demonstrations took place in Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara states, mostly by supporters of Mr. Buhari who said he was rigged out.
Among those killed were 10 Youth Corps members who were working as poll officials in Bauchi state.
This time, Mr. Buhari’s popularity has soared compared to 2011. He has always enjoyed widespread support from the north which was his main political base, and, with the coming of the APC, his outreach has greatly improved in particularly the South West and other parts of south.
The APC candidate has consistently asked his supporters to refrain from violence before, during and after the election, while President Jonathan has consistently maintained that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.
Indeed, the two leaders demonstrated their strong desire for a peaceful poll by signing a peace pact twice, the last of which took place only Thursday, two days to the election.
PREMIUM TIMES also observed that the high level of tension across the country before February 14 – when elections where first billed to commence – has greatly subsided. The six-week extension announced by INEC following security officials request not only helped the military rout the Boko Haram sect, but also calmed tension.
While the northern states where the major flashpoints in 2011, some states in the South appear to lean more to violent tendencies in 2015. This time, Rivers and Lagos states are the leading flash points.
Already, several election related attacks including bombings and shootings have been recorded in Port Harcourt, Okrika, the home town of the first lady, and Obio Okpor, home of the PDP candidate.
Only Thursday, Governor Rotimi Amaechi reported that gunmen opened fire on his convoy when he went to Obio Okpor to campaign for APC candidates.
The police has however denied that claim.
In Lagos, the apparent revival of the OPC has brought back the spectre of political violence to the city. Also, the ruling APC and the PDP are not short of political thugs who often attack each other at will. Lagos is particularly interesting because of its position as the hotbed of the South West politics and the strong effort by both parties to win the state.
President Goodluck Jonathan has basically made Lagos home for the past six weeks and reports say PDP’s main tactical operational base is in Lagos, not Abuja.
In the north, while Gombe state has experienced some level of violence, states such as Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Niger, Sokoto, Benue, Nasarawa and Katsina are considered as flashpoints, especially if Mr. Buhari loses.
In the same vein, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom states are flashpoint areas in the event of Mr. Buhari winning the election. This assertion stems from the fact that some leaders of the ex-militant groups recently held a meeting at the governor’s office in Bayelsa and threated to declare war on the country if Mr. Jonathan loses.
The tendency therefore, is that free and fair election alone is not a guarantee to non-violence after the election.
It is however, gladdening to note that with the war against Boko Haram basically increasingly successful, the Nigerian Army will has a more troops at its disposal to maintain the peace.
Also, preparation and arrangements so far put in place by the Police is encouraging enough that the force is ready for whatever may have arisen following the election.