Wednesday, May 29, 2013

It’s another Democracy Day, so what!

It’s been 14 years since Nigeria severed her relationship with the military in governance and decided to embrace democracy. It is also three years since President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office as Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces, having succeeded the late President Umaru Yar’Adua on May 6, 2010. Today also marks the second anniversary of the inauguration of President Jonathan as the substantive president of Nigeria having been declared as the winner of the April 16, 2011 presidential election. Again, it is a few months to the centennial anniversary of Nigeria’s amalgamation. In his speech exactly a year ago, President Jonathan gave account of his stewardship and made a lot of promises to Nigerians. Twelve months after, how has Jonathan’s Presidency fared?
It will be uncharitable to say nothing has been achieved since May 29, 2012 Democracy Day celebration. A lot of effort has been made to better the lives of Nigerians but not many of them have impacted positively on the citizenry. There is growing unemployment and deepening poverty as well while insecurity being experienced is comparable to that witnessed during the Nigerian Civil War. In my opinion, the administration did well by giving some of our airports a facelift. Benin, Kano, Enugu, Lagos airports now wear a new look. However, we have yet to have a national carrier and there has been a couple of air disasters with the major one being the June 3, 2012 Dana plane crash that killed 153 people on board and an unspecified number of people on ground. Industrial action by workers in the aviation sector persists. Only recently, employees of Aero Contractors were on strike for some weeks. Flight delays and cancellations without due regard for the interest of the customers still take place.
In the road sector, the minister in charge appears to have also demonstrated high capacity. Some federal roads are receiving due attention but many of them have yet to be completed and lack of sufficient budgetary provisions still remains a serious challenge to meeting completion schedules. In spite of the flash flooding in about 20 of the 36 states during the last quarter of 2012, the country is not experiencing famine. This is due largely to the proactive steps taken by the agriculture ministry. The dismantling of the tractor and fertiliser syndicate is another commendable achievement of the present administration. However, the introduction of 10 million mobile cell phones to rural farmers pitted the minister against some Nigerians who saw the phone project as a phony deal.
This administration’s introduction of mobile number portability via the Nigerian Communications Commission is laudable. It is geared towards empowering mobile phone users to migrate to the network provider of their choice should they be dissatisfied with their current provider. They get to retain their number in the event of “porting” to another network. Since the April 22, 2013 introduction of the MNP, Nigerians who had hitherto been shortchanged with poor quality services are now being treated better. The rate of drop calls, difficulty in loading recharge card and other sundry challenges have yet to be totally wiped out but the MNP has made the providers to woo customers with all manner of bonanza schemes.
In the area of education, the Jonathan administration has been making efforts to redress decades of rot in that sector. At the convocation ceremony of the Ahmadu Bello University on March 2, 2013, the present administration promised to convert one university in each of the six geo-political zones to a “mega university” in order to address the low admission capacity of existing universities. The establishment of mega universities is modelled after the order of the University of BueƱos Aires, Argentina, which has 300,000 students; the University of Pretoria, South Africa, with 250,000 and the University of Mexico with a student population of 200,000. Just last year, the administration established nine new federal universities. In addition, the Federal Government launched a Special Presidential Scholarship Scheme for First Class graduates in various disciplines, especially engineering and science. They are being sent for postgraduate studies in the best universities abroad.
In spite of these seemingly commendable efforts at addressing the admission capacity and manpower need in our universities, other tertiary institutions like the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education are not receiving due attention from the Federal Government. I learnt that the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics has been on strike for some weeks now without their grievances being addressed. Even for the universities, the report of the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities submitted since November 2012 is still largely unimplemented seven months after. Mass failures are still being recorded in West African Senior School Certificate examinations. Even in the April 27, 2013 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, poor performance has made all the universities to lower their cut-off marks. While the old generation universities set their cut-off point at 200, many new generation keep theirs at 180. This is out of a maximum score of 400 marks. In spite of establishment of more universities, funding still poses a serious challenge. In the 2013 budget, N426.53bn was earmarked for education. This is about nine per cent of the total budget. This is a far cry from the UNESCO recommended 26 per cent.
If there is one sector where Jonathan administration is not pulling its weight, it is in the health sector. Medical tourism is still the order of the day with the Presidency setting the pace. Minister of State for Health, Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate, disclosed on June 25, 2012 in Lagos that the country loses $500m or N81bn yearly to other countries under medical tourism as Nigerians seek solution to their medical challenges abroad. In his Democracy Day address of last year, Jonathan said he wanted to eradicate polio by 2014. This is a mirage given new cases of the deadly virus still being discovered in 2013. It has even been admitted by government officials that Nigeria will not meet the Millennium Development Goals in 2015. Three of the eight MDGs namely Goals 4, 5 and 6 are health-related.
In the power sector, with all the road map and assurances, Nigeria is still generating about 4,000 megawatts much of which is lost in the process of transmission on our weak transmission lines. Cases of systems collapse are still rampant with the most recent one happening on Friday, May 24, 2013. The inability of power marketing companies to provide pre-paid meters to consumers leaves the hapless customers at the mercy of the unscrupulous marketers who still distribute “crazy” bills to them thereby forcing them to pay for what they did not consume. The inability of this administration to resolve this knotty problem of power generation, transmission and distribution has weakened the fight against unemployment while raising the cost of doing business in Nigeria.
In spite of the Jonathan government’s claim to be fighting corruption, the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, released in December 2012 placed Nigeria 135 out of 176 countries surveyed. According to the report, Nigeria shares the position with Pakistan and Nepal, to remain one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Truly, many of the mega corruption cases that have been uncovered remain largely unresolved with the Nigeria police, lawyers and judges being most reprehensible. The perpetrators of the Oil Subsidy scam, the Pension Scam, the 2009 bank frauds and many others are still far from being successfully prosecuted.
The Steve Orosanye report on merger and acquisition of ministries, departments and agencies, the Parry Osayande Police reform report and many other committee reports have yet to be implemented; yet this administration holds the ace as being one with a plethora of committees. It is true that the government is trying to establish various job creation schemes like the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria Programme, designed to encourage entrepreneurship and provide grants for small and medium scale enterprises. However, more jobs have been lost than created under this administration as many enterprises close shops to relocate to better climes.
Perhaps, the greatest challenge this administration is facing is that of insecurity with Nigeria remaining the kidnapping headquarters of the world while the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents had succeeded in carving a territory for themselves in North-East part of the country before the declaration of the state of emergency in Borno, Admawa and Yobe states on May 14. Even though the President in April released N5.7bn to nine states of the federation for direct disbursement to those who suffered losses of properties, means of livelihood and places of worship in the post-election violence of 2011, he has yet to fulfil his promise of establishing Electoral Offences Tribunals to deal speedily with established cases of electoral violence as promised in his Democracy Day speech of last year. On the whole, while we may have recorded some incremental success, we are still far away from the transformational change promised us in the lead up to the April 2011 elections. However, enjoy your holiday, Dear compatriots.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Buildings as death traps

Help! Somebody should help save the souls of Nigerians daily dying from collapsed buildings. Enough of this carnage. Enough of these preventable deaths of innocent Nigerians who in a bid to earn a living or have shelter over their heads fall victim to buckled buildings. It has become a daily phenomenon for residential and commercial buildings to collapse like a pack of cards. Some of these buildings crumble under construction while many others give way while being occupied. In either circumstance, many lives are lost and property worth billions of naira destroyed annually.
For a fact, it is not only in Nigeria that we have cases of collapsed buildings. On April 24, 2013, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, an eight storey factory building collapsed killing over a thousand people. While it may be true that collapsed structure is a global occurrence; however, the frequency of its happening in Nigeria should give well-meaning compatriots cause for worry and ginger up housing regulatory authorities to action.
Building experts have adduced many reasons for this growing phenomenon. Among them are the use of quacks as building supervisors, use of ill-trained manpower for construction, use of sub-standard materials for building, high cost of building materials, flooding, corruption, lack of mortgage facilities, lack of maintenance culture, and lack of enforcement of building code, etc.
Among the professionals involved in the building industry are architects, draughtsman, engineers, builders, estate managers, soil scientists, masons, plumbers, electricians, welders, carpenters, town planners, painters, tilers, among others. Incidentally, among these professionals are quacks who know next to nothing about their professed field of study. There is no gainsaying that there are many genuine and competent ones. However, these days, the counterfeits are more than the genuine ones. Even the university graduates among these professionals also demonstrate high level of incompetence probably due to the theory-centric nature of our tertiary education. When it comes to field work, they are often lost as most of the things they learnt were in classes and not hands-on.
Some of these professionals who undergo apprenticeship are even worse. Ask a carpenter, welder or plumber to come and fix a problem in your house and you’ll find out their incompetence is in square root. They charge high fees yet render poor quality service. It’s very rare to engage one set of artisans from start to finish on a building project. A friend of mine used three different set of bricklayers while building his house. Many people have expressed preference for artisans from Ghana and Benin Republic due to their high competence levels compared to their Nigerian counterparts. Some of our Nigerian brothers in the building industry are not only inept but are also thieves. If you leave them on your building site without adequate supervision, they’ll not only mess things up but steal some of the materials bought for the project. If they do not have the chance to steal, they resort to wasting the materials. A story was told of a man who due to strict monitoring of the bricklayers on his site prevented the workers from stealing his cement. When they couldn’t steal them, they resorted to wasting same by pouring the mixed concrete into the block holes. These bungling artisans are largely responsible for the soaring incidence of collapsed buildings. They perform worse when there is no experienced site supervisor to guide them appropriately and ensure that they do things properly.
When you add incompetent manpower to the use of sub-standard products in the construction field, it amounts to double jeopardy. Around November 2012, the Director-General of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, Dr. Joseph Odumodu, while delivering a lecture at the monthly meeting of Obafemi Awolowo University Alumni Association, shocked the nation when he said that over 85 per cent of products in Nigeria were substandard. Should this be true, then we are finished. It is not uncommon to hear of adulterated cement, substandard iron rods, counterfeit water closets, termite-prone planks, fake electrical wires and cables, etc. There is no gainsaying that when all or any of these poor quality products are used in the building construction, such edifice cannot stand the test of time.
High cost of building materials is not also helping matters. It is a truth that most buildings in Nigeria are privately owned as governments no longer build mass housing estates for the citizenry. Even the mass housing estates built by the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari across the country during the Second Republic were largely abandoned and had become a den of night marauders and habitation of rodents and reptiles. Under the administration of ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo, with the introduction of monetisation policy, government decided to sell-off its houses across the country. Thus, given the exorbitant cost of land and building materials in many major cities, many individual and corporate property developers resort to cost cutting measures. They prefer cheap and incompetent professionals to highly experienced but expensive ones. They use a mix of standard and sub-standard products for their buildings. The end result is the spate of collapse buildings being witnessed across the country.
Corruption creeps in when regulatory agencies are financially induced to get building approvals for areas where public safety will be compromised or where there should ordinarily be no buildings such as flood plains. Houses on water-ways block drainage and are prone to flooding. Many of the old buildings are starved of proper maintenance which ultimately makes the houses to be prone to dilapidation. Many of the public and private buildings are full of cracks and crevices which are often neglected. Some houses have leaking roofs and pipes, blocked drainages, and many other defects which are not fixed on time. With the buildings exposed to inclement weather, there is no need for a soothsayer to know that such facility is heading for collapse.
Lack of customer friendly mortgage facilities in the country puts undue pressure on individuals to build their private residences. More so, with the exorbitant rent being charged by house-owners in cahoots with their shylock estate agents. It is said that there are about 16 million housing deficits in Nigeria. Thus, there are fewer houses than there are people in need. This drives up the cost of rent and lease. Ultimately, it increases the cost of doing business.
It is unfortunate that over the years not much has been done by government to arrest the ugly trend. When major structures crumpled, committees are set up to examine the remote and immediate causes and that’s where it ends. The culprits are hardly prosecuted nor did the victims and their families care for. They are left to lick their wounds and mourn their losses. The law ought to make property owners liable for causing death and injury to workers or occupants of their property. They should be made to bear the medical cost of the injured and pay compensation to the family of the deceased. Government agencies in charge of housing development and control need to carry out stricter oversight by ensuring compliance of property developers with building code. They need to also conduct integrity or stress test on many old buildings to see if they are still strong enough for human habitation. Building that fail stress tests should be pulled down if the structural defects are irredeemable. In doing this, priority should be given to multi-storey buildings. Housing loans with friendly repayment terms should be given by government and mortgage institutions so that individuals can build quality houses for their families. Above all, let all workers on building sites do quality jobs while tenants of old buildings should be vigilant and watch out for early signs of building disintegration. It would be in their interest to vacate such property immediately before it becomes a death trap.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Arming jobless youths to win elections

It is now official; the hen has come home to roost. The long heard rumour has now been confirmed. Nigerian politicians in their desperate attempt to win elections have been adopting the Machiavellian principle of “the end justifies the means” by arming political thugs in order to forcefully win elections. Any wonder election time in Nigeria is a war front; a season of anomie when a civic exercise leaves in its trail, tears, sorrow and blood. Former vice-president Atiku Abubakar was quoted on the British Broadcasting Corporation Hausa Service on Saturday, May 11, 2013 (published in Sunday PUNCH, May 12) as saying that, “When we formed the PDP and candidates emerged, the governors earmarked huge amounts of money to buy arms for youth groups so as to use them in winning the election. I met and told them that if they used them and after winning the election, they fail to provide them with jobs, they will rise against the people in their states. These are the youths who later turned into the Niger Delta militants you’ve heard about. Also, a similar thing happened in the North, I met a governor and told him that these youths you assembled and called ECOMOG will become dangerous later and that was what eventually happened. I spoke to all these governors, I alerted all of them.”
Now, we know the origin and founders of militancy in Nigeria. Atiku said he warned the concerned governors; however, did he report them to the police and other security agents? I bet it was made a family affair. The nation is today paying dearly for the heinous crimes of these desperate politicians. Unfortunately, the perpetrators of this crime against humanity are walking freely with their families while the defenceless members of the public suffer the brunt. Before this confirmation by the former VP, my researches into the root causes of electoral violence have revealed that unscrupulous politicians not only provide weapons to youths to wreak havoc on their political opponents, they also provide them with narcotics and other psychotropic substances to sniff and smoke. They also armed them with charms. Remember, 36 political thugs were reportedly caught with charms in a former senator’s house in Oye-Ekiti during a governorship re-run election in Ekiti State in April 2009. In addition, they provide them with official security cover as police and other security agencies are often compromised to look the other way while these hirelings perpetrate their criminal assignments. Not only that, as soon as they become governors, they instruct their Attorneys-General to file nolle prosequi against some of their political thugs who may have been arrested and are being prosecuted by the police for electoral violence. This is why most perpetrators of political assassination, thuggery and arson often go scot free.
This arming of youths is what has made Nigeria’s election to be catastrophic as political campaigns often turn bloody and election days become tension soaked. Even though Atiku talked about the practice by some PDP governors, it will be tantamount to playing the ostrich if other political parties gloat and mock the party on this. This is because most of the notable political parties and their candidates practise this across board. Many politicians use local militias in their sphere of influence to perpetrate theirs. While some South-East politicians use Bakassi Boys and members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra; the South- South politicians use the Egbesu Boys as well as members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to deal with their political rivals. The political elite in the South-West use different factions of the Oodua Peoples Congress, remnants of the old Agbekoya Movement, members of the Road Transport Workers Union as well as street urchins known as Area Boys to deal with their perceived political opponents. Northern politicians use various groups such as Yan Sara-Suka in Bauchi, Yan Kalare in Gombe, Yan Daba and Yan daukan amarya in Kano and ECOMOG in Borno and Yobe states. In Adamawa State, the political thugs are known as Damagun Boys and Shinko Boys. In Taraba State, they are called Bani Israila. Thus, arming of youths, mainly unemployed, for electoral violence goes beyond a particular geopolitical zone or political party.
How did these politicians source their illegal weapons which they shared out to their thugs? This is as easy as preparing noodles or boiling an egg. Nigeria’s international borders are so porous that smuggling of arms and ammunition has become pastimes of some people in the border communities. The Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, in February 2013, said Nigeria had 84 regular borders and over 1,487 irregular routes to the country. Buttressing the minister, Lt. Col Sagir Musa who is the spokesman for Joint Task Force in Maiduguri in a piece published in Sunday Trust of April 21, 2013 said, “From conservative estimate by locals, there are well over 250 footpaths from Damaturu/Maiduguri areas that link or lead directly to Cameroon, Chad or Niger. These paths are mostly unknown by security agencies, are unmanned, unprotected and thus serve as leaky routes for arms and ammunition trafficking into Nigeria.” The smugglers are said to use camels, donkeys and cows to traffic arms, ammunition and drugs, like cocaine into the country.
Now that someone has owned up to knowing some of those who had been responsible for the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Nigeria, it behoves on the security agents to summon the former VP to formally brief them about the identities of those governors who had been arming youths in their states for the purpose of winning elections. That is assuming the security agencies themselves do not know them and are being handicapped by lack of political will to deal with political leaders in power. Unfortunately, if we do not deal with this culture of impunity, there may be no election in 2015. This is because, the notion that it is easier and cheaper to eliminate your opponent than contesting with them will continue to rear its ugly head as we prepare for the next general elections. Meanwhile, as these “Vagabonds in power” continue to indulge in their nefarious activities, they not only destroy the lives of the youths they armed, they also destroy many other innocent lives who fall victims to these armed groups when elections are over and the largesse from politicians dry up. May God save Nigerians from the hands of their oppressors and tormentors.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nassarawa Massacre: When Police met its waterloo at Alakyo

This is not the best of time for Nigerian police, the security community and Nigerian government as a whole. In the last few years, the Force has lost hundreds of its officers and men to attacks by insurgents in the South-South and North East Nigeria. In the recent past, precisely on March 2, 2013, Kwara State Commissioner of Police Mr. Chinwike Asadu was assassinated in Enugu. On April 5 at Azuzuama community, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, the Force lost 11 of its men in one fell swoop. They were reportedly heading to that community to provide security at the burial of the late mother of an ex -militant leader, Kile Selky Torughedi, aka Young Shall Grow, and Senior Special Assistant on Marine Waterways Security to the Bayelsa Governor, when their boat was ambushed.

It was bloodbath for men and officers of Nigerian police on Tuesday, May 7 when 22 of them were among the 55 killed in early morning raid in Bama town in Borno State. Others who lost their lives were   14 prison officials, two soldiers and four civilians. The deadliest attack on Nigerian police in recent times took place same Tuesday, May 7 when dozens of their agents were massacred in a town called Alakyo in Nassarawa State. They were ambushed by the Ombatse cult group while on a mission to arrest the cult’s leader known as Baba Alakyo. The allegation against the cult members who has been outlawed by the Nassarawa State government was that they were torturing and forcing people in churches and mosques to swear to an oath of allegiance to the Ombatse deity.  Ombatse in the Eggon language means “the time has come”. Members of the militia, in their defence said they are only fighting against social vices such as alcohol and adultery. A source however told a newspaper that: “The countdown to 2015 might have aggravated the clash with the militia. They are demanding that power should shift to Nasarawa Eggon in 2015 following fears that Al-Makura may want to seek re-election.” (See The Nation of Friday, May 10, 2013.)

Different account put the death toll at between 88 and 121. Leader of the ill-fated operation Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of Operations, Momoh Mohammed was also allegedly killed during the attack. While Daily Trust of Friday, May 10 put the figure at 88, Daily Sun quoting a reliable source put the figure at 121. According to Daily Trust, “Officials at the Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia said they received bodies of 88 security men who were killed in the attack. However; Daily Sun said a source told its reporter “that about 100 policemen, 10 Department of State Security operatives, and 20 soldiers may have been killed during the massacre.” A man who claimed to be member of the Ombatse sect said they killed a total of 90 policemen “in self defence” during the Tuesday evening incident. He was quoted as having so claimed while speaking on a BBC Hausa interview on Thursday, May 9. But state police Commissioner Abayomi Akeremale said the number of security agents confirmed dead was 47. Not only were these gallant officers and men murdered in cold blood, their corpses were also set on fire while nine of their vans were also burnt.

 It is not surprising that figures from the media and police authorities do not tally. That has been the ugly tradition. The official figures have always been low even if eye witness account says otherwise. Remember, that was how the figures of the April 20 Baga killings were disputed. While media reports claimed that between 185 and 228 people, mostly civilians, died in the clash, apart from an unspecified number of those injured, the military authorities dismissed the figures as highly exaggerated. The Commander of the Multinational Joint Task Force that carried out the Baga operation, Brig.-Gen. Austin Edokpaye, claimed that 30 members of the Boko Haram terrorist group were killed, while five arrests were made. A statement by the Deputy Force Public Relations Officer, Frank Mba, said consequent upon the attacks, “the IGP has directed all Field Commanders and Special Units including Assistant Inspectors-General of Police and Commissioners of Police to harness all resources available within their domain in ensuring that this reign of terror and lawlessness is brought to an end“.

There are several lessons to be drawn from these ceaseless attacks on police officers and men. It clearly shows that the terrorists are gaining upper hand in their heinous crimes than the security authorities are wont to admit. Our security agencies are simply overwhelmed, ill-equipped and poorly trained to meet the challenges of modern policing. The Alakyo saga leaves a sour taste in the mouth as one would have expected a proper reconnaissance mission rather than the old fashioned show of force.  A prior intelligence gathering on the activities of the sect would have revealed their strength and weaknesses. The security operatives would have known what kind of equipment to take with them, the topography of the area, whether their men need to be in mufti or wear uniform, whether to wear bullet proof vests, etc. For instance, one out of the ten survivors was alleged to have said to Leadership newspaper that “The road is narrow and they allowed us into their midst before opening fire on us at close range.  Efforts to return fire and scare them into hiding ware futile as bullets were not penetrating them.” The chief priest of the sect is also alleged to possess some mystical powers which make him to appear and disappear at will. All these should have been taken into account by the security agents on that mission. They were not going to fight ordinary people but persons with some metaphysical powers. Obviously, security agents on that mission underrated their opponents.

I wonder why the policemen on that mission went with Hilux vans when they should have gone with Armoured Personnel Carriers and Helicopters. I am also amazed that they went to carry out the operation following only one route instead of using several entry points. It would seem those on the assignment didn’t factor in the element of ambush. The fact that the policemen decided to drive into the village also took away the element of surprise which in itself is very key in strategic studies. This, in addition to the fact that some fifth columnists in the Force possibly have alerted the sect members of the impeding raid on their shrine, did the policemen in. (I learnt two of the saboteurs have been caught). All said, it boils down to lack of or insufficient planning and resources for the operation. Unfortunately, innocent souls were needlessly lost.  My condolence to the families of the departed.

It has been said over and over again that intelligence gathering is a prerequisite to modern day policing and warfare. Unfortunately, in spite of nearly a trillion Naira budgeted for the Defence and Police Ministries in 2012 and 2013 budget respectively, the impact of this  huge resources are yet to be felt by the security agencies. It would then seem the resources are being pilfered or misapplied. Just few months ago, the rot in Nigerian Police training college in Ikeja, Lagos was revealed by Channels Television; sadly, not much has been done to improve the police training institutes across the country. Both the environment and the course contents have to be fine-tuned to be at par with contemporary challenges of policing. I commend President Jonathan for cutting short his official trip to South Africa and cancelling his trip to Namibia in order to attend to the security situation at home, however, he needs to do better than issuing press releases and holding security meetings, he needs to put the feet of his security chiefs to fire for better result. The Constitution says in Section 14 (2) (b) that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” It is a shame that the security agents are not able to protect themselves, how much more the ordinary people who have no access to weapons.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nigeria’s bloody dress rehearsal for 2015

Nigeria hopes to hold another General Elections in 2015. However, early signs are emerging that the forthcoming polls might be bloodier than previous ones. Clear two years ahead of the elections, political violence is already claiming lives and property. Last Thursday’s attack on members of the Accord Party in Olomi area of Oluyole Local Government of Oyo State is one such incident. A simple act of defection of members of one party to another turned bloody as over 30 persons were reportedly injured, cars vandalised and canopies and chairs destroyed. The leader of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in the state, Alhaji Taofeek Oyerinde aka ‘Fele’ was alleged to have masterminded the May 2 attack. Media reports said the NURTW members carried out the Olomi attack in spite of the fact that the Accord Party obtained police permit to hold the rally and that there was heavy presence of policemen at the venue of the attack. An Armoured Personnel Carrier was even said to have been stationed there, yet the hoodlums were able to have their way. It was this same Fele that allegedly spearheaded attack on the Peoples Democratic Party members in the house of Aare Musulumi of Ibadanland, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Arisekola Alao, last October. Pandemonium was said to have broke out when the PDP members in company of some prominent party leaders were said to have been singing abusive songs against the Governor who was believed to also be at Arisekola’s house on Sallah homage. In the ensuing melee, no fewer than 20 persons were injured, while all the PDP supporters were allegedly beaten up by the NURTW boys.
Until recently, the ACN and the AP were in accord in the state. Unfortunately, that alliance broke down in April 2013 when the governor formally informed the AP leader in the state and former governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, of the dissolution of the alliance between the two parties. This decision led to the dismissal of two commissioners, two special advisers, some chairmen and members of boards, a caretaker chairman of a local government and others who were nominees of the former governor. Ajimobi reportedly said he had to take the decision due to ceaseless attacks by the Accord party members on his government. He was quoted as saying, “Regrettably, recent developments, in terms of the conduct of your people and the campaign of calumny which is recorded frequently in the newspapers, unsubstantiated allegations, as well as unwarranted vitriolic attacks against my person and the government under my leadership, have made me come to the conclusion that these recent campaigns against me are incompatible with the spirit of our alliance”
The question is, if the alliance broke down between the two parties, should that signify a war? Recently, the secretariat of the Accord Party located at Samonda area of Ibadan was burgled by unknown persons. During the April 1, 2013 robbery, two generators, a 6.5 KVA and 2.5 KVA capacities, and other items yet to be ascertained were reportedly carted away by the burglars. This incident took place barely a week after a chief of the Accord Party and former Secretary to the State Government in Oyo State, Chief Ayodele Adigun, reportedly escaped assassination in his Akobo, Ibadan residence. Ajimobi may have no hands in the woes of the AP in Oyo State but it will seem his party members are trying to “teach” the opposition a bitter lesson in the state. It behooves the governor, therefore, as the chief security officer of the state to have a dialogue with the leadership and members of his party and other stakeholders in the state to sheathe their swords and allow peace to reign in the Pacesetter state.
I have dwelt more on the incidence of political violence in Oyo State but it would be erroneous to think it’s only there that political violence is perpetrated. A similar orgy of violence took place in Erijiyan Ekiti in March 2013 when a fight between members of the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Peoples Democratic Party led to the death of a PDP member in the community, Mr. Ayodele Jeje, who was allegedly killed by suspected ACN thugs. It was also gathered that the mother of another member of the party in the community, Mr. Segun Adewumi, as well as Adewumi’s younger brother, were also shot. Just like the case of the Accord Party in Ibadan, the attack on the PDP members in Erijiyan took place while the members were finalising arrangement, as a report put it, “for a programme where Mr. Segun Adewumi wants to lead over 1,000 members of the ACN to the PDP.”
Similarly, during the campaign for the April 2013 local government election in Edo State, violence erupted on April 10 in Fugar headquarters of Etsako Central Local Area between supporters of the ACN and the PDP. The clash led to the death of two persons while property running into millions of naira were destroyed. A retired teacher, Oboareye Ibharue, was reportedly shot dead in front of his residence in Fugar, while another was reported to have died in the hospital following injuries he sustained.
It would be recalled that Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State during his inauguration on May 29, 2011 said he lost 69 members of his core supporters to electoral violence between 2007 and 2011. He said dozens others were injured and that he himself survived three assassination attempts. The governor said five of his supporters were killed on March 10, 2007 alone. Among those we have lost previously to election related violence were former governor of old Oyo State, Chief Ajibola Ige, Funso Williams, Chief Dipo Dina, to mention but a few. A post-presidential election violence in 2011 also led to the untimely death of over 800 persons including 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps serving in Bauchi State.
How many more will be killed ahead of 2015? Unfortunately, for the litany of deaths, there has only been mourning for the dead while the perpetrators manage to escape justice. Our political leaders need to exercise restraints in using their powers. Nigeria has witnessed enough bloodshed in recent times and everything must be done to forestall further bloodletting. The Constitution of Nigeria guarantees freedom of association and speech and as such opposition must be allowed to operate freely within the ambit of the law. Let’s play politics without bitterness. This way, there will be no need to shed innocent blood of those who disagree with us or hold dissenting political views.