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Against political assassinations, violence

By Guardian Nigeria
05 May 2022   |   3:56 am
The gruesome killing of a political leader in Osun State the other day is a sharp reminder that the season of assassinations associated with politics and electioneering campaign may not be over in the country.

Photo by CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP

The gruesome killing of a political leader in Osun State the other day is a sharp reminder that the season of assassinations associated with politics and electioneering campaign may not be over in the country. No doubt, the political climate is heating up countrywide, but must it be treated as a matter of life and death, where the human life is snuffed out merely for being in legitimate opposition? Granted that the country has reclined into the brutish and nasty state of nature where daily killings are only for record purposes, killing and maiming to settle political scores are bestial and stand condemnable by all. Security agencies should intensify efforts to enforce appropriate laws; but the political elite also need to rally their followers to nonviolence, free and fair electoral process.

The ugly side of primordial politicking is showing up barely two months to the gubernatorial poll in Osun. Some men suspected to be hired assassins visited and killed the chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Atakunmosa East-Central Local Council Development Area (LCDA) of Osun State, Gbenga Ogbara, in his Igangan hometown. The attack by assassins on motorbikes left his family members injured. The attackers did hint that the slayed Ogbara is one of the 10 party members listed for assassination. The state government and the police urged the residents not to take laws into their hands on the pledge that perpetrators would be fished out.

It is sad that three weeks since the episode, nothing assuring has been heard of police’s “manhunt” for the killers. Obviously, the Police needs to be more responsive in this matter, to severe the potential domino effects of such dastard crime. Only convincing efforts by the State to push for transparent justice and have others secured will assuage supporters of the deceased or the pains of family and friends, and as well promote an atmosphere of peace.

But the police have rarely been remarkable or steadfast in resolving political killings, going by the series of politically-motivated killings and suspected acts of state terrorism that remain hanging years after they were committed. The incidents have ended up largely as ‘mysterious’ killings that soon peter out of notoriety and collective consciousness. Unforgettable are: the murder of the then Justice Minister and Attorney General, Bola Ige on December 23, 2001; Aminasoari Dikibo on October 22, 2004; Harry Marshall on March 5, 2003; Ogbonaya Uche and Theodore Agwatu in February 2003; Abigail and Barnabas Igwe in September 2002, and Funso Williams in July 2006. There are others like Pa. Alfred Rewane, Ayodeji Daramola, Godwin Agbroko, Odunayo Olagbaju; Dipo Dina; Bayo Ohu and most recently, Dr. Chike Akunyili and Ahmed Gulak. Before all those, Dele Giwa was killed by a parcel bomb in October 1986; and Dr. Shola Omoshola died via car bomb, to mention a few during the military era. The killers in all the incidents were never apprehended.

An international agency, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, reported that no fewer than 184 persons were assassinated by hit men in Nigeria, Somalia and other African countries between 2019 and 2020. In the region, according to data, Somalia polled the highest with 33 per cent, while Nigeria came second with 18 per cent. Among the targeted victims are personalities in politics and governance. If the assassinations were that prominent in off-election years, then they stand to be worse as the feisty general poll comes closer. Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar had warned that there are over six million arms in the hands of non-state actors; are these part of the arsenal for political killings and violence?

Indeed, collective amnesia of the past unresolved cases and illegal possession of arms are incentives for savagery to grind on. Yet, those unraveled acts of brute aggression in politics are damaging to the growth of democracy and cause of nationhood. Politics being a contest for power, the purpose is to serve the people. More often than not, however, Nigerian politicians have been obsessed with the power element which they show no restraint at getting, even if by brute force. But such attitude robs the system of its best possible aspirants that can meritoriously offer credible leadership to serve the people well. In turn, it leaves the all-important process of leadership recruitment in the hands of the mediocre. And with the worst leading the best, the country will continue to wallow in depravity.

To tackle the menace, political leaders need to be less irresponsible in deeds and in speeches. The political atmosphere is already charged in Osun given the intra-party wrangling and inciting comments by people that should lead by example. Party leaders may have disagreement, but escalating the rivalry into the larger supporters and propagating a ‘we versus them’ syndrome create tension and violence in the land. Clearly, the majority of the political killings and violence are premeditated or incited by the political leaders. Hence, the police should stop overlooking public conducts of the politicians, but begin to hold them accountable for criminal acts they perpetrate.

The general public and political platforms also have responsibility to stemming the tide of political assassinations and violence in general. With Ekiti and Osun guber elections in the prelude to the 2023 general elections, political gladiators are milling round to curry endorsements nationwide. That is an opportunity for the monarchs, religious fathers, other leaders of thoughts and the general public to as well demand from the politicians a commitment to a peaceful, free and fair recruitment process. Aspirants that cannot show good-faith, comportment and self-restraint in ambition are not worth scaling the first hurdle. It is the duty of those public platforms to remind politicians that none of their ambitions – lifelong or newly found – is worth the life of any Nigerian. In place of inciting comments and abuses, which should be publicly denounced where they are made, aspirants must be made to routinely swear to nonviolence and speak the same to their supporters at every opportunity.

The country needs peaceful and fair political process; but it begins with hands-on proactive security agencies, while politicians desist from inflammatory “do or die” politics that are the bane of violence and killings.