Nigeria – Threats of violence in election 2015 and emigration; billboard wars in Ghana

by Kwabena Opong

Nigerians go to the polls in February and some are fleeing the country in anticipation of election related violence during the time. An article in Saturday Punch of January 17, 2015 indicates that 800 persons, including 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps were reportedly killed in the North during the violence that trailed the 2011 general elections. This and other similar incidence elsewhere in the country seem to have sounded the cautionary note to people, especially those in the business community to leave the country to avoid any such occurrences in 2015. And among destinations of choice is Ghana.
Saturday Punch in an investigation finds that among the apprehensive are politicians and business people who fearful of the violence during the time are feverishly trying to relocate their families abroad. Reasons most give for their intended actions include medical checkups, especially for those who have the United States, United Kingdom, EC, etc. in their sights.
There is also a segment that plans to leave for their home states. Most Igbos and others from the eastern part of the country who reside in the north are making plans to return home during the elections. Some it is believed from the Saturday Punch article, intend not to return.
The government of the United States has advised Nigerians to refrain from incendiary acts that could unleash a fresh wave of violence in the country during the elections. According to Thomson Reuters Foundation (2014) civil society groups have expressed concern that President Jonathan will use the levers of government to manipulate the election results, which could unleash sectarian strife as seen in previous Nigerian elections. Groups attending a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum cited a range of factors that heighten the risks of violence this time around:
• Poverty, desperation and high youth unemployment make for a ready pool of recruits for vigilante groups paid for and armed by disgruntled politicians.
• Mistrust is running high between the federal government and states, especially after the government’s slow response to the kidnapping of 270 schoolgirls.
• Schisms are opening up within the ruling party, and the election reform bill has not yet been passed, providing no certainty about how the election will be conducted.
• Corruption and politicization of the security forces, and collapse of rule of law in many rural areas has fostered the rise of banditry. (Thomson Reuters Foundation 2014)
“The stakes are getting higher, the nearer the elections come,” said Ibrahim Gambari, a former Nigerian ambassador to the United Nations and founder of a Nigerian-based governance and security research institute, the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development.
US Asst. Secretary in the Bureaus of African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged politicians to act responsibly: “No officeholder should use incumbency to incite violence.”
Also sending messages of violence is the Boko Haram insurgency in north eastern Nigeria. The Nigerian military does not seem to have made any headway in dealing with the problem. More than 270 girls who were abducted are still in captivity while a few more have been added. It is not likely that elections could be held in

the areas held by the Islamic terror group in February. Unfortunately neither the ruling government led by President Goodluck Jonathan nor his principal contestant in the upcoming elections, General Muhammed

Buhari seem to have any strategy to find a solution to the terror situation. Bayo Oluwasanmi writing in the African Herald Express rues, “Nigerian is bursting at the seams with ethno-religious … problems waiting to explode.”
There are, however, some optimism going round: Senate President David Mark concedes that “despite the much vaunted fear that our nation may not survive the elections, … I remain optimistic that we have … the maturity to rise above the challenges,” he told the parliament.
In Ghana where some of the Nigerians have immigrated to there is a mixed feeling not only against the immigration but the installed billboards that advertise political messages from the candidates. It must be noted that none of the critics of the billboards speaks against the presence of the Nigerians but are rather suspicious of the creation of the billboards.
Dr. Vladimir Antwi Danso, a senior research fellow at the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) and a member parliament for the opposition NPP Kennedy Ohene Agyepong share the opinion that it is a security risk to allow foreigners to mount political campaign posters and billboards. In support, opposition NPP General Secretary Kwabena Agyapong sees the billboards as ‘a possible annexation of Ghana’ by Nigeria.
Dr. Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, the mayor of the city of Accra, on the other hand believes that the political billboards do not violate any law of the city and that there is nothing illegal about it.
He is among some Ghanaians who think that if Ghanaians in the diaspora can hold political rallies in close-doors in hotels and other public places, they do not share the view that the Nigerians are invading the city with their political billboards.
The latest development in the billboards war is their removal by workers of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly and the National Security saying they violate national security. In his reaction Nigerian High Commissioner Ademola Oluseyi Onafowokan condemned the action by the authorities saying he does not understand no laws were broken.
“If they contravened the laws of Ghana and they are demolished, yes, I would understand because I would not support lawlessness and recklessness, but if they seek [sought] permission of AMA and they approve of it, very well and good,” he proffered. Ghana and Nigeria share a relationship of siblings that date from days before independence and in spite of the bad blood the removal of the billboards is likely to generate, the impact on the two peoples is a simple family feud that would be forgotten at the end of the day.

Posted by on Feb 13 2015. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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