At the heat of the 2015 general elections campaign, former President Goodluck Jonathan, who was the then presidential candidate of the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) famously, said that his ambition was not worth the life of any Nigerian. Jonathan spoke at the opportune time. He spoke out when the polity was being overheated because of his reelection bid. At the time many groups from the Niger Delta where he hails from, including elder statesmen, militants, and politicians were threatening ‘war’ if Jonathan was not reelected. To many of them since this is a God given opportunity for a Niger Deltan to become President of Nigeria, nothing should be done to stop him from enjoying two terms of eight years.
Similarly the supporters of his main challenger, and the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) General Muhammadu Buhari were also serving notice that there must be change in the Aso Rock Villa. Their tone showed that nothing short of victory was acceptable. There was therefore palpable tension as the presidential election results from the states, were being collated in Abuja by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for eventually declaration. While the results from the states was being announced by the then chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Attahiru Jega, and the former president observed that he was losing grounds to the presidential candidate of the APC, he wasted no time to call and congratulate him for his well-deserved victory. That one call doused the tension in the country and paved the way for the smooth emergence of Muhammadu Buhari, as the democratically elected President of Nigeria in his fourth attempt to occupy the office.
Four years on, this worthy standard set by Jonathan, which ought to have been imbibed and emulated by politicians, was disregarded by many politicians seeking elective offices in the 2019 general elections and their Godfathers. If they had taken a cue from Jonathan there would not have been needless deaths in various parts of the country in this year’s general elections. These deaths were caused by politicians who by their actions showed that their ambitions are worth the lives of the people that they supposedly want to serve. This total disregard to human lives due to political ambitions was very noticeable and recorded in the media.
In Rivers State, no fewer than 28 persons were reportedly killed in the elections in the state that had been suspended by the INEC. Oyo State member of the House of Representatives, Hon Temitope Olatoye fondly called ‘Sugar’ by his admirers was shot dead during the governorship and state house of assembly elections in Oyo State. He died at the intensive care unit of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, following a gunshot wound he sustained after he was shot in the eye by unknown gunmen that invaded the collation centre. Two persons were also confirmed killed by gunmen in election related violence in Gbajimba, Guma local council of Benue State. Similarly, two persons were killed in Akwa Ibom State when hoodlums attacked INEC office and burnt many vehicles. In Imo State political thugs killed a party agent. The killing reportedly took place in Umudi in Nkwerre local government area of the state. Two people were also reportedly killed in the House of Assembly election in Anambra State. There were also election related killings in Cross River State. The list is endless.
However, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has painted a clearer picture on the killings that took place in parts of the country as a result of contestations for various elective positions in the country. The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR), while highlighting the shortcomings of the 2019 general elections revealed that it recorded death of 58 Nigerians. The group condemned the spate of violence and bloodshed, especially in Rivers State in the governorship and House of Assembly elections. The NCSSR said, “Since 2011, elections in Rivers State have been a major theatre for violence.” The Executive Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre and Convener, NCSSR, Clement Nwankwo, expressed these views in the group’s third preliminary statement on the elections. The spate of killings has no doubt blighted the 2019 general elections despite the fairly favourable reports by local and international observers. Like former President Jonathan rightly noted, no ambition, be it political or otherwise is worth the life of anyone. If truly the purpose of seeking elective office is to serve, why should a candidate or political party be too desperate to win at all cost, including at the expense of lives of innocent citizens that they are supposed to serve?
It appears that the impunity of politicians and the Godfathers is because the security agents have failed to bring them to account for every life lost or injuries inflicted on Nigerians by their thugs. It is time for our security chiefs to move against these killers of Nigerians and their sponsors and save our democracy from looming death. We must rescue our elections from the firm grip of election thieves and killers. It is noteworthy that President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to leave a legacy of credible elections. President Muhammadu Buhari said he would want to be remembered as a leader who kept his word that elections in Nigeria must be free, fair and credible. The President stated this in his Daura residence in Katsina State, when the state governor, Aminu Bello Masari came to inform him that he had won his reelection in the governorship poll. The President should also note that no election could be free, fair and credible in an atmosphere of killings and destruction of properties. The President should kick start his quest to leave a legacy worthy of emulation in our electoral process by bringing to book those behind the killing of Nigerians for political advantage in the 2019 general elections. Nigerians do not expect anything less.
– Aluta Continua!