Desperation for political power and the personalization of same, here in Nigeria are at the heart of the series of clearly avoidable ethno-religious crises bedeviling the nation state till this day. Also to blame are the highly attractive apparatchiks of office. These are characterized by obscenely high pay package and the winner-takes-it-all mechanisms that place political appointees as demi-gods to be worshipped by the pauperized populace, rather than serve them. And when might is right, evil thrives, beginning of course, with the general elections.
From records, violence affected more than 120 of the nearly 600 presidential and parliamentary elections held around the world between 1985 and 2005. That is according to UC Berkeley researcher, Leonardo R. Arriola, who led a Social Science Matrix prospecting seminar focused on “Electoral Violence in Developing Countries”.
Amongst the African countries listed by Sara Birch and Muchlinski, in the Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence Nigeria leads the pack when it comes to escalating wave of electoral violence. Others are Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Ghana and Tanzania.
The bitter truth of the state of the nation today is that we are more divided than ever before, as the opinions of the citizenry are bifurcated along, political, ethnic and religious lines. All of a sudden, not a few members of the ruling party, including the morally bankrupt defectors and overtly corrupt others have donned on the toga of saints, as if they arrived Nigeria in 2014 from another planet!
Curiously too, not a few of those in opposition have some questions to answer, while similar culprits in the favoured fold enjoy the protection from the party’s mother wing. Yet, our affairs go beyond the wild wishes of the grieving wailers, or the musings of the mesmerized mindset of the slavish hailers, who never see anything wrong in our present predicament, including the unmitigated bloodletting! But take it or leave it, our beloved nation is in a dire state, crying for urgent politico-economic rescue.
Here, impunity rules as king as there is scare regards for the sanctity of human life, as it is for the rule of law. An elected leader could therefore, appropriate billions of bail out funds and monthly allocations from the federation account to feather his nest while the mass of unpaid workers groan on every blessed day in unfathomable agony. Yet, these same people cannot explain what they have done with security vote. That is even at a time the wave of insurgency sweeps across the land-from the Sahel savanna through the tropical forest down to the Atlantic shores. No one has been able to tell the traumatized citizens who is really arming the Fulani herdsmen and bandits that have turned the once peaceful states of Plateau, Adamawa, Benue, Taraba across to Zamfara into the killing fields of our dear nation.
The situation is worsened by the enormous political powers vested on the executive arm of government. And in a weird scenario where military dictators of yesterday have suddenly metamorphosed into darlings of democracy today, what we have are the political aberrations that have come to define our experience since 1999.
Similarly, court orders are disregarded as will as security chiefs turn deaf ears to the Senate’s several invitations for questioning; to fathom what has gone wrong, and of course the way forward! Who cares if the Zaki Zakis and Dasukis rot on in jail so far someone’s ego is expressly massaged. Who cares if the once beloved food basket states have become the theatres of bloodletting?
We should not be surprised therefore, that Nigeria, an enormously blessed country which should be the leading light in the comity of nations, on economic matters, especially on the African continent is now home to the world’s poorest people, even as it also stands ‘tall’ as one of the fastest growing indebted nations. As usual, there are always excuses for failure, blaming the past governments for our present woes, or call for more patience.
But stranger than this, is when those paid to protect law and order become the violators of same. That brings to mind, the recent maltreatment of the outgoing Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose at the hands of tear gas spewing policemen while on a campaign train with supporters of the PDP candidate.
This has little or nothing to do with Fayose as a person, even if you like to call him a vocal extremist or an irredentist. The misguided physical attack on him has to do more with the gross desecration of that exalted office of a state governor. It could have been any other of his colleagues.
In that wise, the recent protest held at the main gate to the National Assembly Complex in Abuja, led by the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Uche Secondus is a welcome development. The hope is that the matter would go for judicial interpretation with the culprits made to face the full wrath of the law, to prevent a recurrence.
Said Secondus: “We are aware and we have been reliably informed that INEC and a section of the security agencies are preparing to rig the election in Ekiti, that is why Ekiti today has been militarized and policed. Over 30,000 policemen are in Ekiti. The citizens of Ekiti are afraid, they are traumatised, they are harassed and they are being guarded not to come out of their homes”.
If democracy truly belongs to the people, then all efforts should be geared towards ensuring that the people’s votes count. The increasing fear is that no matter where the pendulum swings, there may be the devil’s alternative, with a groundswell of protests to trail the results. So, what should we as concerned Nigerians be doing?
It is high time that the coterie of civil society groups, political and public affairs analysts and social commentators say it as it is, by speaking Truth to Power. That places the burden of sustained political re-engineering on their shoulders. They have to enlighten the citizenry, millions of who know little or nothing of the dictates of democracy, that they indeed should be the drivers of the vehicles of governance. That they should not kowtow to the whims and caprices of their so called elected representatives.
Nigeria belongs to us all and the time to pull the ship of state from capsizing over the precipice into the stormy waters of inequity, nepotism, tribal bigotry, religious intolerance and political tsunami is now, not tomorrow. We cannot afford another civil war!
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