x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Goodluck Jonathan's big victory in Nigerian election sparks rioting

Supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari set fire to homes of ruling party members in several areas across the north leading to fatalities and hundreds of injured.

A youth brandishes crude weapons during riots in Bauchi, nothern Nigeria. after Goodluck Jonathan was declared winner of presidential elections.
A youth brandishes crude weapons during riots in Bauchi, nothern Nigeria. after Goodluck Jonathan was declared winner of presidential elections.

KADUNA, NIGERIA // Burnt corpses bearing machete wounds lay in roads and smoke rose above this city where rioting broke out again on Tuesday among Muslim opposition supporters angered by the announcement that the Christian incumbent president had won Nigeria's election.

On the outskirts of Kaduna, burnt-out minibuses and cars littered the highways, and at least six charred bodies could be seen. Skull caps and sandals were strewn nearby, left behind by those who had frantically fled amid the chaos.

Authorities and aid groups have hesitated to release fatality figures following the riots across northern Nigeria, for fear of inciting reprisal attacks. But the National Emergency Management Agency confirmed that there had been fatalities. The Nigerian Red Cross said yesterday that nearly 400 people had been wounded.

In a televised address to the nation late on Monday, President Goodluck Jonathan said that "nobody's political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian".

Supporters of opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari set fire to homes of ruling party members in several areas across the north. Police said an angry mob also engineered a prison break.

In the northern town of Kano, the Rev Lado Abdu said three churches had been set ablaze by angry demonstrators. An armed mob at a bus station also threatened another evangelical pastor before a Muslim man spirited him to safety.

"What brought together religion and politics?" the Rev Habila Sunday said. "I want to know why when politics happen do they burn churches?"

Thousands have been killed in religious violence in the past decade in Nigeria, which is Africa's most populous nation. The roots of the sectarian conflict are often seen as embedded in struggles for political and economic dominance in a country where Christians and Muslims have shared the same soil for centuries.

The election result - showing the Christian president's more than 10-million-vote lead over Mr Buhari, a Muslim - spread accusations of rigging in a nation long accustomed to ballot box stuffing.

Mr Jonathan took office last year after the country's elected Muslim president died in office after a lengthy illness, and many in the north still believe the ruling party should have put up a Muslim candidate instead of Mr Jonathan in this year's election.

Monday's violence also was fuelled by the economic despair in Nigeria's arid north.

"The region has the worst unemployment, the most grinding poverty, the poorest education, and the shortest life expectancy of any region of Nigeria," the newspaper Next said yesterday in a post-election editorial.

"So stark and repulsive is the poverty, and so thoroughly alienated have the people become, that even this contested election can be seen as little more than an outlet for the expression of deep-seated grievances," the editorial said.

Nigeria has a long history of violent and rigged polls since it abandoned a revolving door of military rulers and embraced democracy 12 years ago. Legislative elections earlier this month left a hotel ablaze, a politician dead and a polling station and a vote-counting centre bombed in the nation's north-east.

However, observers generally said Saturday's presidential election appeared to have been fair, with fewer cases of ballot box theft than in previous polls.

The election chairman, Attahiru Jega, announced results late on Monday that showed Mr Jonathan won 22.4 million votes, compared to the 12.2 million votes of his nearest rival Mr Buhari, who was once the military ruler of Nigeria.

* Associated Press