Rights campaigners in Nigeria have slammed the Rivers State Deputy Governor, Tele Ikuru, for prodding the people of the state to fight, even with their blood, to rid the state of elements of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
Mr. Ikuru, on Monday, had asked members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the state to fight and redeem the state from the APC even if it means shedding their blood.
He made the call in Port Harcourt to a crowd of PDP supporters who turned out to welcome him after his defection from the APC.
“It is necessary for the sake of your fathers, for the sake of your mothers, for the sake of your brothers and sisters and for the sake of your children. Every Rivers man must stand up to fight this evil among us,” Mr. Ikuru said. “If it demands your blood, so be it.”
The Director, Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan, told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Ikuru’s statement does not just portray hate but is especially dangerous because of the forthcoming elections.
“This a very worrying situation particularly looking at how volatile the election is. It amounts to dangerous speech, it goes beyond hate speech, it’s a dangerous speech to incite people to violence,” Ms. Hassan said.
Ms. Hassan said the comments by a serving deputy governor is unlawful, punishable, and against the Abuja peace accord signed by political parties.
“As much as the political gladiators keep inciting people to violence, they should not forget that if they feel the culture of impunity is actually encouraged here in Nigeria, that the ICC has already issued a statement to the effect that if anybody commits violence during this election will go in for it,” she said.
Emmanuel Onwubiko, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, condemned the statement.
“That’s very callous, if he made that comment,” Mr. Onwubiko said.
He said he hopes the Deputy Governor’s statement attracts international attention especially with the recent statement from the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal court that anyone who incites violence or participates in violent act during the election will be held responsible for their actions.
With Rivers State having recorded pockets of pre- election violence, various organizations have put the state on “red alert”, he said.
“That particular state has been burning, I think political leaders from that Rivers State should be careful of what they say. The state is a flashpoint for political violence, so you don’t expect anybody, a respectable politician from that state to be the one to speak of violence,” Mr. Onwubiko said.
He added that it is pertinent for the Deputy Governor to quickly recant his statement and apologise to Nigerians for making such inciting speech.
Also, Lauratu Abdulsalam of the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme said such statement from a personality as the Deputy Governor of the state can lead his followers to cause an unimaginable level of violence.
The activists also called on the National Human Rights Commission to look into Mr. Ikuru’s statement and hold him accountable to any violence that might erupt in the state.