As Nigerians go to the polls to elect leaders that will run the affairs of the country for the next four years, one of the growing concerns of the citizens and the international community is election violence and post-election violence. This is not surprising because Nigeria’s electoral history has been replete with election and post-election violence dating back to the First Republic. The tell-tale signs of violence have started manifesting even before the first ballot is cast. This must be nipped in the bud before it escalates to unimaginable proportion.
Recently, the media was awash with the story of the stoning of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Comrade Adams Oshiomhole while he was addressing party faithful at a campaign rally in Ogun State. Only the shielding of President Muhammadu Buhari by security agents protected him from being pelted with stones and water canons aimed at the national chairman by the hoodlums. Despite entreaties by the governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun, to the hoodlums to stop embarrassing him and the state before the leader of the country, the hoodlums went ahead with their aim of disrupting the rally. Even before the Ogun APC rally that was marred by violence, the Lagos State APC governorship rally in which the governorship candidate of the party, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was presented to the public was also marred by violence. Several people were shot, including some journalists that were at the venue to cover the event. Like in Ogun State, the violence in the Lagos rally, which broke out in the midst of the key note address by the Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, was captured on live television and beamed to the world.
This is troubling. There is therefore the urgent need for the security agents, federal and state governments as well as stakeholders to synergize to ensure that the pre-election violence does not snowball to full-blown anarchy during and after the elections. It would be recalled that on December 10, 2018, the presidential candidates of the frontline political parties signed a peace pact symbolising good faith that they would not do anything to cause violence during and after the elections.
The chairman of the National Peace Committee former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, said the committee decided to organise the peace accord signing in order to ensure peaceful conduct of all elections in the country. However, despite these peace building efforts, many Nigerians are scared, citing unreliability of assurances of politicians. Others have chosen the option of taking their families outside Nigeria till after the elections. INEC has said that it is the only source of election results, but despite this declaration by INEC, social media is always awash with election results that did not emanate from the electoral umpire. This portends danger to our democracy and could lead to breakdown of law and order.
INEC has promised to conduct free and fair elections, we should believe them. We must have confidence in our institutions. INEC must also ensure that the elections are free and fair. The elections must also be seen as free and fair by local and international observers. Whatever the outcome of the elections, it is time to let the political office seekers know that none of them is bigger than the country. Nigeria will not burn because anyone of them did not win an election. They must be ready to accept defeat in good faith and not instigate their supporters to violence under the guise of protesting alleged election rigging. There are judicial remedies available to those who are not satisfied with the conduct of the elections. That opportunity must be explored by the aggrieved. That is the way of civilized societies. That is what is best for the country. Our politicians must learn from former President Goodluck Jonathan who said that his ambition is not worth the life of any Nigerian and graciously accepted defeat in the 2015 presidential election. The political contenders of 2019 cannot go below the bar set by Jonathan and drag the nation backward. The security agents should also be on the alert to deal decisively, within the ambit of the law, with politicians who instead of taking the judicial route choose the path of violence and anarchy.
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