In the last several days and weeks there have been many untoward events that pose serious problems to peaceful conduct of elections come 2019. Expectedly, tension will continue to build up as electioneering and campaigns draw nearer but what will soil our reputation as a people is if we allow our disaffection before, during and after the recently concluded primaries among the 91 political parties rile us so much as to begin to plot and sanction violence as means of getting back at perceived opponents or party leaders. This will confirm us as persons who resent decency which democracy promotes.
Democracy conceptually promotes the sanctity of plurality of opinion and choice.
There have been attempts at maiming and actual violence against opponents either within or without political parties. In Ekiti, soon after the governorship election, a top aide of one of the All Progressives Congress, APC governorship aspirants and former governor Segun Oni, was murdered at a viewing centre in Ado, the Ekiti state capital. Since then, a treasurer of the party was also murdered in cold blood. Last week, a member of the House of Assembly was shot in the head and is said to be battling for his life in hospital. This is a carryover from the crisis that engulfed the primary of the APC during the exercise where party members in the full glare of everyone descended on voting props and destroyed same; thus voiding the first primary before it was rescheduled.
In nearby Osun, during the election, there were several incidences of violence that trailed the poll. Some were even captured on camera both in cities like Osogbo, the state capital and in the villages.
Several people were arrested for either vote buying or attempts to buy up permanent voter cards for whatever reasons. Fears of violence and indeed actual gunshots rent the air during the election in Osun and the supplementary that followed shortly. In Imo, there were so many violent occurrences. One or two persons were killed; arson was committed as party offices were set ablaze, including vehicles and other properties. In Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, it is the same story. In Lagos, a PDP state executive member was brutally murdered. In the same state, APC had its fair share of violence, same for Ogun, Oyo and Ondo states.
In parts of northern Nigeria, it is the same thing. In Zamfara, it got so bad that the dominant party in the state do not have candidates for elective positions. The governor was even one of those who openly threatened violence against the process. People died in Zamfara state due to violence during the primary election. Violence and threats of violence have risen sharply in the last couple of months. In Enugu state, the APC chairman over the weekend escaped what looked like an assassination attempt. It is that bad! And for us, this is a dangerous game, our political class is playing. They are so fixated on winning by crook or hook that they don’t care about reason and civility. It is annoying.
We wonder what would have been had we not had several political parties. We believe that the number of political parties in our country has a way of controlling violence in our politics. Because of loss or denial of tickets, many gladiators have now resorted to finding alternative platforms to pursue their agenda. If they were restricted to APC or PDP, we are sure that the environment would have been seriously polluted with all manners of violence like it used to be in the early 2000s. We salute the Gani Fawehinmis of this world who ensured that our constitution is obeyed, which allows for a relaxed process to register political parties. Yet, even so, our people are not satisfied as they try to vent their frustration through violence.
We do not support violence in any form. Democracy is slow and those that practice it must imbibe the culture of patience and perseverance.
We call on political parties, especially the big ones, to be a lot more equitable in dealing with its members. Members must realise they can’t win all the time. The urge to win at all cost sets the stage for the kind of tension we see today. But even when violence occurs, law enforcement must do its job, without fear or favour, that’s how to build confidence. Let everyone play according to the rules as 2019 elections cycle draws near. We are not barbaric people.