BAUCHI, Nigeria - Violence targeting politicians and their aides appears to be increasing in northern Nigeria as next year’s elections draw closer in Africa’s most populous nation.
Unknown gunmen on Saturday shot and killed a personal assistant to Bauchi state Gov. Malam Isa Yuguda, the son-in-law to the late Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua. Meanwhile, a police guard for Yuguda was shot and seriously injured.
The Bauchi state government on Sunday issued a statement describing the attacks as an “ugly development” as the nation nears local and federal elections that may come as soon as January. However, the attacks mark the beginning of what could be a violent electoral cycle as the nation’s highest office remains in play.
In August alone, there have been five attacks on politicians in Bauchi state, a rural state in Nigeria’s Muslim-majority north. Most recently, gunmen ambushed Jamilu Bauchin Bauchi, the governor’s personal political assistant.
Bauchin Bauchi “was attacked by the gunmen on his way to Maiduguri to purchase horses that they will ride ... after the Ramadan fast,” said Sanusi Mohammad, the governor’s spokesman.
The police guard was shot about more than half a mile away from government headquarters in Bauchi on the same night, Mohammad said.
On Monday, the 10-year-old son of Garba Dahiru, a political hopeful in the state, returned home after a week in captivity. The family allowed the boy outside their home so photographers could capture images of him, but declined to say whether they paid a ransom to win his release from kidnappers. Police officials declined to immediately comment.
In oil-rich Nigeria, home to 150 million people, violence and vote-rigging has accompanied national and local elections. In 2007, Yar’Adua was elected in a poll widely marred by ballot box-stuffing and intimidation. President Goodluck Jonathan, the nation’s elected vice president who assumed office after Yar’Adua's death in May, has promised a free and fair election next year.
However, Jonathan himself has yet to say whether he’ll run for the nation’s highest office, leading to uncertainty. Analysts worry that if he doesn’t run, militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta will launch violent protests. If the nation’s ruling party nominates Jonathan, a Christian, others worry the elite in the Muslim north will foment dissent as Yar’Adua, a Muslim, should have been allowed to seek a second four-year term under an unwritten power-sharing agreement in the ruling party.
Other politically motivated violence has hit central and southern Nigeria. In Abuja, police say they’ve arrested two men who allegedly kidnapped the organizer of a group supporting Jonathan running in the coming election. Meanwhile, a member of the Delta state House of Assembly was kidnapped on Sunday after he left church in Edo state.
Associated Press Writer Bashir Adigun in Abuja, Nigeria, contributed to this report.