Nov 25 (GIN) – With only three months to presidential elections, Nigeria is in the grip of election fever with public feuding plumbing new depths between the incumbent party of Pres. Goodluck Jonathan and members of the opposition.
In a contentious confrontation last week, police fired tear gas to prevent the House of Representatives from meeting. A lockout was announced but the parliamentarians scaled the iron fences around the building to get inside. Photos widely published showed the distinguished representatives hauling themselves over the high gates.
The lawmakers had been scheduled to discuss Pres. Jonathan’s request to extend the state of emergency in the country’s northeast, where the armed group Boko Haram operates. The request was rejected with angry MPs shouting that the state of emergency has scored few if any victories against the terrorist group.
Later in the week, security forces carried out a raid on the Lagos offices of the opposition All Progressives Congress party, destroying more than a dozen party computers and documents.
Nigeria’s State Security Service claimed it was investigating an alleged duplication of voters’ cards for next year’s elections.
APC spokesman Lai Mohammed compared the invasion to the Watergate scandal leading to the resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1974. If the government suspected any illegal activities, he said, it should have obtained a court order to search the premises.
Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the ruling party, brushed off the accusations. The APC is crying wolf, he said, because it has no winnable message for the people of Nigeria.
Meanwhile, a report by the International Crisis Group, warned that Nigeria was “sliding dangerously towards violence before, during and after the February 2015 elections. “
“The electoral environment is highly destabilised by insecurity, particularly in the North East,” the report said. “Preparations for the elections suffer from a deficient legal framework and lack of confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security agencies.”
“Boko Haram’s insurgency makes these elections particularly fraught, but it is only a microcosm of the country’s deepening political, religious and ethnic divides”, said Nnamdi Obasi, Nigeria Senior Analyst. “With only three months to the polls, a sense of urgency is more than ever imperative, particularly on the part of the government and the election-management and security agencies”.
“As Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, Nigeria would pose a very real security threat if it were destabilised by election violence”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Africa Program Deputy Director. “Salvaging the situation requires concerted efforts by all national actors and international partners”.