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Political Assassination Triggers Outrage in Nigeria


Nigerian politicians are condemning the assassination of a leading candidate to be governor of the coastal city of Lagos. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA that the killing has prompted concerns that the run-up to elections next year could be bloody.

The killing of Funsho Williams was the second apparent political assassination this month. Inter-ethnic killings and clashes between supporters of rival politicians have been on the rise in Nigeria as the west African nation prepares for crucial elections next year.

Funsho Williams was a leading member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), which is locked in a bitter internal struggle over party tickets for coveted posts.

Wunmi Bewaji, a member of the Federal house of Representatives, worries about the impact of the political violence.

"I [have] been worried in the last one month, being in Lagos, with the intra-party strife within the PDP. It has been so bad that it is making people to feel uncomfortable in the state. In the last three weeks, there have been three clashes, one in Badary, one in Ikorodu, one in Kushafe. So, the atmosphere has been very, very bad," he said.

Bewaji says the violence could seriously undermine the credibility of the elections, and Nigeria's democracy.

"The greed for power, the desperation for power is taking over the reasoning faculties of some people, and that is where we need to be very careful," he added. "Because any election where violence is allowed to play a prominent role, cannot be adjudged to be a free and fair election. Where candidates are even afraid of coming out of their houses, that cannot be a free and fair election."

The badly equipped police have shown limited ability to halt the politically motivated violence, and several apparent political killings since the return to democracy in 1999 remain unsolved.

The presidency, parliamentary and governors seats are at stake in elections scheduled for April 2007.

The elections should mark the first time an elected government hands over power to another since Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.

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