Election year is, more often than not, a tricky time to live in Nigeria. The build-up to the polls always serves up drama, suspense and political theatrics that would give Hollywood hit series like House of Cards and Homeland a run for their money. From the campaigns to the press statements, from the debates on national television to the conversations on social media, there is always much action to anticipate as the electorate looks forward to D-day, where they get to decide whether to say "out with the old, in with the new" or stick with the status quo.
Unfortunately, election season is not all cakes and cream. There is as much fear as there is excitement. This is not least due to the fact that fanatical supporters of political aspirants tend to resort to violence in making a case for their preferred candidate, whether to prove their loyalty prior to the elections, or protesting the outcome of the polls where things don't go their way. The annulment of the 1993 elections led to a ruckus, the 2011 elections was the harbinger of a major crisis in Northern Nigeria, and people went as far as travelling out of the country in 2015, simply because they did not want to get caught up in post-election crossfire.
It's 2019 and sadly, little much has changed.
Five persons are feared to have lost their lives following a clash between supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and those of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kofa Village of the Bebeji Local Government Area of Kano state on Thursday February 21, just two days to the general elections.
The PDP supporters who were said to be loyalists of a former governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso took on their APC counterparts said to be loyalists of a former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibril, in the bloody clash which also left many injured and properties burnt.
There were two separate accounts of what happened. One account said Jibril’s supporters, who are members of the ruling APC, were holding a prayer session for the peaceful conduct of Saturday’s presidential and National Assembly elections when the PDP supporters who were on their way from a rally attacked them. Jibril is a native of Kofa village.
Another account said supporters of the APC blocked the road where the PDP campaign train was passing through and this resulted in a clash.
In the fight which ensued, no fewer than five persons were said to have lost their lives while several others were left with injuries.
An eyewitness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The fight was bloody, several houses and vehicles were burnt. At least five dead bodies were taken away by the police.”
The Kano State Government in a press release said that members of the PDP, specifically the Kwankwasiyya group, should be held responsible for the clash.
A statement by the state Commissioner of Information, Youth and Culture, Mallam Mohammed Garba, said, “The Kwankwassiyya group has continued to brazenly attack members and supporters of the All Progressive Congress.
“The latest just happened on Thursday when they attacked our members during a special prayer session for the peaceful conduct of the general elections, leaving some party members dead and others with injuries.”
However, the state Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Rabiu Bichi, said, “We went for a scheduled campaign but we were attacked by thugs. As we speak, we don’t know the whereabouts of one of our female members, Binta, whose vehicle was also burnt.”
The issue of which side is telling the truth is subject to conjecture, but the scary reality is that people would have to be looking over their shoulders during the course of these elections. The electorate have more than their right to vote to protect, they also have to guard their right to life.
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