Nigerian candidate for governor of Lagos strangled

By Tume Ahemba

LAGOS- A candidate to be governor of Nigeria’s main city of Lagos has been killed in what police said on Thursday could be a political assassination, the latest sign of rising violence ahead of general elections next year.

Funso Williams

of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was murdered on Wednesday at his Lagos home, police said.

“He was strangled in his study by unknown persons last night,” federal police spokesman Haz Iwendi said. Four policemen guarding the residence have been arrested.

“We are not ruling out any possibilities, we are not looking only at political assassination, we are looking at all strands,” Iwendi said by telephone from the capital Abuja.

Williams, runner-up in the race to be governor of Lagos three years ago, was widely seen as a favourite for next year.

“The brutal murder … brings once again to the front burner the issue of politically motivated violence which has engulfed the nation in the last couple of months,” said an opposition party, the Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD).

“This is not the kind of democracy we stand for,” the ACD said in a statement, urging the government “to ensure that the assassination of Engineer Williams does not join the list of unresolved politically motivated murders in the land.”

The presidency and two thirds of powerful state governors’ seats are up for grabs in polls billed for April 2007, which should mark the first time one elected government hands over to another since Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.

Africa’s most populous nation was ruled almost continuously by military dictators for three decades.

Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital with a population of about 13 million, is controlled by the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which has its base mainly in the western region, and there is a bitter rivalry between the PDP and the AD.

The current governor is not standing in 2007 because he is serving his second and constitutionally final term.

The world’s eighth biggest oil exporter returned to civil rule in 1999 after three decades of almost continuous military rule, but violence remains a feature of political life.

The run-up to the 2003 vote was marred by electoral violence and by ethnic bloodletting fomented by politicians.

Early this month, an ACD governorship candidate was killed in the central state of Plateau in what police described as a political assassination.

Jesse Aruku was abducted after attending a rally of the new party and his body was found in the bush the next morning, riddled with bullets, family members said.

Before Aruku’s assassination, at least six people had been killed in politically motivated violence in the southeastern commercial city of Onitsha, while the houses of two politicians in the southern state of Rivers were bombed, among other incidents.

The use of hired thugs to intimidate opponents or voters is a common tactic in many parts of Nigeria. — Reuter

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