THE contentious season beckons again and expectedly, he polity is heating up as political foes get at daggers drawn. With tempers fraying, verbal shots are flying left and right, characters are being smeared, names dragged in the mud as propaganda pieces of machinery are fine-tuned, firing from all cylinders. And for spiritual fortification, by now, nearly all herbalists and ritualists’ dens have suddenly turned a Mecca of some sort. Welcome to Nigeria, a land of grubby politics run by desperate political gladiators. A land where politics is a do or die affair where you either take it by hook or crook; and where winners take it all and losers lose it all. Like a sour grape in the mouth, electioneering in Nigeria is sadly characterized with such ignoble incidences as killings, kidnappings, maimings, intimidations, harassments, dollarization and vote buying all cast into one block of psychological mind frame do or die syndrome. Money, compromise and desperation are the lubricants that turn the wheels of politics in Nigeria.
The 2019 election is no different. Violence, and in some cases, killings have been recorded already in campaign rallies in states like Lagos, Kogi, Bayelsa, Oyo, Imo to mention but few. At least, not less than three state chairmen of political parties have been reported kidnapped and not less than twenty supporters of political parties reportedly killed with scores of others sustaining varying degree of injuries due to bullet wounds. For instance, Abia state All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman was kidnapped alongside his secretary few hours before arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari to the presidential rally in the state. In a similar development, the APC chairman in Adamawa State was kidnapped ahead of governorship rally in the state. Those are the few cases reported in the media. There are several others that went underground unreported. Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, there are more than 30 cases of politically motivated assassinations across the country. Many of such cases are unresolved up till date.
Chief among them are those of the late Bola Ige, a former Attorney General of the Federation who was shot dead in his bedroom in Bodija, Ibadan on December 23, 2001. Similarly, Chief Aminasaoari Dikibo, PDP Deputy National Chairman, was ambushed near Asaba in daylight and was murdered in October 22, 2004. The gruesome cold blood murder of Dr. Harry Marshal on March 05, 2003 is another. In February 2003, Ogbonnaya Uche, ANPP senatorial candidate for Orlu was killed in his home residence by unknown gunmen. Killers are yet to be found till date. In July 2006, Lagos PDP gubernatorial aspirant, Funsho Williams was killed at his Dolphin Estate home in Ikoyi. Dipo Dina, fell to the bullets of assassins On Monday, January 25, 2010 around Covenant University, Ota. The late Dina was defunct Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in 2007. ( Source: Daily Post Nov 15, 2018.) Journalists were not spared, Godwin Agbroko, chairman, ThisDay Editorial Board was assassinated on December 22, 2006. Bayo Ohu of Guardian Newspapers was shot dead on a Sunday, September 20, 2009 by a gang in his home in Egbeda, Lagos.
These cases represent only a microcosm of the plethora that replete the entire landscape of the country. As a matter of fact, if asked, almost every Nigerian have one personal experience or know one politician or the other who have experienced political intimidation, harassment or near-death situations in the hands of political opponents. One of such many instances is that of Hon Adeyinka Alex Banso, a former member of Ondo state House of Assembly representing Akoko North-West constituency 1 between 2011 – 2015 on the platform of Labour Party. Due to irreconcilable differences and crisis rocking the Labour Party at the time, Hon. Adeyinka defected to PDP in October, 2014 and got a return ticket to run 2015 election but lost out in the general election. No sooner he won election into the state House of Assembly than his travails started. In many of his ordeals, Adeyinka had a ghastly accident in Akure while returning from a campaign in Akoko on 16th February, 2012. While narrating his ordeal, Hon. Adeyinka said, “On discovering that some men suspected to be hired thugs of opposition party followed me with full speed, I sped off and ran into some big fabricated concrete blocks being used by the company constructing road along Oba Adesida road in Akure. The bike men trailing my vehicle disappeared when they discovered that I had an accident. I was hospitalised for months before I later recovered.”
Adeyinka’s experience is one of many faced by grassroots politicians in Nigeria. This kind of experience does not only present Nigerian democracy in bad light to the international community, it portends danger to the survival of our fledgling democracy. Recently, politicians have been criss-crossing the nooks and crannies of the country to woo electorates to their favour in the forth coming elections. Unfortunately these campaign efforts have nothing to do with issues. The quality of the debate is watery. It is rather full of hate speeches, more of personality attack than issue based. This situation is generating a scenario of panic in the society. To redeem the situation from degenerating into anarchy, partisan politics should be cast aside for now and more focus put into the problems we are facing because Nigeria is clearly a nation at war with itself. The path in which we are presently treading is a threat to the continued peace, unity and prosperity of a place we call our home. Our leaders need to tread carefully and focus more on pressing matters facing the nation at hand irrespective of political parties, because events unfolding from Boko Haram insurgency, political violence, corruption, nepotism among others, are clear indicators of a failing state.
In order for the crises facing us as a country not to escalate into a civil war or the breakup of Nigeria, politics should not be a do or die affair. Rather, the growth and development of the country should be the main focus for our politicians.
- Oloyede writes in from Abuja