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Bayelsa and Kogi: Peaceful election, please!

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Although democracy is fast losing its appeal among the people because of some strange, critical failure factors including violent election processes, most people believe that it could be redeemed through free, fair and peaceful elections. And so outcomes of the two staggered elections tomorrow in Bayelsa and Kogi states tomorrow should signal elements that we want democracy to be safe enough to deliver development to the most populous black nation on earth.

Therefore, this newspaper would like to join other well-meaning Nigerians to urge violence-free elections in the two states this Saturday.  Even as we recognise that a determined man may do that which he has purposed in his hardened mind, it is our fervent hope that the political actors, the electorate and the security agencies will, separately and together, appreciate the absolute necessity for an election that preserves life and not one that takes it this weekend.

In the countdown to these elections, lives have been lost, most recently in Bayelsa State where a campaign rally of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the  Nembe Local Government Area cost the life of  Radio Bayelsa driver and has put a number of persons in the hospital. In Lokoja, Kogi State, a meeting to commit the governorship candidates and leaders of their respective parties to a peaceful election was nearly disrupted by thugs who prevented the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti from participating in an event that as a candidate she was duly invited to sign the peace deal. It is indeed a mark of the brazenness of the thugs on the one hand and the desperation of their sponsors on the other hand, that, besides the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and the Director-General of the NYSC Brig- General Shaibu Ibrahim, the presence of no less a person than the Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu did not deter the act of brigandage.

There are three active entities in the worrying matter of these violence-prone elections. First and most notably, the politicians stand accused of desperation to win at any cost –life and property of others but not their own, and of empowering the thugs with money, arms, drugs and other forms of incitement. The motive of politicians for high public office is very much suspect.  If the sole purpose is to serve the people, there can be no imaginable justification for the deployment of desperate and ignoble tactics to achieve that noble end. But, of course, everyone knows that in this corruption-ridden polity, public office is the most financially rewarding ‘‘business.’’ It must be quickly said, however, that these cheap objective and crude tactic do not obtain where we borrowed the idea of representative democracy.

Second, members of the electorate who value their lives so little as to make themselves available as cannon fodder. Pray, why would any reasonable person think the political ambition of another worth dying for? We should acknowledge though that Nigerian leaders have deliberately reduced most citizens to such level of desperation for ‘‘something to eat’’ that the teeming victims would do anything for mere crumbs.  Nonetheless, we should expect that thinking people would see through this chicanery of the politicians. Alas, not so. They collaborate in their wretched condition with their inconsiderate oppressors.

The inability sometimes and apparent partisanship at other times of the security agencies contribute to the chaos of elections that are taken for granted as normal and peaceful in other climes. We grant that the civil law enforcement agencies are in sheer number, overwhelmed by the weight and size of their assigned tasks, election or no election. It is trite (and a shame too) to say that the police, which is the first line of defence against election and indeed other forms of internal violence, is ‘‘under-resourced.’’  The consequence is that the Force must divert men from one area of operations or another, to cover immediate emergencies such as violence-prone elections in states of Kogi and Bayelsa states. But the point must also be made that, going by the reports in the media, the security agencies did not at all live up to expectation in Kogi State where a governorship candidate was denied entry by an unruly band of hired hands into a hall where the IGP and a senior military officer were present.

Strange it is that the commotion outside in which the SDP state chairman was beaten up did not alert the peace meeting participants to the abnormal incident outside. And it was equally curious that no one cared to mention it to INEC’s Yakubu, IGP Adamu, and NYSC’s Ibrahim? The IGP is quoted to have said, ‘‘we have reports that some people are planning to import thugs but we will checkmate them.’’  We dare say that the thugs are already on the ground and actively on duty. It may be recalled that the campaign office of the SDP was reportedly set on fire by thugs a few days earlier. Mr. Adamu’s tough talk against political thuggery after these deeds were done fails a key requirement of the police operational tactic.

With thousands of his men including, we may assume, intelligence officers – assigned to cover the Kogi State election, it is difficult to understand the unpardonable failure of preventive policing. The police ‘‘act as an official representative of government…’’. The shortcoming of the force in its duty to the citizens is, therefore, a government derelict in its duty. This fragile country cannot take this. INEC has shouted itself hoarse about the threat of violence in these elections.

It is regrettable that the government charged with the security of life and property needs to be reminded of its constitutional obligation. There is one inescapable fact in this narrative on election management. INEC and the security agencies would not set the tone for violence. Politicians who are desperate to subvert even processes of their primary elections do. Violence always begins in the minds of men who want their candidates to win at all costs.

We challenge politicians, willing thugs and the law enforcement agencies to, for the sake of their people, play their respective parts for a peaceful election tomorrow.  Surely, no one except the most depraved would wish to govern a state of the dead and the maimed. And only the living too can enjoy dividends of democracy.


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