A former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Nduese Essien, has warned the political class against pushing Nigeria to disintegration because of their desperation to win the forthcoming general elections.
Mr. Essien, who gave the warning on Tuesday, also called on well-meaning Nigerians to rise up and condemn those who are promoting hate in their electioneering messages.
“Every serious-minded and patriotic Nigerian should be concerned about the level the political class has elevated hate speech in the build-up to the forthcoming elections,” said Mr. Essien.
“I think the situation is akin to what happened in 1965 before the crisis in the Western Region snowballed into a major national issue.
“From the South to the North, political leaders have thrown caution to the wind and have attacked one another in ways that have threatened the very essence and foundation of our existence as a country.”
Even when leaders of the major political parties signed an accord to maintain peace and order before, during and after the elections, Mr. Essien said it was surprising to see President Goodluck Jonathan being pelted in some states in the North.
He noted that the youth who attacked Mr. Jonathan did not go out on their own to embarrass the president, but were hired by politicians.
He, however, lamented that apart from a few feeble voices, the leadership of the North had maintained an implicit silence over the attack on the president, whom he described as “the symbol of Nigeria’s sovereignty and the expression of its democratic rule”.
Mr. Essien noted that the attack on Mr. Jonathan was a gross embarrassment to the South-South people and indeed the whole country and should be condemned in its entirety.
According to him, people of Southern Nigeria have always exhibited a high level of tolerance and accommodation to their Northern counterparts.
“That is why nobody has threatened and or attacked any presidential candidate campaigning in the region,” Mr. Essien said.
Unlike in the North where President Jonathan has been pelted in many places, General Muhammadu Buhari and presidential candidates of other political parties have freely campaigned in the South without any form of attack or harassment.
“We want to send a message to our Northern leaders and brothers that this country belongs to all of us and nobody; I mean nobody has the monopoly of violence.
“Nobody should be proud that its youth pelted the president of Nigeria. I believe the ex-militants who threatened to declare war if Mr. Jonathan does not win the election might not have done so but for the provocation by those who attacked the president.”
On complaints against the postponement of the elections, Mr. Essien said recent developments have indicated that the Independent National Electoral Commission, [INEC], was least prepared for the polls.
He said the nation could have been plunged into a needless crisis if the commission had gone ahead to conduct the elections.
The fact that over 30 million registered voters were not issued with Permanent Voters’ Cards [PVC], barely two weeks before the polls were rescheduled; clearly showed INEC was not fully prepared for the polls.
He said, “The commission had not even at that time finished the printing of PVCs yet it claimed to have been ready for the election. I found that very curious and could not understand how it could have gone ahead to conduct elections and deliberately disenfranchised over 30 million eligible voters.
“The postponement of the election clearly showed how unprepared INEC was and even those who cried foul have now appreciated the need for the shift.”
Mr. Essien however, called on the commission to investigate the allegation that millions of under-aged persons were registered for the elections.
He argued that if millions of under-aged voters are allowed to participate in the elections, whatever result of such elections would not be said to be credible and will be challenged.
Mr. Essien advised Nigerians not to sacrifice the unity and integrity of Nigeria on the altar of partisan politics, saying that elections and politicians will come and go but Nigeria will always remain.
He also cautioned those who habitually insult President Jonathan to remember that only God crowns leaders and any insult on any leader is an insult to the one who crowned them.
“Even in our families, we do not appreciate it if our children go out of the way to insult us as parents because they don’t agree with our points of view or what we do,” he said.