EDITORIAL: Nigeria Elections: Halt The Senseless Violence Now!

FILE PHOTO: An APC office bombed in Okrika, Rivers State
FILE PHOTO: An APC office bombed in Okrika, Rivers State

The path to next month’s national elections in Nigeria, and the expectations for a peaceful process among even the most optimistic among us, now points to a need for intense worry: welcome to elections Nigeriana, a true season of violence, mayhem, and our legacy pattern of electoral killings and destructions.

Four years ago, in the very elections that brought the incumbent federal administration and many state governments to power, several citizens were killed in election-related violence. Sadly too, on account of a national sensibility now numbed to the shock of tragic human feelings, all that simply passed, and life continued as usual.

This will shock few. With the iridescent lucre to be made in office, the jaw-dropping levels of political finance contributions to facilitate it, the astounding absence of accountability in government, and with streets awash with guns, the Nigerian political office is perhaps, on global aggregate, the most besought investment portfolio in the market for political power in the world today.

History is repeating itself again and last week, as the All Progressives Congress [APC] presidential candidate, Muhammad Buhari, launched his campaign in Port Harcourt, gunmen ambushed and shot at members of the party on their way to the venue.  As the week ended, an angry mob in Jos burned down a campaign bus plastered with President Jonathan’s posters, and a day after, the APC office in Okrika, Rivers state, was bombed while a property belonging to the PDP in Gombe state was destroyed.

Up in Kaduna, while attending the 40th anniversary of the Emir of Zazzau, Vice President Namadi Sambo faced verbal assault and threats of violence from a mob shouting ba mu so (we don’t want), and in overt and covert tones, campaign organisations are mapping out areas that their candidates must avoid during tours for fear of violence.

President Jonathan's campaign bus burnt in Jos
President Jonathan’s campaign bus burnt in Jos

This is not to add comments attributed, and still not rebutted, to Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa, who asked party supporters not to “spare” any non-PDP member who misbehaves in the build-up to the polls, on election day and afterwards.

The governor reportedly gave the directive at the weekend when he addressed PDP’s supporters in Buji Local Government Area, according to the news aggregator, Daily Post, which quotes him as saying the order to deal with opponents was limited to former PDP members who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and had been “making noise” about bringing change to the state and the nation.

“This order does not include people like Gen. Mohammadu Buhari and his people, who were in real opposition right from the beginning….But those in the PDP before, in the state and the nation, people like Senator Danjuma Goje, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aliyu Wamako and the host of others shouting change” Mr. Lamido reportedly said in a sense of generosity.

Earlier in November, the governor of Katsina state, Shehu Shema, was caught on video calling on his supporters to kill and crush political opponents, whom he described as “cockroaches”.

The video, depicting the governor making the threat, went viral after it was posted on the Internet on November 12. It showed the governor, dressed in white agbada and brown sandals, standing on a red carpet, and addressing a crowd in what seemed like a political rally. He spoke in Hausa.

Mr. Shema likened opposition politicians to “cockroaches” before asking the crowd what to do if they found the nocturnal insect in their apartments.

The crowd chorused “Kill them!”

“Crush them!” the governor responded, agreeing with the crowd. Mr. Shema later claimed the comments were interpreted out of context.

This blatant absurdity and mindlessness by our politicians and their supporters must stop today, and all actors to this election must promptly come to understand the compelling reasons Nigerians genuinely worry about elections that are conducted without integrity, especially where state and/or elite sponsored violence become institutionalized mechanism to abridge franchise, and, ultimately, our democracy.

With probably over 12,000 citizens killed in the ongoing fascistic campaigns of Boko Haram in the northeast; with the low-intensity insurgency in the south south region, and with the armed banditry in just every corner of middle Nigeria, this complexion of deadly internal conflict requires effective and meaningful citizens involvement and interface through vigorous debates and information exchange for any sustainable solution to emerge.

That context, however, can only be enabled through an election that has integrity in process and outcome, and, simply put, that means an election free of violence and the high stake tension, which has now enveloped the land.

What is more, if parties and candidates manage to trade the key issues in contention, if they appreciate the organic link between elections and democracy, it will be clear, at the very least, that the two critically absent elements in our governance mode today– development and security– can only be restored through an election defined by integrity.

The alternative is that both process and outcome of the election will lead to a government that lacks public confidence, trust, and therefore the legitimacy that gives democracy meaning.

Whatever our differences as a people, and there are many, electoral violence is not one of the solutions.  What will solve the problem of inequity in the polity, of poverty, of improving governance, of empowerment for the marginalized segments of our community, of corruption, and development, is democracy, which is made possible only when we have an election with integrity.

Toward this end, political, religious and traditional rulers must educate their followers on the need to show restrain. Elections are popularity contests not tests of terror. Those who lose can wait for another cycle and that’s the beauty of the game. It is not, as we say, a do or die affair.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, on its part, must conduct an election that is beyond reproach. It must avoid the tardiness that leads to late arrival of voting materials, insufficient ballots and personnel and thus a disenfranchised and disaffected voting population. People are more likely to abide by the results of an election if they see evidence that the elections are free and fair.

As for the judiciary, it must quickly show that it cannot be the plaything of politicians. Issues of elections should be handled with dispatch and in accordance with the Rule of Law. It must ensure that it polices judicial officers and punish attempts at circumventing the process in favour of certain candidates.

The judicial enquiries set up in the aftermath of the 2011 elections to investigate the violence that occurred are unanimous in their conclusion that the utterances of politicians contributed in heating up the polity and making supporters believe that it was okay to become violent if the results do not favour their candidates.

To this end, the two leading presidential candidates, Messrs Buhari and Jonathan must reign in their attack dogs. If they only take time to publicly rebuke and dissociate themselves from any supporter who uses vile language, they would have sent the right signals that violence has no justification in matters of election.

To be sure, democracy is not a magic bullet. It is the outcome of trials and errors. What is clear though is that it works, and no other system of government known to mankind has proved better or superior to it.

About three million people of various hues and creed matched against violence in France last Sunday. The message: we will not be intimidated, we will not be divided, and we will not succumb to anarchy.

Now, that is something worth emulating.


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  • favourtalk

    GEJ should be called to order, he is using fake news to distract people from seeing the light, it is nigeria we want, it is development we want, it is progress we want, it is jobs we want, it is security we want, it is water and god roads a that we wants not playing politics of ethnicity and religion, I dont care where the president comes from but I care alone on the progress and transformation of this country and since GEJ can’t do it, he should just step aside for serious and better candidate.

  • Prof. Wole Soyinka

    BUHARI IS THE EPITOME OF VIOLENCE …… YOU CANNOT INTRODUCE BUHARI TO THE 2015 PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST AND STILL EXPECT TO HAVE A VIOLENCE FREE ELECTION.

    What do you expect ……. Buhari had said that the dogs and the baboons will be soaked in blood ………. Buhari had also told his supporters to kill anybody that stands on their way ………… why then are you surprised at the level of violence that Buhari Supporters are introducing to the 2015 Presidential Elections Campaign ?

    I am convinced that what you are seeing now is just like football practice for Buhari’s violent disciples ….. just wait for more.

    You may wish to recall that Shiek Gumi had hinted on the extreme violence capabilities of Buhari’s disciples and supporters

    Buhari is the Prophet of bloody and deadly violence !!!!

  • Akata

    Buhari does not understand that in a democracy the road to power is not through violence but to peaceful and transparent elections. Buhari is not a democrat he is simply a military dictator, he will reinstate oppression and persecution if he is elected.

  • Ekwekwe

    “Political, religious and traditional rulers must educate their followers on the need to show restrain.” And what about the press, yours included, that have shown shameless bias, sang to the chorus of the war song of the politicians? If you really want to know one major force pushing Nigeria to precipice, you at P Times should simply look in the mirror.

  • Deacon

    ‘THE 2015 ELECTION WILL BE BLOODY’

    ……….Says Primate Olabayo

    “It is my prophecy that 2015 is a year of blood. I see blood flowing ceaselessly in the land.
    What i am seeing is not a military incursion into the body polity but the poor will take on
    the rich. It is a revolution i am seeing in no distant future in Nigeria.

    A man of destiny will take over the reins of governance and most corrupt people who’ve been parading
    themselves and masquerading as Nigerian leaders, if they are not dead, will be jailed.

    Between now and January, the country (Nigeria) will witness the worst era of bloodshed
    in its history. And if at all there will be elections in Nigeria, the seat of president is not vacant,
    that means if at all there is going to be a presidential election, it will be inconclusive just like
    (the June 12) that we had during the time of MKO Abiola.

    God told me that they are going to rig the election and this will cause an upheaval.
    The results of the 2015 election will not be declared. And if the result is declared,
    winners of the election will not govern. Whether they call themselves APC or codeine,
    they are all the same. I have told you, there may not be election in 2015“.

    [December 30, 2014]

  • Jek Etuk

    can someone please advice the professor that this is not literature, who has ever pleased him except himself… you are old enough to give us direction not confusion!!!

  • Oghale1

    Prof. Wole Soyinka is right! Do not br fooled by Buhar’s fake calls for peace. He is a former mimitary dictator who has turned to religion to buy himself a second chance. He gave his support to Sharia in the country. All you can expect from him is more violence, a serious blow for democracy and ethnic jingoism.

  • TowuromolaF

    What is truly needed for peace and reconciliation is more openness and dialogue. Buhari cares nothing for democracy and will do whatever is needed to be elected, including violence. When in history did electing a military dictator ever lead to less violence?!?

  • Franklin Coteh

    People tend to forget what Buhari’s rule was for our country when he was its dictator. It was the land of its human right abuses. His election will only lead to the arrest of politicians, officials and anyone that is viewed by him to be against his rule. Voting for GMB is a step in the wrong direction.

  • Olumide Lawal

    The real risk form peace is if GEJ wins. Remember the pogrom that followed up North in 2007 and 2011? Hopefully, Islamic radicals will not resort to violence this time.

  • Alao

    True talk.