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Nigeria: is the recent oil violence connected to upcoming elections?

Group known for bombing oil pipelines has allegedly returned to the Niger Delta, just in time for Saturday's gubernatorial elections in President Goodluck Jonathan's home state.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / February 9, 2012

Bystanders look at damage from an improvised explosive device opposite the Nigeria Air Force bases in Kaduna, north central Nigeria, Tuesday.

Reuters

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, www.sahelblog.wordpress.com. The views expressed are the author's own.

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The Niger Delta is back in the news, both for the alleged return of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND – read a backgrounder here) and the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State, which was the site of a bitter primary election in November. Different sources give different views on how closely the recent oil violence is connected to Bayelsa’s electoral calendar. But clearly the Niger Delta is facing renewed political tension and renewed violence at the same time.

Nigeria last held national elections, including gubernatorial contests, in April 2011, but since then various governors have faced court challenges to their legitimacy. Some have won and remained in office, but others have not, reports the Daily Post. On January 27, the Supreme Court removed five governors from office (for the back story, see the Washington Post coverage here).

The situation in the state of Kogi is complicated by the fact that the state held a new election even before the ruling. But the other four states are holding gubernatorial elections this month. Adamawa State, in the Northeast, took place on Feb. 4, and delivered a win for Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Sokoto State, in the Northwest, will go to the polls on Feb. 18. But before that, two Niger Delta states – Bayelsa and Cross River – will hold elections on Feb. 11. For an overview of the political situation in each state, see The Nation's coverage here.

Bayelsa State has attracted considerable attention not only because of the bitter primary there, but also because it is the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan. Bayelsa has been under the control of the PDP since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, but that does not mean the state’s politics are dull. In 1999, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha became governor, with Jonathan serving as his deputy. Alamieyeseigha was re-elected in 2003, but in 2005 he was arrested in London on charges of money laundering and was impeached. Jonathan became governor, only to be selected as vice-president in 2007 – and the rest of Jonathan’s story is well known. Back in Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva was elected governor in 2007, but faced a challenge in 2008 and had to contest a re-run election, which he won.

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