One of the problems of Nigerian politics is violence. Almost all our political processes have been characterised by violence. This is not good for the progress of this country. Participants in our politics should therefore give thought to this problem and play the political game according to the country’s constitution. In the meantime, it has been reported that some members of the Oyo State House of Assembly were attacked by thugs while sitting in the House. The attacked lawmakers were alleged to have been plotting the impeachment of the Speaker of the State Assembly, Mr. Moroot Atilola for alleged poor leadership and undue romance with the executive arm of government. Because of this, thugs and hoodlums numbering more than fifty descended on the law makers with machetes, axes, daggers, clubs and other dangerous weapons. One of the lawmakers had his two legs broken by the thugs and hoodlums while several others were rushed to the hospitals for medical attention. Meanwhile, the assaulted lawmakers have sent a petition to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President, Dr David Mark, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Dimeji Bankole, the Inspector General of Police, Dr Ogbonna Onova and the Director-General of the State Security Service on the incident.
In fact, unruly behaviour such as this should be condemned by all well-meaning and civilised persons in our society. We all should preach against political violence in this country. Political violence has not done any good to this country. Instead it has brought instability, bloodbath and retrogression to Nigeria. Political parties should therefore do away with thuggery and violence in Nigerian politics. It is when we check this criminality in our politics that we can experience political stability and progress. Thuggery is a criminal offence in our politics. It should therefore be stopped so that we can see the sunny side of politics and government.
Earlier, at least, six people were killed and many others injured in Ekeremor local government area of Bayelsa State following the local government elections conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission in that state. The elections were conducted on Saturday, April 3, 2010.
According to reports, the killing was done by a militant group loyal to an opposition party that stormed the voting centre and hijacked electoral materials. The Bayelsa State Commissioner of Police, Elder Onuoh-Udeka, confirmed the violence. Also speaking, the President of EKELGA Federated Youths, Ebika Lokpobiri, said a group of youth came in a speed boat and opened fire on people and killed three on the spot at Ekeremor. Ekeremor is believed to be prone to political violence in Bayelsa State. In any case, Nigerians should learn to conduct their elections in a peaceful atmosphere at all times. As already noted, the country cannot gain anything meaningful from political violence. Spilling of innocent blood because of politics will not lead us anywhere. We should therefore endeavour to conduct our elections without violence.
Similarly, the Ekiti State re-run local government elections were marred by violence. On April 25, 2009, re-run elections were conducted in some local government areas of the state. The re-run elections were ordered by the Appeal Court sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State. The Appeal Court in its decision cancelled elections in sixty-three wards in Ekiti State and ordered re-elections in those wards by the Independent National Electoral Commission. The elections were mainly between the People’s Democratic Party and the Action Congress.
But the results of the re-run elections were inconclusive because of violence, thuggery, malpractice and destruction. According to reports, some politicians recruited armed thugs who unleased the mayhem that painted the political image of this country black. Because of this, elections in Oye local government area were cancelled by the police. Also, elections in Ido-Osi local government Area and Ijero Local government area could not be concluded. In her reaction, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs Ayoka Adebayo said, the election in Ekiti State was supposed to be the one that would enhance the image of Nigeria and the whole black race. Unfortunately, the circumstances changed in the middle of the process. She emphasised that her conscience as a Christian could not allow her to participate further in the process. She resigned her appointment as a Resident Electoral Commissioner.
However, we should always be prepared to play the political game according to the rules. It should be noted that the principle of democracy is usually rooted in the rule of law. Without the rule of law, there is no democracy. This is the universal practice. Nigerian politicians should therefore copy the example of the advanced democracies and practise democracy in its best tradition. It is when we do this that we can earn the respect of the international community and be internally stable.
Dr Tolofari is a Fellow, Institute of Corporate Administration of Nigeria.