Nigeria is at the thresh
old of 2015 elections with political assaults, inflammatory statements and of course violence defining events of the moment. Signals across the states of the federation indicate that there is fear in the land as drums of war rage on; an indication that the major stakeholders in the Nigeria’s election project – the political parties and their supporters have not learnt anything from past elections.
If the politicians across the board have learnt any lesson, how come that it is not manifesting in their actions during the electioneering process? Looking at the unwholesome actions of political party members and supporters, one is tempted to ask, “politicians where art thou?”
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his entourage narrowly missed being mobbed in Katsina State by a large crowd chanting ‘Sai Buhari” on January 21 when the President visited the residence of the mother of late President Umaru Yar’Adua at Yar’Adua quarters. The mob reportedly threw stones at Jonathan’s convoy, but thanks to anti-riot policemen and soldiers who acted promptly to disperse the crowd. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) pointed accusing fingers at the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the assault on the President.
In Jos, some irate youths, said to be supporters of the APC, also set ablaze two buses decorated with PDP design and pictures of President Jonathan and his vice. The unfortunate incident occurred two days before the inauguration of the PDP governorship campaign in Plateau State. Before going into rampage and destruction of other vehicles in the vicinity, the youths had also touched vehicles with PDP logo.
The embarrassment suffered by President Jonathan’s re-election campaign team in Bauchi State was another act of provocation and drum of war. At the venue of the event, some people suspected to be APC supporters, threw stones and other objects at the canopy where the President and members of his campaign team were making speeches.
Although the security agents did all within their powers to prevent the hoodlums from disrupting the presidential campaign, there were reports of vandalisation of vehicles belonging to the PDP presidential campaign by the hoodlums.
If the political assaults in Katsina, Plateau and Bauchi States did not record any fatal human casualty, the story in Kano is different as one person lost his life and campaign vehicles numbering about six were burnt after a clash between supporters of the APC and their PDP counterparts.
The political tension in Rivers State and many other states is so high that many believe the polity is sitting on a keg of gunpowder ready to explode. For instance, an explosive device believed to be dynamite rocked the APC secretariat at Okrika in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State, prior to the governorship campaign rally in the area.
Apart from blaming PDP in the state for the explosion, Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari who also doubles as Director of Communications, Dakuku Peterside’s Greater Together Campaign Organisation said a situation in which heavily armed thugs invaded venue of the APC governorship rally in Okrika and opened fire on the workers preparing the rally venue was condemnable and a bad omen to the growth of democracy in the state nay the nation.
The political tension in Rivers State, however, took another dimension when two groups of armed youths reportedly shot at vehicles conveying supporters of the APC from Khana and Asari-Toru local government areas to the inaugural presidential campaign of APC at the Adokiye Amasiemaka stadium, Igwuruta-Eli in Ikwerre local government area of the State. According to reports, only one person died while many others sustained serious injuries.
When some members of PDP and APC clashed in Alimosho area of Lagos State, the story of the 2015 general elections that promise to be the most beleaguered since post colonial rule in 1960, was glaring even as the political parties are locked in an intractable crisis. At the Alimosho attack, no fewer than eight vehicles were destroyed, while an undisclosed number of persons feared dead and others injured.
Is it the type of democracy Nigerians cherish to have and sustain? The answer is definitely no. While the political parties, supporters beat the drums of war, they are equally busy trading blames and accusing each other over any form of political violence.
The PDP, in a statement, had accused the opposition party (APC) of instigating attacks on President Jonathan and his ruling party. But APC lashed back, claiming that the hostilities were the handwork of PDP in order to justify its ploy for the shifting of the 2015 general elections.
Memories of 2011 general elections in which hundreds of lives were killed in post-election violence, are still fresh in the minds of many Nigerians. Apart from leaving in its trail the features of misery, anguish and bitterness, the post-election riot of 2011 also left the country deeply divided along religious and ethnic lines.
Nigerians are apprehensive of an impending danger in the air. Against this background, a former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) recently met with the service chiefs and the Inspector-General of Police, warning that the 2011 post-election violence should not be repeated in 2015. Abdulsalami, who spoke in his capacity as the Chairman of National Peace Committee on 2015 Elections, said there is apprehension in the land, urging Nigerians not to repeat the mistakes of the past. The committee was a fallout of the peace accord signed by party presidential candidates and their chairmen.
If the concern of the ex-Head of State is anything to go by, then “any Nigerian who loves this country must preach peace” because the wind of violence does not bring any good.
The pronouncement by the APC to form a “parallel government” should the 2015 elections be rigged amounts to heating the polity. The same is also true of the threat by a coalition of former Niger Delta militants and their followers that any attempt to unseat President Jonathan in the forthcoming election would be a direct attack on the Ijaw people and would be met with violence.
The ex-militant leaders, at the end of a crucial meeting with Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, in Yenagoa, said Jonathan’s anticipated victory in the election is non-negotiable, threatening to unleash violence and deny the rest of the country access to the oil fields in the region if Nigerians fail to re-elect the President.
The reactions of the ex-militant leaders, according to reports, followed recent attacks on President Jonathan during his campaign tour of parts of the North and other issues affecting the Ijaws.
However, elections are not war. Neither is politics a battle. Political leaders and their supporters must adhere to the code of conduct of political parties, especially in the areas of consolidating and deepening democracy, ensuring an environment conductive for successful and non-violent elections, political stability, enduring democracy and the overall wellbeing of Nigerians.
Why the threat of a parallel government or violence in the event of any shortcoming in the elections when the rule of law is there to guide every political activities and actions? As a matter of necessity, all political parties, their leaders, members and supporters should endeavour to adhere to existing laws and regulations pertaining to elections and the conduct of elections and should not do nothing whatsoever, individually or collectively to undermine, flout, disrespect or circumvent them.
Just as the political parties lack visible internal party democracy, it is not uncommon to see them engage in violent activities or resort to the use of inflammatory comments, provocative actions, or manifestations that incite violence, hatred, contempt etc. All political parties and members have crucial role in ensuring a free, fair, credible and non-violent elections. And it is not late for politicians who have fallen short in their utterances and actions to have a rethink in the interest of national peace, unity, stability, and development.
The signing of the peace pacts though commendable, the government should go a step further in bringing to justice those who incite violence before, during and after elections no matter how highly placed.
Election is not only about winning or losing contest. Importantly, it is about creating and sustaining an enduring society in which nobody should be sacrificed for others to win or lose. And elections will work only when major players like the political parties and their supporters are willing and committed, irrespective of party affiliations, to make such elections work.
PDP Caucus Demands Prosecution Of NCC Officials
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the House of Representatives has called on the appropriate authorities to arrest and prosecute officials of the National Communications Commission (NCC) for claiming that electronic transmission of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is not possible in the country.
The Tide reports that NCC officials led by Executive Director, Ubale Maska, who represented the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta, while testifying before the House, on the adoption of electronic transmission of results from the units, claimed that the 2018 Technical Report of the NCC showed that only about “50 percent of the polling units had 3G while 49 percent had 2G network and below.”
But the PDP Caucus Leader, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja, said the NCC officials lied to Nigerians while on oath and as such, must be prosecuted for allegedly misleading Nigerians.
Chinda said the NCC officials “cleverly sought to rely on 2018 data in 2021, when they knew or ought to know that internet penetration has advanced substantially in Nigeria since 2018.
“Indeed a perusal of NCC Website even today shows that the Nigerian National Broadband Plan 2020-2025 (P .33) says that by September 2019, the ‘Spread of 3G/LTE’ had reached 74.2 percent in Nigeria,” the PDP caucus added.
“We call on the prosecuting authorities to immediately arrest the officials of the NCC, under Prof. Danbatta and all those who procured Ubale Maska and other officials to lie under oath to be investigated and where found culpable, be brought to justice by standing criminal trial, he said,”.
Onochie Makes Case For True Federalism
An elder statesman, Dr Nnamdi Onochie, has again told the Federal Government to come up with a blueprint on true federalism, to address worrisome fault lines keeping Nigeria divided.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Wednesday, Onochie lamented that Nigeria would continue to wallow in problems until political leaders mustered courage to address endemic problems holding the country down.
Former colonial masters, Britain amalgamated Nigeria in 1914, to give birth to Africa’s largest nation but 107 years down the line, the country has been engulfed in various problems, making the country not to realise its potential to the fullest.
According to Onochie, the way out is for the government to implement true federalism as an article of faith to ensure equity, fair play, justice and equality of all ethnic nationalities in the country.
“Unless the path of equality of all states, as they stand today, is guaranteed without contestation, Nigeria will continue to contend with divisive tendencies and the centre will never hold to build a united indivisible nation.
He reiterated that recurring problems in the country had highlighted the inevitability of genuine federalism to be implemented by government, to make Nigeria truly great to achieve the set goals of its founding fathers.
“I have earlier suggested that government should convene a Peace and Reconciliation Conference of all shades and creeds of Nigeria by October 2021, to map out the path of stable devolution of all functions in the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution.
“The sooner these recommendations are implemented the better for the corporate entity of Nigeria, because no one is excited with current developments threatening the existence of Nigeria from day to day.’’
Onochie, who was a former Nigerian envoy to Algeria and the Philippines, argued that true federalism would address some endemic problems tearing Nigeria apart, including banditry and restiveness in some parts of the country.
He criticised what he described as parochial tendencies displayed in the National Assembly on the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, saying that displaying partisanship in critical issues would never promote unity and national integration.
The political stalwart reiterated that he stood for one Nigeria and that he would continue to campaign for Nigeria not to disintegrate as he gets set to offer himself to serve in the highest political office in the upcoming general elections.
On the directive by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to media houses not to report kidnappings, killings, maiming and other nefarious activities of terrorists, bandits and insurgents freely and openly, Onochie described the directive as draconian and totally at variance with global democratic tenets.
“Nothing should be done to tamper with the freedom of speech as spelt in the constitution to deny Nigerians their freedom of free speech, expression, association and other rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution (as Amended).’’
He described press freedom as the bedrock of democracy, saying that Nigeria should copy values that promote development and sustain nation building “to make the nation respected in the comity of nations.’’
“Nigerians and the international community must be made to be fully aware of the gains of a free press, rather than allowing the NBC to gag the civil space and disallow media houses from performing their duties as the fourth estate of the realm.”
Onochie, a polyglot, who was a former Commissioner for Special Duties in Delta has been campaigning for Nigerian unity and for separatists in parts of the country to drop their agitations and say farewell to disintegration.
INEC Registers 752,011 Voters In Three Weeks
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that 752,011 eligible Nigerians have completed the online pre-registration as fresh voters in the last three weeks since the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) commenced online on June 28, 2021.
INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee (IVEC), Festus Okoye, said in Abuja, that in the last 21 days as at 7am on Monday, 19 July 2021, INEC recorded an average of 35,810 registrants per day.
According to him, out of this figure, 562,254 (74.7per cent) are youths between the ages of 18 and 34; and that in terms of gender, 493,128 were male while 369,188 were female.
He said that detailed distribution of registrants by states/FCT, age, occupation and disability has been uploaded on the commission’s website and social media platforms.
“The commission wishes to reiterate its earlier decision that because of the declaration of Tuesday, 20 and Wednesday, 21 July 2021 as public holidays by the federal government, the commencement of physical registration is now rescheduled to Monday, 26 July 2021.
“Online pre-registrants who booked for appointment to complete their registration physically between Monday 19 and Friday, 23 July 2021, will be notified within the next few days of the new dates for their appointments. They may also visit the portal (https://cvr.inecnigeria.org) to choose a new available date and time, if they so desire,” Okoye said.
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