How to curb post electoral violence

How to curb post electoral violence

By Ayodele Fagbohun
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it….” Philosopher George Santayana.

Electoral or political violence should as a matter of rule, carry stiffer sanctions or penalties not less than capital punishment on the perpetrators of the heinous act to serve as deterrent to others.

Prophetically, in the just concluded general elections, this dastardly and criminal act assumed more worrisome and frightening anti-climax with loss of precious lives and valuable properties in some states unfortunately and without any remorse tagged flashpoints of political unrest and violence.

Rivers State should be shamefaced; stand condemned outright for sheer obduracy and incessantly prone to political violence especially whenever the government is going to the country.  This negative act of mayhem, lawlessness, and socio-political primitivity apparently are the trademarks of certain prominent political leaders who unconscionably feel that Rivers State is an extension of their private estate and choose with impunity to drive its administration from the pit of hell.

It is very astounding and puzzling the wary world to remark why the Federal Government and probably the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are diffident; not decisive and treat with kid gloves Rivers’ State and other notorious areas across the country susceptible to electoral violence over the years.  This untoward development should have long ago been nipped in the bud no matter whose horse is gored if we are truly committed to the growth and flourish of democracy as practised in the civilised clime.

I am aghast on many that may frown on severe punitive measures considered harsh with far reaching consequence likely to send wrong signal to the outside world.  This line of though is not only hypocritical but a product of warped minds and mischief riddled with ignorance as electoral violence is aberration, anathema virtually non-existence in advanced nations of the world.

No modern nation, in recorded history ever goes on wilful rampage, in utter bestiality, slaughter her brightest and leading lights in the name of elections that come and go periodically in the life of a nation.

We shall continue to refer to the past since our leaders in their respective theatres of operation persist in errors and fail abysmally to learn from the past; reconstruct the present and the future by making strenuous and deliberate efforts to make necessary amends out of the past pitfalls and encumbrances that awfully consign African continent as a complacent benighted race.

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How on earth can the enlightened world rationalize the unprovoked pre-menditated homicide of innocent budding youth on national service cut down by some misguided political rough necks?  It should be recalled in Rivers State re-run in 2015 general elections, a National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) member, Okonta Samuel Dumebi, an orphan was killed by political hoodlums still on the run.

These terrible undesirable elements are on the state government payroll and always on the prowl as party stewards in Governor Nyeson Wike barbaric led People’s Democratic Party (PDP) administration.

The incendiary proclivity of some political leaders know no bound as out of greed and sheer lust for power, they desire to hang on tenaciously in office regardless of the outcry of the people against misrule.  They rather prefer to rule in hell than serve in paradise.

Some comments of River’s State governor, Mr Nyesom Wike before the conduct of the ill fated re-run election as widely reported in the media were patently reckless, inflammatory and suggestive of plunging the state into blood bath in effect his party PDP was defeated at the polls.  For his unguarded pronouncements and utterances, immunity should be waved and the law enforcement agency should prosecute the governor in the appropriate court of law.

This was indictment on some security operatives for failure, was it compromise to promptly arrest the fleeing gangsters and to speedily bring them to justice; a gross breach of extant laws against any form of criminality wherever it might rear ugly head in every facet of our national life.  I regard an assault of gargantuan dimension on the psyches of our youths in their patriotic zeal and fervour to serve their nation as a pre-requisite to assume the leadership of Nigeria in the foreseeable future.

Of course, electoral violence dated back to the chequered history of the nation in the First Republic; having attained independence from the British colonial masters on October 1960.

It was a follow-up to the constitutional deadlock in the Old Western Region as the then late premier, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola foisted his splinter group, Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNDP) notoriously referred as DEMO, the ruling party on the region; tried to supplant the political leadership of the leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and some political associates serving various long terms behind bars on trumped-charges of treasonable felony and conspiracy to overthrow Balewa led Federal Government.

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The masses in the region stood solidly behind the leadership of Awo/Alhaji Sauda Soroye Adegbenro as the constitutionally elected premier under the platform of Action Group (AG) ruling party in the Western House of Assembly; and vehemently rejected Akintola rebellion and unholy alliance of a factional government of SL Akintola/Balewa led Nigeria National Alliance (NNA) Federal Government as totally alien and unacceptable throughout the Western Region.

The die was cast.  The litmus test to evince solidarity for Awo in jail and his embattled Action Group (AG) party was to trigger-off overwhelming defeat on a coalition government of Akintola/Balewa led NNA in the ensued Regional and Federal elections.  Thus, elections in the West became tense, a do or die affair to restore constitutional government in the region and to effect if possible to release Awo and his colleagues languishing in prison.

Basking in the euphoria of Federal might, Akintola “taku” not willing to relinquish the premiership in a free and fair election.  Akintola would rather stay put and die in office than face imminent defeat at the polls; which he eventually did!  This led to brazen electoral mayhem and violence of magnitude proportions; burning of lives, arson which were horrendous and unmitigated disasters known as operation “weti e.”  Which meant indiscriminate touching of lives and property with petrol wreaked untold harm, losses, sorrow and disaster across the Yorubaland.

Then, the Army struck on January 15, 1966 heralding the first coup d’etat that put paid to civilian rule in the country.

It is a matter for regrets that none of the military juntas that imposed maximum “iron” curtain rule on us never deemed it fit to address the vexed issue of electoral malfeasance wrongdoing and meted out appropriate penalties commensurate to the enormity of electoral brigandage; to serve as deterrents to others in the long stay of military despotism considered as period of “melancholy interlude” in the nation’s history.

It rankles on adnauseam.  Elections are periodically held but blatantly rigged by the powers at the helm to hand on sine die.  If there is no justice, peace only becomes a midnight summer dream.  What on ground shall only be tantamount to peace of the graveyard and stability of standing still.

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More often than not, violence starts from the primary elections of individual parties to the polling units whilst casting the ballots.  The security operatives should be up and doing; be proactive to deal with every situation as it present itself.  The leadership of various political parties should enforce discipline into the rank and file of delegates to choose governorship aspirants that can deliver and sustain peaceful governance.

We are told Justice Uwais panel had proposed the constitution of an electoral offences’ tribunal where electoral offenders are quickly tried.  How long would it take our tardy and indolent National Assembly (NASS) to effect the quick passage of this vital fundamental and momentous recommendation as prerequisite to the survival of the country?

No wonder the type of Nyesom Wike’s of this word with reckless and unguarded utterances not befitting the status of state governor, whilst might is right still bestride Rivers State and other flash point of anarchy around the country like a colossus with feet of clay thereby constituting an embarrassment to good governance which peaceful polls must engender.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has certainly outlived his usefulness as executive governor for failure to guarantee peaceful polls but threatening fire and brimstone whilst the carnage goes on unabated.

Nyesom Wike is as good as leader of armed and militant banditry and must be tried for breaching public peace since 2015 on assumption as governor of Rivers in a contest that was sanguinary and totally uncalled for.

In the interim, in the wake of violence and mayhem that greeted the governorship elections leading to its postponement sine die, the Federal Government should declare state of emergency in Rivers’ State and impose Sole Administrator until peace and rule of law restored for peaceful conduct of polls.

Anyone no matter his standing in the society that constitutes as an agent of electoral malpractice and a cog in the wheel of electoral process before, during and after elections should be arrested and ruthlessly dealt with according to the law.

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