The Act of Political Assassination in Nigeria Politics



Political assassination is murder (a usually prominent person) by a sudden and/or secret attack, often for political reasons. It is usually planned murder of a person who occupied or wants to occupy a position of public reckoning. Additionally, Political assassination is the act of deliberately killing someone especially a public figure, usually for hire or for political reasons.

As an individual unfold in Nigeria, one seems to be unsure of political given the unsevoury constancy of political inclined thuggery, violence, conflicts and assassination. This calls for concern given the fact that the fourth and fifth republic is another opportunity for democratic practice that has been eluding since independences. It is therefore not a figment grovel imagination that the frequency in politically motivated killing in Nigeria seems to be associated with the weakness inherent in the post-colonial states in Africa.

This has manifested itself in the better struggle for political power and intolerances and which has eventually frustrating the people’s hope of enjoying politics devoid of rancor and killings.


To say that political assassination has engulfed Nigeria since independence is just like stating the obvious. But its frequency and effects on current political dispensation call for concern. Barely two years into the fourth republic politically motivated killings became rampart and snuffed lives out of intelligent and productive Nigerians.

This ugly scenario may have unfolded owing to desperate struggle for political and economic power or consolidation of such power, seeing politics as a do or die affair, personal aggrandizement, intolerance of the opposition and host of others.

To be sure assassination of prominent politicians in Nigeria such as Chief Bola Ige (A.D), Harry Marshall (ANPP), Eng. Funsho Williams (PDP) Ayo Daramola (PDP), Jesse Arukwu (ACO), Ogbonaya Uche (ANPP), A.K Dkkibo (PDP), Dipo Dina (AC), Odunayo Omobolanle Olagbaju (AD), Chief Chukwudi Okafor, Modu Fannami Gubio (ANPP) and others.

In all, more than fifty politicians or Pseudo politicians have been killed since fourth republic in Nigeria and the riddles surrounding their deaths remained unsolved till today (Shehu Sanni, 2007).

However, given the fact that every man is a political animal according to Aristotle, and that politics is authoritative allocation of resources where every enlighten citizen is expected to participate one way or the other.


The main objectives of this study are to examine the effect of political assassination on political participation in Nigeria. Other objectives are:

i. To critically examine extent the political assassination has affected political participation in Nigeria fourth and fifth republic using different cases for the analysis.

ii. To examine the concept of political assassination in Nigeria.

iii. To examine the implication of political assassination for democratic governance in Nigeria.

iv. To provide adequate solutions and make recommendations to the problems of political assassination on political participation in Nigeria from 1999-2011.


1. What then is the effect of political assassination on political participation?
2. To what extent has political assassination affected the involvement of Nigeria Citizens in politics?
3. What are the implications of political assassination for democratic governance in Nigeria?
4. How can political assassination be curbed in Nigeria?


These are tentative statements that are subject to confirmation or rejection when subjected to empirical analysis or verification. Both null hypothesis (Ho) and alternative hypothesis (Hi) would be tested.

Hi – There is significant relationship between political assassination and political participation.

Ho – There is no significant relationship between political assassination and quality leadership.

H2 – There is significant relationship between political assassination and quality leadership.

Ho – There is no significant relationship between political assassination and popularity.

H3 – There is significant relationship between political assassination and popularity.


Most of the studies (Shehu Sanni, 2007, Human Right Watch, 2005) focus on the legal cause, theoretical perspectives, history, implications, psychology of political assassination few studies have really focused on the effects of this political assassination on the people’s participation in politics. This is the gap that this study intends to fill.

Invariably, the study will be of immense benefits to the federal, states, and Local Governments to take necessary steps on the recommendation to the effect of political assassination on political participation in Nigeria especially during this fourth and fifth republic.


The method of data collection of this research work will be both primary and secondary sources.

The Secondary sources include textbooks, Journals, Newspapers etc.

The primary sources include the use of questionnaire. The questionnaire will be used to obtain information from the respondents within Lagos state. And this study will be analyse using simple percentage.

The formulated hypothesis will be tested with the use of chi-square.


This study will be limited to the effect of political assassination on political participation in Nigeria with reference to the Fourth Republic, And also this study will focus on assassination carried out all in the name of struggling for political power both within and among the different political parties taking in little retrospect into the past republic when need arises.


In the process of this research work, the researcher will encounter a numbers of challenges such as; inadequate to information concerning the study, it limited time which prevents the researcher to cover all aspects of the study, unwillingness of the respondents to respond accurately, Finance and many other hindrances. But efforts will be geared towards reducing the effects of these challenges on the outcome of the study.


Chapter One of this study deals with the general introduction.

Chapter Two focus on the review of various scholars work on “political assassination” and “political participation” and also the clarification of concepts.

Chapter Three of this study is all about the research methodology.

Chapter Four of this study would focus on the data presentation and data analysis.

Chapter Five of this study would deals with summary of finding, conclusion and recommendations.




The country in the past had recorded innumerable cases of political assassination. Although not all these political assassination have been carried out in the drive towards democracy the cone of the lone has been power.

Political assassination whether at the national, transnational or international level, can be simply defined as a deliberate killing of prominent person or the murder of a who holds a position of public who holds position of public importance in furtherance of social or political objective (Ayinla 2000).

To Fried Larder (1984), assassination is an attempt, whether or not successful, to kill pre-selected victim, usually with small arms or bombs. Letter bombs are excluded from this category, although in at least some cases, there probably is a specific intended victim. Assassination are usually carried out to advance political ends, though, personal hatred may also be the motive.

Ordinary, assassination are committed for one or more of these reasons. To gain revenge, to earn a reward, or to remove a political enemy from office.

There are at least three separate elements involved in the concept of assassination, which identify it as a particular kind of murder.

– A target that is prominent political figure.
– A political motive for the killing
– The potential political impact of the death or escape from death, as the case may be (James F. Kirkham et al 1970)

Most murders that would be called “assassination” contain a greater or lesser degree, all three elements, as for examples, the killing of a head of state by an agent of a rival political party for the purpose of changing the regime.

All these three elements however, do not necessary co-exist. A murder which contains any one of the foregoing three elements should. Properly be considered in any investigation of the phenomenon of assassination. To expantiate on this, an elaboration would be needed.

During the 1920’s in Germany, there was a great number of political motivated killing of persons whose political status was trival but these political killings of person’s assaults hool great significance (James F. Kirham et al 1970).

Another good instance is the killing of a crucial political figure by an agent of rival political party for the purpose of changing the regime of ruling elites.

Political assassination is not restricted to a particular political setting and it has always been committed for different categories of assassination.


Acts of assassination can occur in different social and political contexts and may be committed for different reasons and due to this it is useful to describe the various categories of assassination.

The first category we can identify is assassination situation by one political elite to replace another without affecting any substantial systems or ideological change. The purpose of such assassination is simply to change the identify of the top men and the ruling clique.

This type has been successful in countries where the government has little de facto impact upon the vast body of the citizen outside the capital city.

As long as government can come and go with little impact or participation by peon of fallahu, as the case may be, revolution appear to be a practical way gaining power.

A second category is assassination for the purpose of terrorization and destroying the legitimacy of the ruling elites in order to effects substantial system or ideological change such assassination may be directed against high government officials to undermine the effectiveness of the central government at the local or provincial level.

This kind of assassination becomes effectives or is carried out when a substantial ruling elite as a foreign conqueror or as being illegitimate.

The third category is assassination by the government in power to suppress political activities. An example of this category is the assassination by challenge. An example of the category is assassination of the leader of the Muslim Brother hood by the Egyptian government.

Such category is not necessarily ideological based. Machiavelli advised this strategy for the prince who has just come to power to kill relative of previous prince and other potential prince and other secure. Such as strategy is an indication and confession of weakness by the central government.

The fourth category is assassination to propagate a political or ideological point of view. This is the so-called propaganda of the deed, ‘popular with anarchists at the turn of the country.

The last category is assassination unconnected with rational political goals which satisfies only the pathological needs of the mentally disturbed attacker. Whether such assassinations achieve the goal of the assassin in a matter of psychiatric speculation (James F. Kirkham et al 1970).

With a look at some of the categories of assassinations stated above, there could be to a greater or lesser degree, traces of the other categories in Nigeria’s politics, but noticeably, most politicians in the country have been suspected to be culprits of the first category.

Politicians do kill themselves with the ulterior motive of replacing the ruler or ruling clique without effecting any tangible or ideological change in the political system.

Any analysis of the preconditions assassination cannot ignore the issue of the kind of government towards which the assassination is directed. The study of assassination and terrorism in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries demonstrates that the preconditions under oppressive foreign or autocratic rule. Where political expression is not allowed where there is oppressive rule, comparative studies suggest three antecedents to assassination;

– The existence of a political party with an ideology and technique of direct action s;
– Perception of oppression.
– Presence of activities i.e. person willing to respond with violence to the conditions of oppression.

In a democratic setting, however, where physical oppression is absent, its equivalent must be created through:

1. A weakening of share d democratic value or a crisis in which the democratic institutions are incapable of taking effective remedial action.
2. A pre-assassination process of defamation and vilification of democratic politicians and institution.
3. The existence of a party or groups of persons with an ideology and tactics of direct violence.
4. The presence of persons with propensities for violence once the antecedents are present. (The Last two preconditions are also shared with the oppressive rule situation).

The United States happen to be a remarkable country in which its citizens enjoy more genuine freedom from oppression and material acquisition than many countries of the world; thus known feel the bearest minimum.

The United State of America has a unique stabilizing strength, which gives it the capacity to absorb radical challenges: also, in the process of absorbing these destructive radical challenges, the country undergoes renewed and positive change. With this kind of capacity, the country has been able to preserve the basic democratic value while at the same time, making the necessary responses and adjustments to destructive radical challenges.

The same cannot be said of Nigeria because the preconditions to assassinations under a democratic rule are very much inherent in the Nigeria political process to that of United States of Africa.

Also these are the actual factors that trigger political assassination in the country (Nigeria) which in turn has served as a serious threat to the country’s budding democracy.


Considering the political history of Nigeria, right from pre-independence to independence, then post-independence, the country has witnessed innumerable traces and cases of country that has witness political assassination whose foundation could be traced to the desperate tussle for political power, all but not thanks to the plural character of the country. In the country’s politics, assassination can be explained from the misconception by some people about the traditional leadership of the country.

Considering the Political history of Nigeria, right from Pre-independence, independent, then post-independence, the country has witnessed innumerable traces and cases of country that has witness political assassination whose foundation could be traced to the desperate tussle for political power, all but not thanks to the plural character of the country. In the country’s politics, assassination can be explained from the misconception by some people about the traditional leadership of the country.

There is the misleading belief that a geo-political group (North) has an inalienable, irrevocable and unquestionable right to determine the destiny of the country by controlling political power virtually (Abia, 2003). To this extent, those who fall into the group tend to adopt every dubious and treacherous means to maintain this status quo by liquidating or intimidating all perceived antagonist of their position.

Those considered as ‘antagonist’ also fight tooth and nail to change such status quo. All these, inevitably have led to change acts of political assassination that have taken place in the country’s politics, one of the most outstanding is the politically motivated assassination of chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, a Newspaper Publisher, influential businessman and politician from Ogun State, South – West Nigeria who was widely believed to have won the presidential election of the aborted third republic of June 12, 1993 under the political umbrella of the rival party then is the National Redemption convention (NRC).

Another Political assassination which occurred in this present republic is the political killing of the former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief James Ajibola Ige.

Also, to be included is the most recent assassination of PDP gubernatorial aspirants Engineer Anthony Funsho Williams of Lagos State, Odunnayo Omobolanle Olagbaju a Legislator in Osun State House of Assembly in 2001, The Ogun State gubernatorial candidate of the Action Congress in the April 2007 was assassinated in the name of Dipo Dina, Mr Modu Fannami Gubio a gubernatorial candidate in the North – eastern Nigeria State of Borno, and Dr. Ayodeji Daramola of Ekiti State.

There are many other political assassinations that have had profound impact on the country’s political process but to be precise, this republic witness numerous political assassinations of prominent political figures because the politics of the country has been turned to “do or die affair or hook or crook.” (Shehu Sani, 2007).

Cases of Political Assassination in (2001-2011)

Historically, there is the need to look as the state of the country in the past for better understanding of the present republic. The country in the past had recorded innumerable cases of political assassination. Although not all these political assassination have been carried out in the drive towards democracy the cone of the lone has been power. Major General Aguiyi Ironsi was gruesomely assassinated during the coup carried out by the Northern Military officers in July 29, 1996, also the assassination of General Murtala Ramat Mohammed which could be attributed to his vigorous determination to handover to a civilian government by October 1st 1979. (Ibrahim Aribimpe, 2003).

The Tell News Magazine of January 7, 2004 recorded that “Indeed in the last seven years (1996). Many Nigerians have fallen to the assassination bullet.” One of the major political assassinations that shocked most Nigerians was the murder of Pa Alfred Rewane on October 6, 1995 during the regime of the Late “General Sanni Abacha, who perceived him as an obstacle to the realization of their benefactors ambition to perpetuate hi 1mself in power. Other assassinated by the Abacha Junta were “kudirat Abiola wife of the widely believed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election who was assassinated on the 4th of June 1996, Suliat Adedeji a prominent Ibadan politician who was assassinated on the 14th of November 1996, Bisoye Tejuosho who was murdered on the 29th of September 1996, Shehu Musa Yar’dua who was kept in detention over the phantom coup of 1995, he was assassinated by forcefully injecting him with a poisonous substance. In fact, the year 1996 saw on upsurge in dramatic assassination or attempted assassination of high rate of assassination.

Amnesty international and the Bureau of democracy of the United States Department of State, both in 1996 reported a rise in extra –judicial killing in the country.

Kudirat Abiola had become one of the major icons of pre-democracy movement before her assassination; Suliat Adedeji had history of political activism dating back to the second republic, she was also national involved in the establishment of a new National Political Group Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) that supported the movement for Abacha as a civilian candidate. Though her death was connected to General Sanni Abacha, it was actually difficult to pinpoint the killing because she was in privilege position with Abacha as she had just received a sum of Fifty Million naira as allocation to arrange a pro-Abacha rally and other forms of pro-democracy support in Ibadan, before she was assassinated. Late Lamidi Adedibu who was one of the two that completed for session. Esther Bisoye Tejuosho, on her part, who was the Iyalode of Egbaland was deeply engage in the chieftaincy Politics of Abeokuta. (Shehu Sanni, 2007).

Surprising, the death of Late General Sanni Abacha was believed to have been a premeditated murder. In seizing power, Late Abacha arrested and put Late Chief M.K.O. Abiola into jail and as expected, a grave political impasse followed. According to Victor B.E. Abia in his work “understanding Nigeria government and politics” (2003:236), the crisis so buffered Nigeria that it set off an apparent alarm in political capitals across Europe and America. These foreign power therefore had no choice than to correct the political impasses by liquidating both Abiola and Abacha intelligently as they were both seem as obstacle to move the country forward. Going by the security assessment of these notable foreign powers to forestall impending Armageddon, both Abacha and Abiola, the two gladiators had to be scarified. (Shehu Sanni, 2007).

Much emphasis would not be made on past political assassination as not all of these were carried out in the name of “politics”.

The Fourth Republic which started on May 29, 1999, which many Nigerians saw as a ray of hope; unfortunately did not put an end to the carnage. The politicians simply went hay wire, Politics now become a game of death (Tell News Magazine, January 7, 2002). The records of political assassination among politicians began to increase at an alarming rate. Nigerian politicians are now playing “cut the root politics” which has inevitably posed a threat to the country’s nascent democracy.

Right from the beginning of Fourth Republic, which started on May 29,1999.Several prominent politicians have been politically assassinated, infact; the list seems in exhaustible. A member of the Osun State house of Assembly, who was also a close and staunch supporter of Ijiola Omisore (Deputy Governor of Osun state) Odunayo Omobolanle Olagbaju was assassinated on the 19th of December 2011. The Ige Akande cauces was believed to responsible for this, at least as professed by believed to be a retaliation act, few days after Olagbaju’s death, precisely on the 23rd of December 2001, Late Chief Anthony Bola Ige, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation was murdered. Unfortunately, investigations never proved and many never be able to prove any of the two beliefs right.

Download Full Material-N5000

Leave a Reply