As Nigeria prepares to go to the polls to elect its new president on 14 February, in what is seen as the first election contested by two rival parties, millions of Nigerians may not be able to cast their votes after all. A suicide bomb attack in a north-east Nigeria school killed at least 47 and injured 79 others as students had gathered for a morning assembly on Monday. Flaring Boko Haram violence in the northern states has left many towns ravaged, thousands dead and millions displaced. Over the last weekend, the group launched a heavy attack on Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeast Nigeria, as it seeks to build an Islamist state in the region. But it is not just the ruthless terror group that has posed a grave threat to the elections; the religious north-south divide, a seemingly ill-prepared election commission and plain logistics could be just as explosive.
The terror group has already rendered much of the country’s north-east inhabitable, and its brutal attack on the town of Baga at the beginning of the year almost ‘wiped it off the map’, according to Amnesty International, which accessed satellite images to showcase the widespread destruction.
As many as 2,000 people were feared killed in the attack on Baga and neighbouring towns, and terror group left more than 3,700 structures damaged or completely destroyed. Given that thousands are now internally displaced, polls may be the last thing on their minds.
Compounding the chaos, Boko Haram’s indiscriminate use of suicide bombers, even young girls, is likely to keep scores of people away from polling booths.