By Bate Felix
KADUNA, Nigeria – As results of Nigeria’s March 28 election trickled in on Monday, residents of the northern city of Kaduna barricaded themselves indoors, fearing a repeat of the tit-for-tat killlings that engulfed it following a highly contested poll in 2011.
The usually bustling Constitution Avenue, in Kaduna’s main commercial hub, was deserted and most shops were closed.
Few have forgotten the ethno-religious violence that gripped the city four years ago after the last election between main contenders President Goodluck Jonathan and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. About 800 people were killed in three days of violence across northern Nigeria.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]
Much of the violence was in Kaduna, a combustible state with a complicated mix of ethnic groups divided between Christian and Muslim faiths. Hundreds were hacked to death and people fleeing were dragged out of their cars and killed.
“People are too scared to come out. On a normal day, this place is crowded,” said Sani Umar, a 31-year-old trader who sells watches and sunglasses along the avenue.
The few traders brave enough to open their shops huddled together, discussing the election in hushed tones. Others gathered around radio sets to hear the electoral commission announce results coming in from various states.
“What really starts the trouble is that people will go out and vote for their choice but at the end of the day, they don’t get who they voted for,” said Aliyu Labaran Aliyu, a 30-year-old trader, as he carried out his ablutions by the roadside in preparation for evening prayers.
But he added that this time rigging would be more difficult so trouble was less likely.
Buhari won 1.1 million votes in the key swing state, compared with 484,000 for Jonathan.
Results from states across Nigeria’s elections, potentially the closest contest since the end of military rule in Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy ended in 1999, have been trickling in on Monday.
Mohammed Bello Shehu, an opposition representative at the state electoral commission, said the result in Kaduna state would help to ease local tensions.
“For the first time, we have now reached a situation where the actual figure of the electorate in Kaduna is reflected,” Shehu told Reuters, pointing to the introduction of card readers as a critical factor in creating a sense that the vote was transparent and defusing any tension.
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But Mark Jacob, a representative of the president’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, said the apparently serene atmosphere in the city was due to the heavy presence of security forces.
“Nigerians will stick to rules and be peaceful and calm if they know that there is somebody to slap them if they misbehave,” he said, after the state’s results were announced.(Reuters)