Nigeria Election Scenarios and Recommendations

Kano At-a-Glance

Current Governor
Mohammed Rabiu Kwankwaso

Current Ruling Party
All Progressives Congress (APC)

Key February 2015 Elections
National Assembly
State House of Assembly

CLEEN Map of Hot Spots for Election Violence

Peace Map ( Heat Map Jan 2009-Dec 2014

Key Political Dynamic


Kano state is one of the many Nigerian states that often experiences election related violence, whether over federal or local contests. Kano State has a long tradition of voting against the party at the centre. Because of this, there has never been a situation of one-party dominance in the state. Currently the two strong parties in the state are the APC and PDP. Although PDP in 2011 won the governorship election with a small margin, it lost the presidential election with a large margin, unable to win the 25% desired by its presidential candidate. The party won two of the three senate seats and majority of the number of House of Representatives. The ANPP which was the ruling party then won one seat senate, 11 of the state house of assembly and a few members of the House of Representatives.

Since last year, the tides have changed. The governor has defected from the PDP joining the APC, turning the state into an APC controlled state, with a majority in the state house of assembly, which itself was a result of the legislators decamping from the PDP to the APC. On the other hand, the former state governor, who was in the ANPP and was initially in the APC when the legacy parties merged, has now moved to the PDP, rekindled the long rivalry between the current Governor and the former Governor who is now Minister of Education. All the local government councils are under the control of the APC following a controversial election in earlier this year.

Since 2012, there also have been series of bombings and suicide attacks by Boko Haram in Kano which have killed many people. These bombing have taken place mainly in the Kano metropolitan local governments of Nassarawa, Municipal, Fagge, Kumbotso, Tarauni and Gwale. The possibility of such bombing occurring pre-election, and even during elections cannot be discounted. When this happens in the context of a very competitive election, matters could get completed.

There has been a history of political violence in the state, with politicians deploying Yandaba thugs to intimidate opponents. Kano has also experienced a series of ethno-religious riots. These were not widespread, however, and usually took place before Election Day. On Election Day itself, issues ballot box snatching and intimidation of votes and election officials have sometimes occurred. In 2011 however matters took a dangerous dimension following the presidential election resulting in widespread post-election violence in the state, mainly in the state capital.

Elections of 2011

In 2011, post-election riots took place in Hotoro, Kawo, Giginyu, Dakata of Nasarawa LG, Zoo Road, Hausawa, Gyadigyadi of Tarauni LG, Sheka,T/Maliki of Kumbotso LG, Gandu, Emirs Palace Road, Sharada,D/agundi, K/nassarawa, Sabuwar Kofa of Kano Municipal LG, and Dorayi, Chiranchi, Ja’in, Kabuga FCE of Gwale LG. Violence also occurred in Dala, Kura and Wudil LGs. The violence was not specially target at women but women like men also were victims of the indiscriminate attacks. At the beginning violence was directly against electoral officials and the PDP. It targeted powerful politicians from both the ruling PDP and opposition ANPP. For example, the residence of the former House of Representative Speaker, Ghali Naabba was set ablaze, the house of the ANNP stalwart, Alhaji Bashir Tofa was also attacked. The 2011 violence did not have respect even for the traditional rulers as attempts were made to attack the residence of the late Galadiman Kano, Tijjani Hashim. However later it turned into a class war, as any person seen in flashy car was turned into a victim.

Response to violence in 2011:

  • Government: there was appeal by government for the protesters to stop but the message was hardly able to reach the people who were already on the streets.
  • Civil Society in general: the violence took civil society organizations in Kano by surprise given its speed and its spontaneous nature. Civil society organizations did very little in intervening to restore peace and order.
  • Media: the media tried to calm down nerves but it is doubtful if people had listened to it.
  • Religious Leadership/Traditional Leadership: the speed of the violence caught religious and traditional rulers unprepared and therefore could only act later to assist in the restoration of order following the outbreak of violence in the city.
  • Youth groups/Women groups: while during the pre-election period, a number of youth and women groups did engage on campaign against electoral violence, once violence broke post presidential election, these organizations were not well prepared to play the role to deescalate the conflict.
  • Security actors: they worked hard in restoring peace and order but this was reactive as already many people had been killed while property had been vandalized and burnt.
  • Donors/Externals: no immediate response from donors and external actors to the crisis. A few groups might have been supported to carry out campaign against violence in the pre-election period however these campaigns which were done too close to the election from the perspective of impact were ineffective because the focus was on the need to carry out the activities quickly and to retire than doing a painstaking work with youth to win them away from violent engagement. And this cannot take place on the basis one-off workshop or distribution of IEC materials. It has to be sustained and multipronged engagement that must incorporate mean of livelihood constructions.

How effective was the response?

The response of the police was effective in bringing down the violence but it was reactive rather than preemptive. By the time police intervened, violence had already taken place and many people had been killed. This indicates weakness in terms of capacity of the security of security agencies to activate early warning response. Instead people got information about the violence either via the radio or by word of mouth. There was no early warning information. The reactive response of the security agencies might well have been due to a poor or absence of an effective early warning system.

Major Political Players in Kano State

Name Position Elected/
Party Additional
Mohammed Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso State Governor 2011 APC (1)
Abdullahi Umar Ganduje Deputy Governor 2011 APC (2)
Bello Hayatu Gwarzo Senator 2011 PDP
Kabiru Ibrahim Gaya Senator 2007 APC
Bashir Garba Mohammed Senator 2011 PDP

Additional Information:
(1) Although Governor Musa Kwankwaso has not declared his intentions to do so, there is a strong suspicion that he will run for President in 2015.
(2) Ganduje has announced his intentions to enter the 2015 governership race for Kano state

Elections in 2015

Election violence is likely to occur in the following areas:

  • Dala: one of the most densely and contested local governments whose votes every political party would want to get.
  • Nassarawa: this is the home of former Governor and now education minister Shekarau. Foreign Affairs Minister Aminu Wali and Senior Special to President on Agriculture in Schools, Barak Sani while on the side of the APC there are Nasiru Gawuna, a former local government chairman and now commissioner and several other political heavy weights
  • Wudil LGs: the two major parties are evenly present here and election may result in some form of violence
  • Fagge: this has the most cosmopolitan mix of people with especially Sabon Gairn being the major residential area of many people from are from Southern States living in Kano as well as Fagge itself and Bachirawa which are hosts to influx from northern parts of the country as well as from Niger.
  • Bichi: it has strong presence of the two major political parties. In particular, the present Secretary to the State Government is from here while on the PDP has also a number of influential people from the local government.
  • Kura: has historical antecedence for violence and has almost with no exception recorded violence in every election since the return to democracy in 1999
  • Kumbotso: this has a long history of violence and has always been hotly contested area

Contributing drivers and the dynamics of election violence:

  • The keen contest between the ruling APC which is determined to retain power and the opposition PDP which is equally determined to wrestle power from the APC.
  • The increasing acrimonious campaign in the context of lack of internal democracy within both parties that would fuel crisis
  • The increasing polarization of the population along ethnic and religious lines
  • The religious undertones that the presidential election is taking coupled with the circulation of various conspiracy theories which cast the federal government as the sponsor of the Boko Haram insurgency as political strategy to divide the north, undermine its unity and disenfranchise many people.


  • Politicians who are desperate to win election at all costs
  • Unemployed youth who make a living from servicing as political thugs
  • Strongly religiously-inclined who may who are unable to draw a line between politics and religion
  • Ethno-religious polarization which losers may tap into
  • The continuing insurgency
  • Political leadership that are not interested in allowing internal democracy to play out in the nomination of candidates to various elective offices

Types of violence that may occur:

  • Pre-election violence: this is highly likely to occur in a number of local governments. It will involve clashes between supporting of opposing candidates. (e.g. disruption of registration efforts, hijacking of materials, disruption/clashes at campaign rallies, political thuggery, sexual violence, bombings, sectarian violence, intimidation, assassinations or abductions of women and/or men candidates and family members, etc.)
  • Election Day violence: Election Day violence has often been in the form of ballots snatching and intimidation of voters. They could happen. However if there is effective deployment of security personnel, it can be curtailed and reduced and certainly managed to the extent that it will not affect the conduct or outcome of the election
  • Post-election violence: post-election violence has tended to be more destructive, snowballing into protests and riots with consequences on lives and property. As the scenarios below indicate, the possibility of violence is dependent on the combination of the outcomes of the party primaries election and the actual election. While in a few national assembly seats, there may be pre-election and election-day violence, it is the governorship and presidential elections are likely to result in the post-election violence. The key to prevention of post-election violence in the state is improved transparency in the conduct of the election, increased and effective deployment of security personnel, robust early warning system with appropriate mechanisms for containment and management of violence, and the effective engagement of youth through campaign by civil society, media, religious and traditional institutions against electoral violence. This must also factor in strategies to ensure that no Boko Haram attack take place in the context of the election

Main Actors

  • Political parties particularly the PDP and APC
  • Traditional rulers and institutions: who can serve as moderating influence
  • Civil society organization that can help to campaign again violence and to provide proactively early warning information
  • Media which can help to drive the campaign against electoral violence
  • Youth street gang that have often been used by politicians during election to intimidate voters and commit violent acts against the people
  • Youth to act as peer influence against the use of youth for electoral violence
  • The presence of credible civil society organizations that could engage in campaign against violence
  • Well respected traditional and religious institutions that could be leveraged upon to campaign against electoral violence
  • Well established radio stations that can play important role In the campaign against violence, with a well-entrenched culture of radio listening in the state

What Needs to be Done:

  • Ensure that conduct of election is free and fair
  • Engage politicians to educate their supporters that election is not do or die affair
  • Work with civil society and youth groups to campaign against violence
  • Initiate a mutual information sharing system and develop a robust early warning information system that can pick out quickly any sign of trouble and therefore activate a containment mechanism
  • INEC to develop and deploy confidence building strategies ahead of the election
  • Improve observation of the election that can give confidence to the people of the results
  • Develop a comprehensive situation analysis mechanism whose reports is constantly feedback to the people during the election (this will dispel rumours which are drivers of conflict development)

These reports are a collaborative effort of The Fund for Peace and other members of the Nigeria Peace and Security Working Group (PSWG) in Nigeria. These reports reflect the result of a participatory process with national and local-level stakeholders on potential risk factors and scenarios for the February 2015 Nigeria general elections.

For more information, please contact:
Nate Haken at The Fund for Peace, [email protected].