JOS – 27 February 2021: Nigeria’s Jos, the capital of central Plateau State on Sunday remained peaceful after keenly contested House of Reps by-elections that nearly tore the city along religious lines.
By-elections held on 26 Feb in Jos North, Bassa and Pankshin Local Government Areas to replace deceased lawmakers representing the areas.
Similar elections held in two other States on the same day. But the Jos North and Bassa cases attracted high religious interests due to long history of sectarian violence in the areas.
The contest was chiefly between a Christian candidate from an opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and a Muslim candidate from the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).
The PRP candidate – a former member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) reportedly defected to protest the emergence of a “government favoured” Christian flag-bearer for the party.
During the campaigns, Christian and Muslim leaders attempted to influence voters based on their religious sentiments.
On Friday, a renowned Muslim cleric in the city stood before a large crowd of worshippers to demand that they vote for their fellow Muslim. In the widely circulated video, the cleric claimed his religion in the State hadn’t much representation in government.
But on Sunday, electoral officials announced the PDP candidate as winner of the election – against popular predictions of a Muslim winner after the cleric’s sermon.
Declaring the results in Jos, the Returning Officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Yinka Oyerinde said Mr. Musa Agah of the PDP polled a total of 40,343 votes to beat his closest rival, Muhammed Adam Alkali of the PRP, who scored 37, 757 votes.
The candidate of the APC – Abbey Aku, also a Christian scored 26, 111 votes, Oyerinde announced.
But contrary to earlier premonitions by analysts of a possible violence after the announcement of results, the city remained calm throughout the day.
The elections were also “orderly” according to the Governor of the State, Simon Lalong who credited electorates, securities and INEC with the achievement.
In a statement issued by his press Officer – Makut Macham, Lalong “commended the electorate for coming out to vote for their candidates of choice and conducting themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner which ensured that there was no breakdown of law and order throughout the process.”
“He also appreciated the Independent National Electoral Commission for conducting the exercise in a transparent manner and ensuring that all parties and candidates had a level playing ground to campaign and participate in the bye-lections,” reads the statement.
“The Governor is also happy with the role played by the security agencies who maintained neutrality and supported INEC and other stakeholders towards a successful conduct which again reinforces the dividends of the peace process that his Rescue Administration has toiled to build since coming to office,” the statement adds.
The Senator representing Plateau north at the Nigerian Senate – Istifanus Gyang gave a parallel statement.
“The Senator salutes the electorates for coming out to freely exercise their franchise and also commends INEC for conducting free, fair and credible bye election. He equally applauds the Police and other security agencies for providing needed security for peaceful conduct of the election,” says Gyang’s statement issued by his spokesman Musa Ashoms.
Muslim followers from both the PDP and APC have also shared congratulatory messages to Mr. Agah on social media. A popular supporter of Alkali – Sheikh Sheikh in a post on his Facebook timeline said the election was a “win-win”.
“This is but a flawless victory,” he wrote.
The election outcome has silenced critics that the city was unsafe. But fears of terrorist attacks in adjoining villages might not have been addressed by the calm in the city.