Fears have been expressed by many watchers of Nigeria’s political landscape, both within and without, about the likelihood of violence marring the elections scheduled for February 16 and March 2.
Even just a cursory observation of events leading up to the polls shows the level of violence and adversarial rhetoric that have characterised the country’s politics as the polls get nearer.
In many instances during political parties’ primaries to elect candidates for gubernatorial and legislative positions across various levels, violence was the order of the day. The Osun gubernatorial rerun poll was marred by violence despite the heavy presence of security operatives, including soldiers, police and DSS officers. Suspected political thugs reportedly invaded many polling centres in the state.
The thugs in some instances beat up journalists and election observers. Cameras, laptops and other electronic devices belonging to journalists were said to have been destroyed. The governorship candidate of Action Peoples Party, Dr. Ekundayo Precious Ademola, was said to have been severely beaten up.
Only last week, supporters of the Allied People’s Movement (APM) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State engaged in a violent clash that left 10 people injured and several vehicles vandalised. Dangerous weapons were said to have been freely used by political thugs during the melee, leaving many injured.
Trouble reportedly started when the campaign train of the APC governorship candidate in the state, Prince Dapo Abiodun, ran into the convoy of a House of Representatives candidate and current member of the lower chamber, Mikhail Kazeem, and hell was let loose.
Perhaps, the biggest example of this unending circle of violence was the mayhem that ensued during an APC rally in Lagos State. Pandemonium broke out when hoodlums loyal to different factions of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) invaded the venue and engaged in a supremacy battle.
The hoodlums, suspected to be supporters of a leader of NURTW, Musiliu Akinsanya, aka MC Oluomo and those loyal to another union leader, Mustapha Adekunle, aka Seigo, invaded the arena with guns and other dangerous weapons causing chaos in the process.
Apart from the NURTW leader who was injured in the ensuing pandemonium, three journalists also sustained varying degree of injuries.
These incidents are not exhaustive; they are just a tip of the iceberg and only serve to highlight the likelihood of violence during and after the election. Indeed, the United States government, not long ago, warned of the likelihood of violence during Nigeria’s elections scheduled for February 16 and March 2.
The U.S. said the conduct of the elections could have significant consequences for the democratic trajectory of Nigeria, West Africa, and the entire continent.
America, however, stated that the public disturbance during the elections might not be nationwide conflicts but localised violence.
Similarly, the European Union, the United Kingdom and other foreign governments have also demanded a process that will herald free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections as political parties intensify their campaigns.
Nigeria’s National Orientation Agency (NAO), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and several other groups have at various times equally expressed worry about violence breaking out during and after the election.
So, the apprehension is universal. And although the United States asserted that the violence might be localised, this still does not give cause for cheer. In this regard, no effort should be spared to ensure that the elections are violence-free. The security agencies must all be put on high alert. They must contain the activities of politicians and their supporters who are hell bent on instigating mayhem during the elections.
The world is watching so Nigeria cannot afford a descent into lawlessness. We also want to use this opportunity to reiterate the role politicians must play in free, fair and violence-free elections. They are the main actors and must be able to control their supporters who are inclined to cause chaos.
Politicians have been known to use thugs to cause crisis when election outcomes do not favour them and it has also emerged in recent time that some of them are stockpiling arms and ammunition. We insist that elections are not a do-or-die affair and that there will always be opportunities for other electoral contests. So, we ask for a high degree of restraint on the part of these gladiators and for them to focus on the larger interest of the nation rather than a fixation on the usual personal interest.
Finally, we want to commend Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for his intervention in that needless altercation in Ogun State. The former president held a meeting with leaders of top political parties and security chiefs in the state over the violence that has characterised their campaigns ahead of elections. Obasanjo’s move was to get the leaders of these parties to commit to violence-free polls in the state.
We commend the former president for his quick and statesmanlike intervention. We also want to recommend such course of action to certain individuals across the country who wield influence to help douse tension within their spheres of influence and rein in actions and utterances by politicians that are capable of causing crisis before, during and after the elections.
Source: New Telegraph
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