African viewpoint: 'Enough is enough'

People demonstrate in Nigeria's northern city of Kano where running battles broke out between protesters and soldiers on April 18, 2011

In our series of viewpoints from African journalists, Sola Odunfa despairs at the violence following the announcement of the winner of Nigeria's presidential poll.

There are no expressions too strong to condemn the post-election violence in parts of northern Nigeria last week.

Nothing done or said by anyone or group in the recent past has threatened the country's continued existence or peace as dangerously as that unrest.

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A child who has never seen another person's farm proclaims his father's is the largest in the community”

End Quote Yoruba proverb

You may not have heard the details if you had no access to the Nigerian media at the height of the mayhem, so I will give you a little of the account as reported in newspapers and the new social media and in telephone accounts of some of the victims to their friends and relatives.

A few hours after the end of balloting in the presidential elections on Saturday 16 April, some young people in the northern Katsina state trooped out in celebration of the assumed victory of their preferred candidate, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari - a northerner.

Obviously they mistook their state for the whole country. Katsina was only one of Nigeria's 36 states.

As I watched the short footage of the celebration on television, I recalled a proverb of the Yoruba people of the south-west: "A child who has never seen another person's farm proclaims his father's is the largest in the community."

I smelt danger.


By Monday results from other states were pouring in. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, candidate of the governing People's Democratic Party and a southerner, took an early lead and his scores across the country were large enough to show that he was heading for a landslide victory.

A member of Nigeria's National Youth Service Corps working as electoral official in Daura Members of Nigeria's National Youth Service Corps have been working as electoral officials

The final results came on Tuesday and the Independent National Electoral Commission announced victory for Mr Jonathan.

Almost simultaneously with the release of the results, riots began in at least five more states in the north.

As the security forces fought to contain the protesters, in some areas southerners, churches and, most deplorably, members of the National Youth Service Corps - popularly called Youth Corpers - became the targets.

The corpers are fresh university graduates who are compelled by law to participate in a programmed national service for 12 months.

By official policy these young men and women are deployed across the country in states other than those of their origin.

The objective is to expose them to other cultures in the country as a tool of promoting national understanding and unity.

On average their ages range between 22 and 28 years.

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This violence is also about the poverty, the hunger, the disappointments in the society as much as it is with the refusal to accept the result of this election”

End Quote Shehu Sani Civil Rights Congress

Hundreds of thousands participate in the programme every year. They represent the brightest and best of their generation.

In most cases these youths know nobody where they are posted. They depend on their host communities for their welfare and protection.

They live in small groups wherever they find affordable accommodation. They are extremely vulnerable.

Those were the people some of the hoodlums went after.

The actual number of them killed is not known yet - several are in hospital receiving treatment for various degrees of injury and those lucky to have escaped physical injury are taking shelter in military barracks.

They have been advised to remain wherever they have found safety for the time-being.

Nigeria's Civil Rights Congress believes more than 500 people may have died in the week since the presidential poll.

"This violence is also about the poverty, the hunger, the disappointments in the society as much as it is with the refusal to accept the result of this election," the CRC's Shehu Sani told the BBC.

But President Jonathan correctly reflected the mood of the country when he said that the acts of mayhem were sad reminders of the events which led Nigeria into civil war in 1967.

He warned: "Enough is enough".

It is a warning Nigerians, who go to the polls on Tuesday to vote for state governors, hope will be taken to heart.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The violence could not have been because of poverty. People in the North of Nigeria are not the only poor people in Nigeria.People in the South are also poor. Greed and the culture of entitlement by the North is responsible for the violence. Mr Buhari is also never happy with a Southerner being the president of Nigeria

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It is very unfortunate that we Nigerian never learn.Why on earth are we killing each others for just no cause.It is time our politicians start to accept defeat.When there is a contest between people there must be a winner.Everybody can not be declare winner at the same time.I want our politicians to stop inciting people into violence.I wonder if they are democrats.It's time to change the game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Some would like to make excuses for these violence by pointing to poverty and corruption.But i think this is the result of ignorance and lack of understanding of what Nigeria means. To some people Nigeria begins and ends where they live. Others think Nigeria belongs to their ethnic groups. Others think Nigeria belongs to certain religion. We need national orientation,i mean politicians inclusive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It is high time our leaders learnt how to accept defeat in good faith. Our statemen should guard their utterrances as well. Many uneducated youths of the North see most of their leaders as semi-gods. They are a ready tool in the hands of these politicians. This election is the cleanest after June 12. It reflects the choice of the majority. May the souls of the innocent victims rest in peace.


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