Nigeria’s State Security Service (SSS) on Tuesday freed the deputy head of the main opposition coalition on bail, a day after he was detained over comments he is reported to have made warning of violence in next year’s presidential polls.
Nasir el-Rufai was quoted in daily ThisDay last Thursday as saying the election scheduled for February 14 next year was “likely to be violent and many people are going to die,” as has happened in previous elections in Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer.
The SSS later put out a statement warning against such “inflammatory” remarks.
“He has been granted administrative bail,” SSS spokeswoman Marilyn Ogar said by telephone on Tuesday. She declined to say what exactly he had been charged with.
There was no comment from the All Progressives Congress (APC), of which Rufai is the second in charge, and he was not immediately contactable.
The elections are expected to be the most closely fought since the end of military rule in 1999 and Nigeria is bracing for politically orchestrated violence. Trouble is traditionally stirred up either to intimidate voters before the ballot or to dispute the results.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters are embroiled in a bitter row with other members of the ruling party over whether or not he should seek another term in office.
His critics say it would violate an unwritten rule that power should rotate between the largely Muslim north and Christian south every two terms.
The internal crisis in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) comes as the APC looks stronger than ever before. The PDP has, however, retained power despite previous internal squabbles since 1999.
Past elections in Africa’s second biggest economy have tended to be both violent and full of irregularities.
Jonathan was elected in 2011 in a poll judged to be the fairest since the end of dictatorship, but disputes over it triggered some of Nigeria’s worst post-electoral violence in which at least 500 people died.