Friday, March 6, 2015

Nigerians, Fearing Election Violence, Forfeit Vote to Move to Other End of Country

Ahead of Nigeria's general elections on March 28, hundreds of people, fearful of election violence, have fled back to their place of origin, World Watch Monitor has been told.

The election was originally scheduled for February 14th, before being postponed to the March date for security reasons
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Take for example Sam Nwodo, 48, a dealer in motor parts, who has moved his family from Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State in northern Nigeria, to his native Imo State in the South. In 2000, Zamfara State was the first State to implement Sharia Law in the country. This act was then followed by 11 other States in the North.

The election between the two main candidates: incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition (All Progressive Congress, APC) one,  Retired Gen. Muhammed Buhari, has crystallised tensions and divisions along religious and ethnic lines.

In 2011, the victory of Jonathan, a Christian from the southern Niger Delta, provoked an eruption of violence in Katsina, the hometown of Gen. Buhari in the North. The post-election violence, which Human Rights Watch described at the time as one of the bloodiest episodes in Nigerian history, spread quickly to all 12 Northern States and claimed more than 800 lives. More than 350 Churches were burnt down, among other properties.

The conflict has left lasting scars on many Nigerians who would not want to be caught in another wave of violence. Sam Nwodo, for instance, is sceptical and has been willing to forfeit his vote for his safety.  "We are afraid because we feel that this election may lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. There may be war because of the desperate nature of politicians. The candidacy of President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari has polarised the Nigerian masses along religious lines.

''Many Igbos (from the majority Christian south) in Gusau are leaving en masse because we don't know what will happen. No matter how brave you are, when you see your people leaving in such large numbers you have no choice but to move too".

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