February 14 Presidential Election: Mass Movement Out Of North For Fear Of Post-election Violence

As the February 14 presidential election draws closer, many Nigerians, especially nonindigene residents in various states in the northern part of the country including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja are fleeing their homes over fear of possible outbreak of violence after the election.
This is despite assurances by President Goodluck Jonathan that he will allow credible elections and provide adequate security for life and properties during and after the election. Saturday Telegraph gathered that many people who travelled home to celebrate Christmas and New Year at their states of origin are yet to return while those who have returned came alone without their families.
Findings by our correspondents across the Northern states revealed that those who did not travel home during the festive periods are already heading home with their families and belongings for what they call “fear of the unknown.” While those who are less privileged are running back to their home states, many members of the elite class are relocating to Dubai, United Arabs Emirate.
At some private schools, many pupils are yet to resume. Although authorities of the schools claimed that the pupils are being expected back on Sunday, it was gathered that parents are also wary of allowing their children to be in schools before the election period. An employee of Lead British Academy, Gwarimpa, told one of our reporters that only a few pupils resumed when school reopened last Monday but expressed optimism that many of them would be back on Sunday.
People-waiting-to-board-a-bus-at-a-garage
At Baze University, one of the private universities in Abuja, a student was seen seeking permission to travel to Dubai though the purpose was not known. Also, a top employee of the school disclosed that many students are yet to resume because they are with their parents outside the country and might not return until after the election. It is not clear yet whether federal government will order the closure of schools across the country before the election.
An official of the Federal Ministry of Education said such decision is subject to the election timetable, noting that government is yet to take any decision on that. A resident of the FCT who craved anonymity said he had already sent his entire family to his home state in anticipation of what could be the outcome of the February 14 election.
According to him, nobody knows what will happen if either President Goodluck Jonathan or Gen. Muhammadu Buhari wins or loses the election noting that as a man, he can find his way in case of any eventuality at the end of the polls than having his whole family inaround.
This fear also manifested across the nation’s capital as commercial activities are yet to fully pick up a week after the Yuletide breaks. Areas noted for heavy vehicular traffic at peak periods such as Berger Roundabout, Tipper Garage bridge, Dutsen Alhaji, Bwari Road are yet to experience the usual heavy traffic.
When our correspondent visited Jabi Motor Park, the FCT’s central and busiest motor park, the rate of return of buses from different states was still low. The chairman of the park’s branch of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Ojo Ogunsuyi, said there was no basis for Nigerians to be apprehensive about the election.
“Why are people afraid? Was June 12 not worse than this? Did anything happen? There’s no reason for people to be afraid or run away,” he said. However, when asked about the return of passengers from the South West and South East regions of the country to Abuja, three drivers who ply those routes confirmed that many residents of the nation’s capital who travelled with their families are coming back alone.
“My brother, everybody is afraid and as you can see, people are not returning with their families. Nobody is sure of what is going to happen after the election and that’s why those who went to their villages during the Christmas and New Year are not coming back,” said a driver who plies Abuja to Osogbo.
Another driver who plies Lagos to Abuja said that the failure of residents to return as expected has affected the revenue of investors of transport business. “The park is dry and our buses coming to Abuja are not as many as they used to because people are afraid of coming back. They want to stay back at their home states and watch what will happen after the election,” he said.
Also, there have been mass movement of people from the South South and South East in Kano involving mostly women and children. Mr. Benedict John, who spoke with Saturday Telegraph at YanLemo Motor Park, said he had decided to relocate his family because of the experience they had in 2011 post-election violence. Another resident, Mrs. Grace James, who was also waiting to board a bus at the park, confirmed that she was relocating to the South. “I’m going but I may return after the elections.
I like Kano, it is lovely and the people could live in peace with their neighbours. But you never can tell what will happen,” she added. Already, religious leaders have expressed concern over the mass movement of people from the northern part of the country, saying such could send a wrong signal to different parts of the country.
Speaking during a security stakeholders meeting organised by the Nigeria Police, Kano State Command, Chief Imam of Alfurqan Mosque, Dr. Basheer Omar and the Vice-Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the state, Isaac Bello, attributed the situation to inaround.
This fear also manifested across the nation’s capital as commercial activities are yet to fully pick up a week after the Yuletide breaks. Areas noted for heavy vehicular traffic at peak periods such as Berger Roundabout, Tipper Garage bridge, Dutsen Alhaji, Bwari Road are yet to experience the usual heavy traffic.
When our correspondent visited Jabi Motor Park, the FCT’s central and busiest motor park, the rate of return of buses from different states was still low. The chairman of the park’s branch of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Ojo Ogunsuyi, said there was no basis for Nigerians to be apprehensive about the election.
“Why are people afraid? Was June 12 not worse than this? Did anything happen? There’s no reason for people to be afraid or run away,” he said. However, when asked about the return of passengers from the South West and South East regions of the country to Abuja, three drivers who ply those routes confirmed that many residents of the nation’s capital who travelled with their families are coming back alone. “My brother, everybody is afraid and as you can see, people are not returning with their families.
Nobody is sure of what is going to happen after the election and that’s why those who went to their villages during the Christmas and New Year are not coming back,” said a driver who plies Abuja to Osogbo. Another driver who plies Lagos to Abuja said that the failure of residents to return as expected has affected the revenue of investors of transport business.
“The park is dry and our buses coming to Abuja are not as many as they used to because people are afraid of coming back. They want to stay back at their home states and watch what will hapflammatory remarks by politicians. Both religious leaders advised politicians to make their campaigns issue based rather than making derogatory remarks against one another.
In his remarks, the state Police Commissioner, Adenrele Shinaba, said the police are ready to curtail pre or postelection violence and warned politicians against making unbridled remarks during their campaigns. However, leaders of prominent socio- cultural associations in Kaduna State have said the mass exodus of people from the north was being exaggerated.
The community leaders who spoke separately to Saturday Telegraph yesterday on the telephone, said that although there was apprehension among their members over the coming elections, most of them are still in Kaduna. The leader of the State Chapter of Ohaneze, Mr. Austin Amaechi, said that although there were a few instances when those who went for the Christmas break had not returned, “most of us are still here.”
According to Amaechi, the executive of Ohaneze will pay an advocacy visit to a prominent Islamic cleric next week in order to sue for a peaceful election next month. He recalled that the group paid a similar visit to Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi a few days before last Christmas.
Speaking in the same vein, Alhaji Liadi Durowade, the personal assistant to the President General of the Yoruba Community in the North, Chief Abdul Ganiyu Oguntoyibo, said some of their members who went for the Christmas break had returned to Kaduna.
“If they are relocating from Kaduna, they would have told us,” he added. Durowade, who noted that their weekly meeting would commence next week, said that the Yoruba community had pledged their commitment to peaceful coexistence in the state when they met Governor Muktar Yero recently.
Also, the President of the Akwa Ibom community in the state, Constance Mbong, said that the insinuation of a mass exodus is not correct. According to him, Kaduna State is part and parcel of Nigeria, adding that the people of Akwa Ibom are Nigerians “so why should they relocate?”
However, the Secretary of Kaduna branch of Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Mr. Adamu Jalaludeen, said that there had been an increase in the number of passengers from the state to the South. The secretary who said the increase in passengers had nothing to do with the last Yuletide period, also noted that more northerners are relocating from the South East and South South to their states of origin.
Jalaludeen attributed the exodus to the fear of the unknown, especially the coming election, adding that some politicians in the state had abandoned their residences for hotels and also relocated their families from the city to their villages.

Author: News Editor

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