Saturday 1 February 2014


Security Challenges of Political Killings in Nigeria


What is political killing or assassination? Political killing or assassination is the murder of a prominent person or political figure by a surprise attack; it is an intentional and premeditated killing of a public figure usually for payment or political reasons. It may also be prompted by religious, ideological, political or military motives; or it may be carried out for financial gains, to avenge a grievance, or from a desire to acquire fame or notoriety or because of a military or security services intention to carry out the murder.

Writing on “Power of Life and Death”, Peter C. Chigbo (1997) posits that man in his conceit, sometimes believes that he has the power to create life or, “just because it looks easier”, the power to destroy.  The fallacy of the right to create or destroy life, Chigbo observed, appears more difficult to tackle in the realms of the power to take life. Afterall, if any man can commit murder and watch his victim die, he has the “power” to take life. But, he quick to counter this supposition, insisting that a murderer or killer lacks the power in the real sense of the word, to take life. The truth is that, he merely serves as an instrument of destruction.

Waxing religious, he cautions that a killer, no matter the reason for his action, can never go unpunished. This, he reasons, is because even if he escapes detection or the punishment of society, the guilty, will not know peace for the rest of his life. Citing the likes of German’s Adolf Hitler and Italy’s Mussolini who were involved in mass murder, Chigbo states that nowhere in the history of the world had major aggressors benefited from mass murder. Instead, it is only those who spared lives in the pursuit of political goals, who eventually emerges as the world’s true heroes.

Unfortunately, this reasoning is hardly popular in contemporary society. Man, despite civilization, thrives in violence and utter disregard for the sanctity of human life. In his morbid quest for power, he is ready to waste lives in order to gain his often self-centered goals. There is no denying that violence is just everywhere today. Being exposed to violence daily, many people have come to accept it as normal – until they are victimized.

Available records revealed that the spreading culture of violence has been responsible for the spate of political killings all over the world. Suddenly, man has ceased to have any scruple for destroying the human life he cannot and may never create. All over the world, man is surrounded by an ever rising tide of cruelty and violence. Aggression, the intentional infliction of some type of harm on others and downright violence have become commonplace. Somehow, humanity seems helpless as this epidemic ravages his race. The bombs and guns have become the firm favourites in the political assassin’s armoury. The successful and unsuccessful assassination attempts on national leaders have become so common that tha massive security operations surrounding public appearances are taken for granted, forcing the assumptions that there is little or no defense against bombs and guns; and there is no such thing as perfect security against the determined and fanatical assassin. However, evidences abound to prove that assassination of very important personalities (VIPs) is mostly inevitable where Close Protection is relegated. It is also unfortunate to note that in Nigeria many VIPs do not know of the existence of Close Protection as a specialized security service. In most cases giant thugs are recruited to provide close protection services that they have no idea, no training, no orientation, no motivation and no equipment to the detriment of the VIP, the family and the society.

Some of the social and economic consequences of political assassinations may include but not limited to:

Grief/pains over loss of loved ones.
Loss of talents.
Disruption/denial of education.
Income losses.
Embarrassment and loss of pride.
Medical and hospital costs.
National production loss.
Absence of guidance for children.
Rise in assurance premium.
Psychological effects of a sudden change in standard of living.
Loss of earning capacity.
Physical handicaps necessitating readjustment, retraining and repositioning.
Change in breadwinners e.g. need for working mothers.
Cause of Death.
Costs of loss of confidence including disinvestment.
Psychic disorder affecting behavior.
Reorientation, publicity campaign and image laundering cost.
Adverse impact on interpersonal relationship arising from anger, resentment, frustration, etc.
Costs of fear of violence resulting to brain drains as experts seek greener pastures and protection abroad.


Apart from the above social and economic consequences, political assassination causes serious disruptive effects on the home, family, employment and nation. 

Global Overview of Political Killings

 Violence and killings with political undertone is as old as man. As history has shown, neither the so-called “civilized” nations nor the “primitive” developing nations have been spared the specter of political motivated killings. Generally, assassinations are almost exclusively associated with political murder at the highest level. It is Kings, Presidents, Generals, Religious Leaders, Captains of Industry and Politicians whose deaths make the headlines. Some assassins hope to change the world; others seek fame, while others are best described as mad. Charles Guiteau who shot US President Garfield in 1881 craved publicity, and Leon Czolgosz who shot President McKinley in 1901, wanted to emulate the notoriety of the man who had shot the King of Italy the year before. It is unlikely that the revolutionary Gavrilo Princip, who shot Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28. 1914 realized what the repercussions would be, for those two shots were the opening salvo in the most horrendous war in the history of mankind up to that date, as the enmity between Austria-Hungary and Serbia escalated into the First World War. It was a period when, “the world went mad” and according to records, out of the 65 million young men who fought in that war, some 65 million never returned reported Awake the religious but research-oriented Journal in November, 1994. Of course, there were additional civilian casualties – all due to the initial political killing. Yet another war broke out in that country in 1994.

As could be ascertained, while in some cases, government agencies are obviously the chief culprits in these acts, individuals, in the name of fighting sometimes, self-assigned courses have either directly pulled the trigger at their perceived enemies or sponsored their extermination. While most victims died either right on the spot or later, there have been comparatively lower cases of "stalked” targets who survived or escaped.

On November 1, 1950, while President Harry S. Truman of the United States was living in Blair House (The White House was undergoing renovation), two Puerto Rican nationals shot at him. The two men, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, tried to break in by force in a frontal assault on Blair House.  Although the President came out of the short-but-sharp shootout, one White House policeman was killed and two others wounded. This attack hints on the desperation of assassins.

On October 6, 1981, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt was watching a military parade along with several officials and foreign guests from a reviewing stand, when a truck pulling an artillery piece stopped in front of them. A soldier jumped out of the covered truck and hurled a grenade at the viewing party, but it fell short. At the time another five soldiers leaped out and ran towards the stand, spraying it with automatic fire from their Kalashnikov rifles. The whole episode lasted for 23 seconds. The President, wounded in the left side, the neck and the thigh, was rushed off to hospital by military helicopter. Sadat died in hospital, and in all 11 people were killed and 30 injured in the attack.

When on the morning of October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi walked through her garden towards the once faithful bodyguard, Sub-Inspector Beant Singh hardly did she know that her end is at hand. Halfway there was a flower arch, and as she approached it she saw the faithful bodyguard, Beant Singh, and another Sikh guard, Constable Satwant Singh, ahead of her. Satwant Singh lifted his gun, as if in salute. Beant Singh drew his revolver and pumped five shots into the Prime Minister. Satwant Singh lowered his own gun and also sprayed Mrs. Gandhi with bullets, continuing to fire after she had fallen motionless, and dying onto the ground.     

In 1991, Rajiv Gandhi her eldest son who succeeded her was blown to pieces by a suicide bomber of the Tamil Tiger Separatist Movement, when a young woman detonated dynamite strapped to her body as she bowed before him.

In apartheid South Africa, the world recorded one of the most controversial political killings perpetuated by government agents. On March 21, 1960, in Sharpeville, the police opened fire on a crowd of defenseless demonstrators, killing 69 people. Among those felled in what today is known as Sharpeville Massacre, were eight women and ten children while 180 people were wounded. Most of those killed were shot in the back. About 17 years later, in the same country, the most prominent leader of the black consciousness movement and “Father of Black Consciousness”, Mr. Steven Biko fell victim of politically motivated beating and torture by the South Africa security force. He died in detention on September 12, 1977, following the incident.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter of United States narrowly escaped assassination. A 34 year-old man, Raymond Lee Harvey, was later held by secret agents with a starter’s pistol in his pocket on the ground of the Los Angeles County Hall. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had to spread a dragnet for the arrest of suspects linked with the failed plot.

In the same year, in Sub-Saharan Africa, two former Ghanaian Heads of State were executed by firing squad in Accra on June 26, 1979. The slain former Heads of Government were General Fred Akufo and General Akwasi Africa. Others executed were former Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Roger Felli, former Naval Commander, Rear Admiral J. K. Auedune; ex-Chief of Defense Staff, General R. Kotei and former Air Force Commander, Air Vice-Marshal George Boakye.

These official and unofficial killings and attempted assassinations are at best, a tip of the iceberg as regards the waste of human lives in the quest to control government power, outside the shore of Nigeria.    

Political Motivated Killings in Nigeria

Perhaps, apart from the massacre that came to be known as “Iva Valley Shooting” in which 21 striking miners were killed and 51 others wounded by the police under British Government in Enugu on November 18, 1949, the first major act of violence and attendant death in the country was recorded in the Western Nigeria, generally referred to as the “Wild-Wild-West”, during the First Republic. This was due to the inordinate ambition of politicians in both the Central and Regional Governments. Hundreds of lives were lost in the Western Region in what was code named “Operation Wetie”, houses belonging to opponents and their supporters were literally wet with kerosene and petrol and thereafter set ablaze.

The dismal failure of the Central Government to play an impartial role and effectively contain the crisis soon led to tension nationwide. Consequent upon this, the first civil rule in post-independent Nigeria was terminated via a military coup-de-tat led by the late Major Kaduna Nzeogwu on the night of January 15, 1966. Some of the prominent actors in that Government including the Prime Minister, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of the embattled Western Region, Chief Ladoke Akintola and the Finance Minister, Chief Anthony Okotie-Eboh, were killed in the coup.

Somehow, it turned out that most of the casualties in that coup were of the Northern extraction, a fact which was soon to be misinterpreted as a deliberate plot against the North and Northerners. This was to mark the beginning of an orgy of violence in the country.

As Oniemola (2003) observes, “The bloody event of that night has forever changed the face of Nigerian politics but not the associated violence and mayhem. The coupists succeeded in eliminating most of the then top political leaders but failed to gain power. It is this event that ushered in almost three lingering decades of military rule in Nigeria during which Nigeria fought a bitter and costly civil war at a point”.

Before the outbreak of the civil war in 1967, there was the northern pogrom in which mostly Ibos from the East and Midwest resident in the North were massacred apparently in retaliation of the killing of their two prominent political leaders by the coupists. Like the First Central Government, the inability of the Federal Military Government to impartially manage the incident led to reprisal attacks on Northerners resident in parts of the Eastern Region and later, the war.  The political gambling of the politicians and their military counterparts coupled with their ethnic chauvinistic interests paved the way and laid a very sound basis for the eventual collapse of the first republic and the devastating 30-months Nigerian-Biafra Civil War where over two million people died. 

Since then, political killings have taken root in the country. Worse still, successive politicians and even Governments (including the military) could not resist the lust for power. While politics and politicking before the violent events of January 15, 1966, were played largely by politicians who seemingly took the nation and Nigerians for granted, contemporary politics in Nigeria has been mainly influenced by the power and money of former military rulers. This has been spiced up with the old brigade politicians of the first and second republics (Oniemola, 2003).

Apparently taking lessons from their predecessors, successive Nigerian politicians have unwittingly encouraged political violence and killings through their conducts and utterances. Any wonder then that till date, the culture of violence has not ended. The chain of aggression, violence and killing, which began in 1966, has not been broken.

The Military Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed was assassinated on his way to the office on Friday, February 13, 1976 on Ribadu Road, Dodan Barracks, Lagos.

As far back as 1979, during the elections which ended the General Obasanjo-led military regime and ushered in the Shagari-led civilian Government, violence broke out in Kano. Both the Police and Army were alerted on Tuesday June 26, 1979, following a weekend clash between party supporters. The violence was due to the disqualification of the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Aminu Kano. A crowd of mainly PRP supporters had marched in the streets on Sunday during which they attacked a police post and set a van belonging to the rival National Party of Nigeria (NPN) ablaze. 

In 1995, the former number two man in the Obasanjo military regime that took over from Murtala, General Musa Yar’Adua, was killed with poison in his blood veins in the Abakaliki prison by agents of the Abacha Government.

This killing and the attempts on General Olusegun Obasanjo in Yola prison gave rise to what is now known as the Evil Doctor

In 1996, Chief Alfred Rewane was attacked and killed in his home in Lagos by a team suspected to be hired killers. Despites efforts to make it look like a mere robbery incident, latest revelations and confessions by self-style assassins have shown that it was a political assassination job.

The former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige was assassinated in his bedroom in Bodija, Ibadan on December 23, 2001. As usual, the Government was quick to point accusing fingers at armed robbers. This though, did not go down well with the populace; the mystery of the assassination remained unsolved.   

On Monday, July 8, 2002, violence broke out in Nembe in Bayelsa State when two rival cults loyal to two prominent government officials in the community clashed. No fewer than six persons were feared dead in the clash. Thereafter, one of the surviving victims of the Nembe mayhem, Mr. Nickson Odiabara, accused a commissioner in the State of masterminding the crisis. Odiabara alleged also that his left arm was chopped off by some of the men loyal to the commissioner.

A few months later in Rivers State, a political trip to Okrika by the former OMPADEC boss and chieftain of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Chief A. K. Horsfall and three Governorship aspirants narrowly escaped death in the hands of suspected party thugs in Okrika.

In February 2003, the Senatorial candidate of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) for Orlu Zone in Imo State, Chief Ogbonnaya Uche alias “OGB”, was shot dead by unknown gunmen.  About a week later, the village of Jato-Aka in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State received its share of political violence.  An ANPP Chieftain, Chief Paul Unongo had visited the rural community and hell broke loose. At the end, the community lay in ruins with the streets strewn with dead bodies. Among the dead was a 90-year-old man and father of Governor Akume’s aide, Pa Koringo.

Perhaps, one of the outstanding cases of political killing was the assassination of the South-South Zone Coordinator of the ANPP, Dr. Marshall Harry, on March 5, 2003 in Abuja where he was attending a political meeting of his party. Although the police later paraded some suspects who said they shot him during a robbery attack in his home, people suspected that they were criminals hired to confess to an offence they did not commit if only to assuage public outrage. Apart from the fact that there were obvious contradictions in the suspects’ televised statements, the same suspects were later quoted by some newspapers to have confessed that they were goaded into saying that they were involved in the crime. Few days after Dr. Harry was felled, the National Chairman of Nigerian Advanced Party (NAP), Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, alleged that a secret cult sent him a death threat, advising him to drop his Presidential bid or face the music. 

Another political killing was recorded in May 2003, when three persons including the Nassarawa State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Mrs. Memuna Katai, were reported killed on the day of the State House of Assembly elections which held nationwide on May 3, 2003. Mrs. Katai according to a News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) report was killed by irate youths in Tolo town when violence erupted during voting in the area. It was also reported that 8 other people were killed in another round of political violence in Delta State the same day.  

On August 19, 2001, Hon Monday Mgbor from Khana Constituency in the Rivers State House of Assembly (RSHA) was murdered in cold blood at his gate. His lovers claimed he was grassroots-man who could have posed a threat to his political rivals.

On December 19, 2001, Mr. Odunayo Olagbaju, a member of the Osun State House of Assembly (OSHA) was assassinated in front of the Moore Police Station, Ile-Ife, Osun State.

On November 25, 2002, unknown assailants killed Dele Aroja a PDP Gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos.

On March 3, 2003, Mr. Emily Omope (aka Thatcher), an Alliance for Democracy (AD) member died at the University Teaching Hospital, Ibadan after ad acid attack in December, 2002.

In 2003, Dr. Ayo Daramola, a PDP Gubernatorial aspirant in Ekiti State and a Consultant on Social Protection and HIV/AIDS to the World Bank Country Office in Abuja was murdered in his bedroom at his home town Ijan – Ekiti.

The South-South Vice-Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Aminasoari K. Dikibo was assassinated in April 2004 in the car he was traveling. Similarly, the Government blamed armed robbery attack for the murder. 

On May 15, 2005, Alhaji Sulaimon Olajokun, a chieftain of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), a Lagos-based businessman and financier of the group was murdered on his way to Lagos from Ile-Ife, Osun State.

On July 27, 2006, Engineer Funso Williams, PDP Gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos State and Chairman, Board of Directors of Nigerian Maritime Authority (NMA), was murdered.

In 2010, Ahmed Onipede, a former Special Adviser on mineral Resources to former Governor of Lagos State, Senator Bola Tinubu was murdered by unknown assailants.

Yesterday, hundreds of women from Atta Ikeduru Local government area of Imo state staged a protest against the assassination of their son and former LG chairman, Mr Brendan Oguine who was assassinated last weekend by unknown gunmen.

The women took their protest to the Imo State Government House. In a statement addressed to the State Governor
Rochas Okorocha, and signed by eight women leaders of the Atta Women Association, the women alleged that the former council chairman was brutally murdered because of some vital documents in his possession in connection with the Ezeship tussle between the families of Okereke and Ugwueto. The women also accused the Police of non-nonchalance, claiming that all those arrested in connection to the murder were hastily released without proper investigation.

Expressing concern on the assassination galore in the country recently, Chief Audu Innocent Ogbeh, one of the founders of the newly registered All Progressive Congress (APC) and former Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in an exclusive interview with a national newspaper revealed that the PDP which he once chaired is a party of killers amongst other things. According to Ogbeh, “I fell victim to an assassination attempt in Benue on December 7, 1998 when a former military man sent a gang of nine to have me murdered in my house. There was no investigation till tomorrow. It was not an issue”. He also revealed that “I escaped three assassination attempts …. I was nearly kidnapped on August 11, 2005 by five men, three in police uniform, and two in plain clothes in two unmarked cars. I later found they were sent by a certain leader of the party. I was to be picked, shot and dumped in the bush because some of the policemen confirmed it to a friend of mine”. He concluded by querying why he have to stay in the party where death is the only instrument of resolution of disputes or disagreement.

The afore-listed incidents are just part of a long list of cases of violence and violent killings recorded within and outside the country.  The cited reported cases of political assassinations and attempts are pointer to the levels of violence into which Nigeria political landscape has descended. The orgy of violence and political induced killings has continued unabated in virtually all the States of the Federation. The maneuvering for 2015 general elections is already heightening the fear of violence across the country. There are also evidences of stockpiling of arms by some unidentified politicians across the country. Recently, a State Governor alleged that some politicians were training guerillas in preparation for the 2015 general elections. The threat to make Nigeria ungovernable which manifested in the dreaded Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria is yet to be addressed. Those who issued the threat and their agents-of-death are walking the streets freemen. In the same vein, several warlords and terrorists are also threatening fire and brimstone if their candidates failed to win the 2015 President Elections.

Theories of Violence and Aggression

The contributions of social psychologists have helped security practitioners analyzed both the inner and environmental causes of violence behaviours. We now know that all violence does not result from frustration. People take to violence for different reasons and in reaction to different factors. According to Berkowitz (1978) frustration is simply one of a host of different factors that can potentially lead to violence.  Furthermore, there is the growing reasoning that whether frustration will indeed produce such effects depends largely on its intensity and its perceived legitimacy. It is only when violence is strong and viewed as arbitrary or illegitimate does it tend to increase the likelihood of later violence.


Role of the Mass Media in Perpetuating Violence

The role of the media of mass communication in violence has attracted sustained debate across the world. In recent times, many have argued that continued exposure to filmed or televised violence cause an increase in similar behaviour among viewers. In their study  Kimble, Garmezy, and Zigler (1971) disclosed that in the US, the average child spends more than 1,200 hours a year watching television, more time by 100 hours or so than he spends in school. Much of what the child sees on the television screen is violence. Wiggins, Renner, Clove and Ross (1971) estimated that between the ages of 5 and 14, the average child watches the violent destruction of 13,000 human beings. This according to vide spread opinion is reflected in a pronounced increase in the level of personal violence in the form of crime, political terrorism, assassination and cultism. 

Studies have shown that exposure to media violence seems to weaken the inhibitions of viewers against engaging in similar behaviour. Berkowitz (1984) argued that such exposure may arm viewers with new techniques for attacking and harming others just as watching others engage in violent actions can exert effects upon viewers’ cognitions.

Perhaps another dimension to violence and political killing that is prevalence in Nigeria is the issue of hate. Experts have tried to link hatred, most times inexplicable, with violence and aggression. Writing in one of its issues, the religious magazine, Awake (1996) wonders why there is “so much hate” within the human race. The magazine explains that there are two types of hatred – the positive and the negative hatred. It observed that the positive hatred is beneficial because it is an “intense hostility and aversion toward things that are harmful or that could be detrimental to personal relationship”. No doubt, if everyone has this kind of hatred, the world would surely be a better place to live in. but, “sad to say”, as the publication observes, “imperfect humans tend to hate the wrong things for the wrong reasons”. In its reasoning, negative or destructive hatred derives from various factors including prejudice and ignorance.

Destructive hatred is based on prejudice, ignorance, or misinformation and is usually triggered by fear, anger, or sense of injury. Not having a proper basis, this hatred results in bad and repeatedly gives rise to the question, WHY? We know people whose characteristics or habits irritate us at times and with whom we find it hard to interact. But, irritation is one thing; the desire to do people bodily harm is something else.

We, therefore, may find it difficult to comprehend how person can nurse feelings of hatred for entire group of people, oftentimes, people he does not even know. They may disagree with his political views, belong to a different religion or be of another ethnic group but is that a reason to hate them? Still, such hatred exists.  In Africa, hatred led to the Nigerian-Biafra Civil War of 1967 – 1970 in which over 2 million people died. Hatred caused the Hutu and Tutsi tribes to mutual slaughter in Rwanda in 1994, causing one reporter to ask, “How did so much hate accumulate in so small a country?”

The February 15, 1996 edition of Awake magazine in its analysis observes that people are inherently selfish and that, “selfishness, if not kept under control, can turn into hatred”. In most cases, people kill and maim out of hatred even when it is unjustifiable. Hatred blinds man’s eyes of sympathy and consideration for the other man who may have wrong him knowingly or inadvertently.

About twelve years earlier, the same magazine in one of its articles on crime (including killing), attributes the situation to a flaw in the judicial system of many countries. Quoting from the Scriptures, the magazine pointed out that men do evil so boldly, “because sentence upon a wicked act is not promptly carried out”. In many parts of the world, the slow grinding of the legal process favours the criminal and encourages crime. Other contributory factors include poverty, hunger, unemployment, drugs and poor or lack of parental upbringing.

The failure of Government to ensure speedy trial of crime and maintain order and security leads citizens to look more positively on authoritarian alternatives. It has also been canvassed by G. Bingham Powell, Jr. (1984) that beside population size, the degree of modernization, the extent of ethnic fictionalization, and the constitutional arrangements are “systematic predictors” of deaths by political violence whereas the political parties and electoral patterns could mediate the impact of modernization on rioting by way of explaining the nature of relationships between the various groups of interests, the reverse seems to be the true for modernization and deaths by violence.  Powell, Jr. observed that in most, the poorer and less modernized countries are much more likely to have more daily violence, regardless of their voting turnout. He argued that the countries with more representational constitutions tend to have slightly fewer deaths by political violence. This tendency, unlike the relationships with rioting and voting activity, does not seem to be mediated through the party system and citizen actions. The attempt to model the basis of deadly violence brings out once again, the conclusion that deadly violence is not a product of patterns of citizens involvement and support, but of the strategic efforts of small groups of political elite class.

As Powell puts it, “These elites respond rather directly to the strains and limitations of ethnicity and lower modernization, to the checks of constitutional structure, the policies of political opponent”. He reasons that the reactions to deadly violence by leaders of the major contending political parties are extremely important to the ability of democracy to survive violent shocks. The interaction between the political party leaders and their supporters, he maintained, is both directly and indirectly a weighty factor in the strategies adopted by the leaders. In a multi-party system like ours, we should expect controversy, tension and maneuvering not deadly violence.

Efforts to understand the origin and impacts of fate violence must include, at least, consideration of the goals and strategies of the armed activists and their leaders who organize it. Furthermore, ethnic conflicts that intensify within the polity can also spark simultaneously the deadly violence of the lynch mob or the armed assault of small groups of retaliators or aggressors on members of the other faction.

At this stage, it is perhaps necessary to take a look at the strategic objectives and consequences of organized violence. As can be seen from studies, most of the deaths from political violence in the democracies resulted from organized armed attacks by political groups. Powell observed that these refer to attacks on political opponents, on the symbols of government, or on unprotected citizens. In each of these cases, a number of personal and political motives were involved.

Approached from a strategic perspective, organized political violence has three basic objectives, namely:-

a.       To change the bargaining rules of the democratic game.

b.      To undermine the support enjoyed by the regime or its major parties.

c.       To intimidate the opposition while mobilizing support.

 Powell posits that under certain conditions, any political group may be tempted to use violence for one of these purposes. No group gets its way all the time, even those which had hold on power may be threatened with its loss; violence may seem to be one way of changing a losing position. In his words, “by the same token, each of these temptations can under some conditions generate responses that can lead to overthrow of democratic government”.

 He was however quick to remind us that the emphasis on strategic basis of organized violence is not to downplay the importance of other motivations for the individuals involved. According to him, studies of terrorism often suggest that “some terrorists are pathological personalities, cloaking in political purpose, deep-seated rages, and distortion at injustices suffered by self, family, and friends “are often critical factors in turning the sympathizing dissident into an active terrorist.

Democracies tend to claim to offer or provide non-violent political resources to the dissatisfied. However, the terrorist in a democratic society would want to encourage himself to reject this claim. Thus, given the dangers and inhibitions involved in the game, it is not surprising that oftentimes, those recruited to the use of violence are driven by angers that make that use personally satisfying. In virtually every society, it is likely that individual for whom the use of violence would provide some internal satisfactions can be found.

Assassinations by pathological disturbed persons, for example, are a hazard of political prominence everywhere, although availability of small arms and light weapons and cultural channeling of violence have effects on the frequency of attempts in Nigeria. Equally worthy of mention is the fact that where the political parties dominating the regular political processes are themselves divided in their views of the terrorists and their demands, the government itself becomes vulnerable to armed intervention and deadly violence.

Related to this, is the effect of multi-party wrangling. Parties that are in principles committed to the democratic system and to moderate or widely acceptable policies may become locked in violent strife with their political opponents and in the process, succumb to the temptation to attack and harass them. This is basically aimed at arousing the violent passions of their supporters, or at least, to meet violence with violence.

We find in the Nigerian case in particular that inordinate ambition to amass wealth and power through corrupt and mindless manipulation of the electoral process has  since our political independence often been  identified as the principal factors in political upheavals and consequent deadly violence. As it was in the “Wild-Wild-West” of the 1960s, so it has been till the 2009 general elections in which scores of both “guilty” and innocent lives were wasted through political killings. Rivers State crisis is at boiling stage; perhaps, a “Wild-Wild-Rivers” is in the making.


Desperate politicians Cause Political Violence

Nigeria since independence has been immersed in a deluge of crises bordering on good governance. Not long after independence, politicians allowed the country to be engulfed by political upheavals such as insatiable hunger for power, corruption, sectional or tribal interest culminating in horrendous political violence, blackmail and intrigues, apparent lost of control by the Federal Government which finally brought about the sacking of the first republic by mutinous soldiers led by late Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu on January 15, 1966.  This event changed the face of Nigerian politics and ushered in almost three lingering decades of military rule, during which Nigeria fought a bitter and costly civil war at a point. Since then, accusation, instigation, recrimination and financial impropriety or corruption have continued to rock our very political foundation and threatening the honour associated with the genuine desire to serve one’s country and people. The political elites also fashioned out the country into different cautions and spheres of interest and began to influence jostles to grab whichever power and retain power at all cost. Greed and sheer lust for power became the leading factor for these immoral and unorthodox methods to gain and retain political power. Theatrically, unbridled display of avarice and savagery could not have been anything less because it is said, “where power is, there also are conflicts and turmoil”.


Not long ago, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, in reaction to the murder of the South-South Coordinator of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), Dr. Marshall Harry attributed the assassination to politicians who want to perpetuate themselves in office. Said he, “I blame ourselves, politicians, office holders, for raising the tempo of violence. Some of us are bent on coming back whether we performed or not. I think the right thing is to allow the electorate to choose for themselves and not for us to impose ourselves on them or insist on certain people being there”. The then Governor of Sokoto State  minced no words in pointing out that the killing of political rivals for any form of advantage is unnecessary, as it is a waste of human lives. Failures in politics carry high cost often counted in human lives. For instance, the tragedies of January 15, 1966 coup resulted in the Nigerian-Biafra Civil War; the subsequent coups and counter-coups, made vivid the extend of political failures in Nigeria. Squabbles, wrangling and subterranean moves have been regular features of the Nigerian political scene.


Public appeal to halt and the condemnation of political violence and killing notwithstanding, there have been allegations of arm stockpile towards a showdown among political opponents during past elections. Politicians have refused to learn from history. On 30th January, 2014, the State Security Service (SSS) operatives intercepted high-calibre ammunition in a 20-foot container at the Port Harcourt Port in Rivers State. The interception of the ammunition raises fears of impending violence in the state ahead of the 2015 elections. The vessel carrying the lethal cargo, MV Iron Trader, came from Panama in Central America. The captain is said to be under arrest. Also being held are the agent and six crew members. Meanwhile, they are undergoing interrogation at the SSS office in Port Harcourt, while the container is being guarded by a combined team of SSS operatives, soldiers and policemen.

The Challenges

The Nigerian political class is greatly faced with the challenges of how to turn around and attain good governance; the turning around of the ever ailing economy; containing the astronomical growth of her population to equal the mathematical growth of the economy; how to contain and remove political thuggrey during elections; how to stop the siphoning of public funds; how to check  political violence in various communities across the country and how to heal the seeming disconnect of the citizenry with politics and address the challenges of political leadership. As the violence and assassinations continue across the length and breadth of the country with scathing security reviews from inside and outside, it becomes imperative to proffer solutions or provide a design for effective security and protection of lives of those likely to be added to the statistics or who feel threatened by political opponents.


Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, OFR has told Nigerians and the world that there would be peaceful polls in 2015. Speaking as a guest on the personality programme of the Kaduna-based Liberty radio, on Saturday 25, January, 2014, Jega warns politicians to do away with their “do-or-die” attitude to elections. He also revealed that “politicians go from trying to persuade officials of INEC to do them favours and when this fails, resort to threats, and even violence”. According to the INEC boss, “obviously the mentality of do or die, or winning by hook or crook means which is a dominant tendency in the mindset of politicians in Nigeria” is responsible for increasing violence in the country. He emphasized that “if it does not change, no matter what adequate and efficient preparation of the Commission (INEC) the integrity of the election will always be undermined.


On the other hand, each time there was an assassination, the government has always promised to track down the assailants. We all know that this is more of a fairytale than reality judging from many unsolved assassination cases. In these times of mounting political intolerance and extreme violence, as we have witnessed regrettably, and top politicians are being killed or assassinated, communities usually engaged in political warfare, and common bloodthirsty criminals take advantage of the opportunities presented.


Targets of Political Assassination

Anyone can be target of political killing. As targets for such attacks are numerous and varied, without being emotional about the issue of political violence, any reasonable politician of substantial standing or clout is anxious to dispel at once the attitude that suggests, “it could not happen to me”. What is more important still is that, most politicians are now realizing that, yes, it could happen to them. Undoubtedly, past and present events in Nigeria’s political landscape have remind everyone just how vulnerable politicians, including those seeking political offices, or party stalwarts can be o determined adversaries and assailants.


Owing to the current threat of extreme political violence throughout the country, politicians are now taking all reasonable precautions for their own protections and those of their political sons/daughters and apprentices who are most likely the targets of extremely violent political opponents. It has become imperative for greater security or increased security awareness and measures put in place to prevent occurrence or at least minimize risk.


All Hands Must Be On Desk

It seems somewhat difficult to proffer solution to our problems with the crop of our present political class in the country. But, it is said, “man the problem, man the solution”. On that ground I make bold to say considering the enormous challenges confronting the country and the mindset of the political class as it concerns political violence and killings all hands must be on desk to turn the table around. It is no gainsaying that the containment of violence is one of the goals of any genuine democratic regime.  Unfortunately, democracy is a political system that gambles that mass discontent can always be channeled through the electoral system. But, this has not always been the case especially in Nigeria where violence is not only seen as a political strategy but as means to acquiring and retaining political power and amassing wealth by illegitimate means.


Political party involvement in violence is dangerous to the survival of democracy. Experience has shown in the case of Nigeria that most governments often take less than adequate measures to tackle the problems of violence and political killings. This should not be the case. Rather than paying lip service to the problem, government and indeed the entire society should see it as a serious challenge demanding urgent attention.


Many Nigerians are already wondering why the Federal Government has not find a lasting solution to the worrisome spate of political motivated killings and violence in the country. Many are also pointing to Boko Haram insurgency in the northeastern Nigeria, political crisis in Rivers State and assassinations across the country and they are asking why is the Federal Government not showing enough concern and courage to halt the ugly trend? The Federal Government should be warned that if it fails to act fast and check the unpleasant situation, the country would be heading for doom and it could jeopardize the 2015 general elections and our democratic system.


It is therefore apposite to emphasize that beside official condemnation of political violence and killings, the government should be seen to bite by actively and effectively combating these ugly incidents. The various security agencies should be adequately equipped and empowered to track down and prosecute proven culprits. With socio-economic structures either in advanced stage of decay or somewhat non-existent, the breeding of character discontent and devious behaviours could not have in any way been richly fertilized. Therefore, deterrents, including stiffer penalties should be introduced while conditions that breed aggressors should be tackled to eliminate the tendency to resolve to violence and devious manipulations.

Lamenting the moral decay of our politicians, Louis Odion (March, 2003), observed that the challenges that our politicians now face is not the menace of meddlesome military overlords but the mortal danger posed by their own seeming loss of the sense of history.  He recalls that in 2002, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) floated the idea of making the political class swear to a charter of peace. Earlier, the PDP, ANPP, and AD, which existed before more political parties were registered, had met and fashioned a new code of conduct for politicians, part of which outlawed the breeding of thugs by any office seeker. Thereafter, a bill prescribing stringent penalties for promoters of violence in politics was sent to the National Assembly. But sad enough, the antiviolence bill, as Odion puts it, “ended up becoming a victim of the violence of intrigues between the Executive and the National Assembly”. The legislators objected to the passage of the bill into law on grounds that its provisions were too loose and could be used by the Executive to hound perceived opponents.

Odion then suggested that rather than dissipate precious energy on formulating more policies against violence, more attention should be focused on the nature of the country’s politics. This is with a view to doing away with those things that predispose action to violence.

Part of possible solutions then lies in combating corruption in governance, which has encouraged the “do-or-die” tussle for public office and power now seen and regarded as, “the ticket to public treasury and quick, effortless wealth”.

Germane to this is the need to discourage the desperation to remain in office as earlier mentioned. In this regard, a review of the Constitution to allow for say six (6) year single term for all elective political office holders at the National and State levels and four (4) year single tenure for all elective political office holders at the local government level should be revisited and considered.

The government should also tinker with the idea of a massive nation-wide political awareness campaign for the citizenry. Political awareness and motivation for populace participation in the political process in Nigeria has always been very low. Initiatives to prepare potential leaders and electorates had neither been properly articulated nor worked out perfectly well. The results have been falling standards of governance and public ethics and rising hate between the political class and the masses.

For convenience and simplicity, the foregoing solutions are itemized below:

1.      Our political class should learn to regard themselves as servants of the people and set a moral standard to be followed in all their activities.

2.      They should imbibe moral decency and learn from the civilized world where if you are criticized as wanting in the service of your people, you honorably resign your position.

3.      Government, as of necessity should cultivate in the people the ideas of good governance through initiating programmes that enlightened the masses; prepare potential leaders and the electorates to participate effectively in the political process.

4.      The political class should also endeavour to fulfill any promises made to the electorates during campaigns.

5.      The political elites should learning to be sincere and honest, and see politics as a game of choosing leaders and not a do-or-die affair.

6.      We should allow our culture and tradition to be our teacher and our Constitution as book of governance that must be respected, obeyed, well interpreted, and followed at all times irrespective of who and what is at stake. 

7.      The principles of separation of powers as entrenched in our Constitution should be recognized and allowed for fair play. 

8.      Government should wake up to its primary responsibility which is the security and welfare of the people. Where security failed, the government has failed.

9.      The independent electoral commission should ensure that there is a level playing ground for all politicians irrespective of their political parties.

10.  The youth should be cautioned to participate positively in politics and not to be used as political thugs, hired assassins and electoral box snatchers.

11.  As said earlier, economy revival will go a long way to create jobs, keep idle youths off the street corners and out of violence and crimes.

It is the constitutional responsibility of the government to ensure security of lives and properties. It is also the duty of the government to ensure that the polity is free from political violence and those phenomenon the create apathy and alienate the citizenry from politics. But, unfortunately, in Nigeria, both the government and the opposition encourage and partake in violence so as to perpetuate themselves in office or win elections. This situation has continued to pose a lot of security problems to the country and is continuously keeping the public at cross roads on issues concerning politics. In fact, these violent dispositions of our political class has made many Nigerians to stay out of the political process because they perceived that their lives are not save and the security of their properties cannot be guaranteed as both the opposition and government of the day employ violence as political strategy. These situations call for change of attitude. We must come together to redeem the nation.  We must come together to design a new course of action. Working together we can build a new vision for governance and politics in Nigeria. We need to decisively discard the current models of leadership based on criminality, exclusivity and ethnicity. We need a new breed of leaders, who can first rise above their aggressive nature, partisan loyalties and parochial passions. The government must ensure that the citizens acquire the appropriate knowledge and skills to make them informed participants and decision-makers in the political arena and not armed bearers, violence breeders and ballot box snatchers. Let us stop oiling our ballot box with blood. Enough is enough of these senseless killings and destruction of properties from time to time in the name of politics!


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Bede Onuoha                                                  The Elements of Socialism, Andre Deutsch, 1965.

Watchtower                                                    “Violence: Will It Ever End?” February15, 1996.    

Oniemola Junde                                              “Assassination: Preventive Strategies”, Security & Safety Magazine, Issue 48, 2003.

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Awake Magazine                                            “Sarajevo: From 1914 – 1994”, November 8, 1994.

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Odion Louis                                                    “Parties As New Weapons of Mass Destruction”, The Sunday Sun, March 6, 2003.

James Segun                                                    “Commissioner, 10 Others Killed In Political Violence”, Nigerian Tribune, May 16, 2003.

Agbese                                                            Murder: Bafarawa Accuses Desperate Politicians”, The Sunday Post Express, March 9, 2003. 

Oredipe Kola                                                  “A. K. Horsfall, ND Guber Aspirants Escape Death”, The Dolphin, November 20 – 26, 2003.

Ogoigbe Emmanuel                                        “Political Killings, Challenges to Government”, The Sun, Saturday March 22, 2003.

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Awake Magazine                                            “Does Crime Pay?” August 8, 1985.

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