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21 states to watch ahead of elections

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At least, 21 of the Nigeria’s 36 states have been described as hot spots to watch before and during the general election rescheduled for March 28 and April 11, 2015.

The states are Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Nasarawa, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.

CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, had revealed a list in Abuja, while presenting a report titled ‘Third Security Threat Assessment’.

It noted that the ‘most volatile’ states were Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Ebonyi, Ekiti, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Osun, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara.

Political observers said at the time that it was not surprising that Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe featured because they are already under the Boko Haram insurgency. Two weeks to the rescheduled elections, despite the ongoing commendable campaign by the military against the Islamist sect, the three states still remain hot spots.

In the recent past, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Kaduna, and Zamfara States had witnessed violent killings of hundreds of people by unidentified armed men. The states have been suffering from communal and ethno-religious hostility. It would be recalled that sometime last year; several people were killed in Zamfara community by unidentified gunmen.

Although not all the states in the country will be witnessing governorship election, the struggle over which party controls the states Houses of Assembly, who produces highest number of federal lawmakers, etc, are likely to impact on such states. Edo, Osun, Bayelsa and Ekiti are in this bracket.

While the first two are under the control of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the last set is under the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governors. But, observers say there is likelihood of serious uprising in all of them as the opposition would strive to make a statement.

With the level of petitions flooding the Inspector-General of Police office on daily basis on alleged threats and plan by some opponents to cause mayhem, analysts say they are pointer to what is to be expected.

Fifty-eight persons have so far been killed in election-related violence according to a recent report released by the nation’s human rights body.

The report released by the National Human Rights Commission, headed by youthful Chidi Odinkalu, a professor, said that there had been over 61 incidences of election violence occurred in 22 states with 58 casualties.

The incidences of violence, the commission rightly noted cut across all the six geopolitical zones in the country.

“The world believes that Nigeria is going to eat itself up because we are going for an election, we must show we can do things differently. We don’t want our election administrators killed, we don’t want our voters killed, and we don’t want our politicians killed,” Odinkalu said.

According to him, leading the pack of states with heavy casualties so far, are Lagos, with 11 incidences and 22 persons killed; Kaduna with three incidences and nine people killed; and Rivers with one incidence and at least six deaths.

Political watchers have blamed practitioners for beating the gong of violence this time around. They said that faulty electoral process that threw up the candidates in many parties was also responsible for the level of apprehension in the land. Added to these is the loss of confidence in many of the incumbent state governors, who are now trying to foist their stooges as their successors. And to achieve this, they are said to have employed the instrument of threat and intimidation against opponents that appear to have won people’s support.

Analysts say that the reason for the heightened tension in all of those states is the desperation of politicians to win elections or have their parties achieve victory by whatever means.

A political affairs commentator, who spoke on condition of anonymity said: “One of the reasons for the tension in the states is the process through which the candidates of some of the parties emerged. We are aware that there were imposition of candidates and substitution of names of candidates at various levels, and some of those who felt aggrieved and hard-done-by by the leadership of their parties, have either gone to court or are waiting to stoke violence during the exercise. In Ebonyi State for instance, the governor has not forgiven the PDP since he was denied the opportunity to install a successor. In some states, some serving senators and members of House of Representatives lost their tickets in questionable circumstances.

“Don’t forget also that in some of the states, incumbent administrations have lost the confidence of the people over non-performance and the electorates are waiting to demonstrate that at the polls, by voting against those propped up by the out-going governors as their successors. So, we see such governors employing instrument of intimidation against more popular candidates in other parties in their states. These activities are already heating up the polity.”

Addressing a conference in Lagos Friday on the ‘Big Issue in 2015’, Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Willy Mamah, both of the Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), the partners in Development Law, though dispelled the rumour of violence during or after the elections, noted that the selfish nature of the political practitioners was responsible for the level of uncertainty in the system.

“It is a big shame that neither the PDP nor the APC has given us the clear cut idea of where they are taking the country to after May 29. Instead of showing their good work, they are showing us money to bribe people to vote for them. They hire thugs, goons because they have got nothing upstairs to offer Nigerians. And these youths who have been hungry over five years, and now are being given some money jump at it to do the bidding of those who hire them,” the legal practitioners said.

Zebulon Agomuo