Assassins take charge in Nigeria

A recent assassination attempt on a Nigerian politician is the latest in a series of high-profile hits in a country analysts say is headed towards a civil dictatorship.

The attempted assassination of the governor of the central Nigerian state of Benue, Chief George Akume, last Wednesday is suspected by many to be the handiwork of rival politicians who feel threatened by the ruling party’s policies.
Since then, gunmen have shot dead the head of the electoral commission and a ruling party candidate and his wife in the central state of Kogi in two separate killings.

These follow an attempt in December on the life of the director general of Nigeria's National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr Dora Akunyili.

The unsuccessful assassin's bullets pierced the windows of the director general's official car, narrowly missing her head.

Nigeria's political hierarchy was shocked by the attempted assassination of a woman respected for her leading role in combating the importation of illegal pharmaceutical drugs and narcotics into the country.

But only days later it awoke to hear of the successful assassination of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Chief Aminasoari Dikibo, on 6 February.

Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo described the killing as the handiwork of armed robbers, a pronouncement that caused uproar within the polity.

More recently, Niger State Governor Alhaji Abdulkadir Kure survived a gun attack whilst on a local tour. The governor of the south-eastern Abia state is now insisting that a plot to kill him is in motion.

On Wednesday - while Nigeria's leaders were discussing peace in the federal capital, Abuja - the governor of Benue was confronted by the indiscriminate bullets of suspected assassins while travelling with the former managing director of the country's national airline, Nigeria Airways

The former MD, Andrew Agom, died in the attack. He was sitting by the governor in his official jeep as they travelled to Abuja, en-route to Kaduna, to attend a Northern Governors Forum.

The incident occurred at about 1915 local time on 3 March near Nassarawa Eggon, a few kilometres from Akwanga in Nasarawa State, also in the north-central part of the country.

The former Airways boss was shot several times in the chest and back, while a police sergeant, Joseph Ngam, attached to the governor's security detail was killed by a bullet to the head.

Deputy inspector general of police, Sunday Ehindero, said in Abuja that police in Nassarawa, Plateau and Benue states had been directed to ensure that the perpetrators of the attack were promptly arrested.

The incident has raised questions as to who is behind the killings of prominent politicians in Nigeria.

Analysts say the number of political assassinations – both successful and attempted – have now superseded the numbers seen under the previous reign of Nigerian military ruler, General Sani Abacha, in a third of the time.

Many believe the killings and attempts are politically motivated and even sponsored.

In March 2003, a top opposition leader, Marshall Harry, was killed weeks before the country's elections.

In December 2001, Bola Ige, then minister of justice and a close political ally of President Obasanjo was shot dead in his home.

International human rights groups have long-accused accused Nigeria's ruling party and opposition groups of assassinating rivals and using other violent attacks to intimidate opponents and bolster support.

Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has warned Nigeria is gradually sliding into a civil dictatorship.

According to him, Nigerians are becoming disillusioned with the government’s interpretation of democracy.

Professor Soyinka has urged his countrymen to move for a democratic form of government and to ensure it thrives in Nigeria in order to save the country from the torment its suffered under the previous regime.

Violent crime, including politically motivated killings, has been on the rise in Africa's most populous nation since President Obasanjo was elected in 1999, ending 15 years of military rule.

More than a dozen senior politicians, including a former justice minister, have been killed in attacks since he took up his post.

Police have not solved any of the attacks.