KANO, Nigeria–Above are the photos I took while perched in the administrator’s office at the Murtala Muhammad Hospital in the northern city of Kano, as young men wielding wooden planks marched by; as you can see by from the photos, I was not at the center of the street riots, only witness to the scene as wounded young men were brought into the hospital in wheelchairs and over the shoulders of their friends.
I saw the trouble as it started, as I took a motorcycle taxi from a university in town toward the hospital. I saw angry saw young men and boys mobilizing in the street as they begun to set bonfires of tires and wood ablaze, shouting “Only Buhari!” in Hausa and “We want Buhari!” and looking prepared for a fight–despite the fact that all of them were Buhari supporters protesting perceived rigging in the south.
At the hospital, the doctors I spoke with as police fired live rounds into the air to disperse rioters outside the hospital gate were disappointed, to put it lightly, to see the post-elections environment turn ugly. They said the youth were out for trouble and out to loot, and that the situation was not made better by the country’s politicians.
In my opinion, the defeated opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari could have done more to stop the riots as they kicked off this morning across the north. He should know better that allowing his young, unemployed, and disillusioned supporters to protest his defeat through violence on the streets will not change the results of an election that has been deemed largely credible by Nigerian and international observers.
Here is a short piece I filed for AllAfrica.com just now:
KANO — As the results of Nigeria’s largely peaceful vote became clear on Sunday evening, tensions began rising across the vast northern half of the country, which had strongly backed opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari in Saturday’s poll.
By mid-morning on Monday, young men and boys had taken to the streets of several cities, armed with wooden planks and lighter fuel, protesting the victory of the “accidental incumbent” Goodluck Jonathan, who won with what some said were unbelievable margins of more than 99 percent in his home state in the southern oil-rich Delta, while Buhari swept the northern vote. A map of these results is telling: Nigeria’s electorate is deeply divided over their presidential preferences.
Some voters, who turned out peacefully and in force on Saturday, appeared unwilling to accept the results on Monday.
In the historic northern city of Kano the same “ready army” of unemployed youth who have participated in political elite-sponsored rigging of past votes set up checkpoints and demanded that passersby express their preference for Buhari. Later, the protests became riots and young men targeted known supporters of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and burned cars outside the emir of Kano’s house. By late afternoon, a doctor at the Murtalla Muhammad Hospital in Kano told AllAfrica.com that he had seen 10 dead bodies and more than 15 gunshot wound victims in the hospital’s emergency ward.
Violence also struck the northern cities of Kaduna and Zaria, where witnesses said rioters lit bonfires and security forces shot in the air to disperse crowds.
At Murtalla Muhammad Hospital in Kano, a doctor expressed chagrin at the events, saying that the rioters were “out to steal and loot,” and didn’t have “any political ambition.”
The young men may have been drawn to the streets, however, by public statements made by Buhari and his party’s spokesmen, who filed a formal complaint on Monday afternoon to the Independent National Electoral Commission, accusing the ruling party of widespread rigging in the south.
“The results announced so far cannot stand based on the irregularities we have seen,” Buhari’s spokesman Yinka Odumakin told Reuters news agency. “In (the northern states of) Kano and Katsina there were reductions in our vote … We cannot accept these results as announced until cross-checks have been carried out by the electoral commission,” he said.
Observers from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African states lauded Saturday’s vote as fair and credible.