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.