Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been accused of giving more than $40 million to local militias to fan election violence. Politicians have demanded that their supporters “kill” and “crush” competitors like “cockroaches.” Police chiefs have threatened to shoot 20 people for any one police officer’s death during voting season.
These are just a few examples of the alarming vitriol present in the run-up to Nigeria’s hotly contested 2015 elections, where Jonathan is competing for a second term against ex-military commander Muhammadu Buhari, who is pursuing his fourth presidential bid. Voting was extended to Sunday after polling difficulties in some areas, and the two candidates are apparently locked in a dead heat.
Recurring hate speech, reports of small arms circulation among politically backed militias, and gangs and government officials attempting to influence the police have made human rights groups monitoring the elections worry that political violence will once again shatter Nigeria’s promise of a peaceful democratic result.
According to the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, every election since 1922 in the West African country has been beset by politically motivated violence. This year is shaping up to be no different.