Religious motives underlie voter tensions; Christianâ€™s lead at polls triggers attack.
KANO, Nigeria, November 26 (Compass Direct News) -- Christians said violence over elections in the Sumaila area this month included a strong religious element, with Muslims killing one Christian in an attack on a Christian settlement.
Eyewitnesses said violence broke out in the Gani electoral ward of Sumaila on November 17 after news reports showed that the Christian candidate for councillor for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Zara Gambo, was ahead in the polls, signifying the first ever victory for a Christian in the area.
As a result, they said, Muslims attacked Christians in Gani town and in Gani Mission, a Christian settlement in the area, injuring several of them, destroying their houses and shops and killing elementary school teacher Danyaro Bala. He is survived by a wife and 11 children.
Sani Duma, Balaâ€™s younger brother, told Compass that he believes Muslims killed the local church elder in order to cow area Christians into submitting to Islam.
â€œReligion is at the center of this attack on us and the killing of my brother,â€ Duma said. â€œThe selection of only houses of Christians and their shops for destruction shows clearly that Muslims were out to force us into submitting to their hold on political leadership.â€
Duma said that area voters are all Hausas who speak the same language.
â€œWe are of one tribe, Hausa,â€ he said. â€œThe only thing that divides them and us is religion. While we in Gani Mission are Christians, they in Gani town are Muslims. Religion is therefore the prime motive behind the attack on us, as only houses of Christians were burned.â€
The administrator of the Sumaila Local Government Council, as well as the area divisional police officer, both declined to comment to Compass. On the night following the voting, Gov. Malam Ibrahim Shekarau blamed the PDP opposition for igniting violence in Sumaila.
Gov. Shekarau, an Islamic preacher, is considered an open proponent of the Islamization of Nigeria. The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which rules the state, introduced the Islamic legal code, sharia, in 2000.
In chaotic elections marked by accusations of fraud in which roaming, armed thugs kept voters from polls, the Kano government admitted to two deaths in Sumaila for a total of six throughout the state. The ANPP was reportedly declared the winner of the local government in Sumaila.
Among Sumaila Christians injured by rampaging Muslims, according to area Christians, was Danganye Barrau, who received machete cuts. Other injured Christians included Garba Buddi, Malam Saleh and Uba Bala.
Muslims burned the homes and shops of Christians Dan Wuye, Saleh Dogo, Malam Yakubu, and two others identified only as Anayo and James.
â€˜Your Vote for Your Religionâ€™
The Rev. Auta Jinta, deputy chairman of the Kano district of the Evangelical Church of West Africa (ECWA), agreed that religion was a catalyst for violence. Muslims looted the property of the Dan Wuye family, he said, with one of his sons, Jarmai, losing two motorcycles, 30 goats and six bicycles.
â€œThere is no doubt that religious sentiments were involved in this,â€ Rev. Jinta said. â€œToday in Kano, there is no separation between religion and politics. It is your vote for your religion, and your life for your religion.â€
The Rev. Nathan Tella, pastor of a local ECWA congregation in Gani Mission, said Bala was a member of the board of elders at the church and a key leader in the churchâ€™s development.
â€œI knew Danyaro Bala very well, and he has never been involved in partisan politics,â€ Rev. Tella said. He added that Bala was working at home during the voting. Later Bala went to visit a friend in Gani town, Rev. Tella said, and that night, after the election violence had subsided, Bala was ambushed and killed as he returned home.
â€œThe violence that broke out when it was getting clear that the Christian candidate would win is an indication that Muslims who control political power in Kano do not want Christians to be part of the government,â€ Rev. Tella said.
Duma, noting that his brother did not vote, said Bala spent that day working with his Guinea corn.
â€œMy brother on that Saturday did not go to the polling station, as he has no interest in politics,â€ Duma said. After the Muslims killed him as he returned home on his motorcycle, he said, they set his corpse and bike on fire.
â€œBecause he was ambushed and killed on Saturday night, we did not know about this, not until Bilkisu [Balaâ€™s daughter], who resides in Kano, received a phone call from a Muslim in Gani town informing her that her dad had been killed,â€ Duma said. â€œSince it was already late, we could not find the corpse until the morning of Sunday, November 18.â€
Duma said Bala, a teacher at the Gani elementary school, had never been a member of any political party.
â€œWe knew him to be a peace-loving person,â€ he said.
Copyright Â© 2007 Compass Direct