2019: As INEC, NATFORCE move to checkmate electoral violence — Nigerian Pilot News
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2019: As INEC, NATFORCE move to checkmate electoral violence

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Recently, there was tension in some parts of Lagos State, after the Treasurer of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW in the state, Alhaji Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, was stabbed in the neck with an alleged poisonous knife called “Makanje”, which literally means don’t touch blood, by suspected members of a rival group in the union during the flag-off campaign rally by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Similarly, three journalists, the Group Political Editor of Nation newspaper, Emmanuel Oladesu, New Telegraph correspondent, Temitope Ogunbanke and Ibile Television cameraman, Abiodun Yusuf, were also shot at the event, which took place at Skypower Grounds beside the Archbishop Vining Church on Oba Akinjobi Way in GRA, Ikeja, the Lagos State capital.

Again, the federal government has raised the alarm that the opposition politicians in the country are orchestrating widespread violence to truncate the forthcoming general elections. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made the allegation at a world press conference in Abuja, said the government was in possession of credible intelligence confirming the planned attacks.

According to Mohammed, bandits and Boko Haram insurgents have been mobilised to engage in massive attacks and other acts of violence in several states across the country, including Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Benue, Kano, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara. He added that there was also an international dimension to the evil plan, alleging that “some armed mercenaries from Niger Republic have been contracted to attack top government functionaries, including state governors, across the North-West between now and the elections”.

The minister, however, said the federal government is taking every possible measure to counter the evil plans by unpatriotic anarchists and would ensure the smooth conduct of the forthcoming general elections. He assured of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s commitment to credible, free, fair and peaceful elections was unshaken, but appealed to all Nigerians to be vigilant in the days ahead.

Worst still, the National Orientation Agency, NOA has expressed concerns over possible electoral violence in Enugu, Rivers, Imo, Ogun and Plateau States in the forthcoming polls. Its Director General, Dr. Garba Abari, disclosed this at the launching of the nationwide sensitisation to peaceful election in Abuja.

Abari said that reports from its field officers across the country indicated possible flashpoints in states. He stated that election periods were often characterised by great anxiety usually heightened by reckless utterances and action of some politicians.

He, however, reminded Nigerians that they had no other country but Nigeria and therefore should behave as patriots. “We have a duty to promote peace, enhance security, national unity and integration, using our diversity and our fault lines as a source of strength rather than a reason to commit violence”, he said.

The director general added: “We are all witnesses to the fact that some of our previous elections have been characterised by all manners of violence”.

He called for a reversal of such menace, stressing that such must be addressed in the face of instances of pre-election violence that had been witnessed in places like Lagos, Wukari, and Taraba State. “Our youths who are easily used by unscrupulous politicians as cannon folder for the perpetration of violence must be called to order”, he advised.

The truth is that electoral violence is not new in Nigeria. It is a fact that the First Republic, 1960-1966 collapsed due to the widespread violence unleashed by politicians in the disputed 1964/65 general elections. Unfortunately, similar violence was the major reason why the Second Republic, 1979-1983 was terminated. It was “Operation Wet e”, that is, “Operation Spray Them” in the defunct West Region during which prominent politicians and their supporters were killed in broad daylight that caused the first military coup of January 15, 1966.

It was the same thing that happened during the Second Republic in which famous politicians and their supporters were also murdered and some roasted like animals in broad daylight in the region following the return to civil rule in 1979 that made the military struck again on December 31, 1983 thereby sacking the democratically elected administration of President Shehu Shagari, who died at the age of 93 years recently.

A political scientist and public affairs analyst, Mr. Jide Ojo, recently recalled how the Akin Omoboriowo versus Governor Adekunle Ajasin saga in the old Ondo State where the electoral fraud allegedly perpetrated by the National Party of Nigeria, NPN stalwarts in the state led to three days of mindless killings and arson.

Also, the Third and current Fourth Republic, were not spared of electoral violence during which hundreds of people, especially youths have lost their lives. These killings were majorly caused by politicians, who always see politics as do-or-die affairs and thereby resorting to electoral violence and fraud, particularly during general elections.

It is against these backgrounds that the National Taskforce on the Prohibition of Illegal Importation of Small Arms, Ammunition and Light Weapons, NATFORCE, said it is organising a 10-day national orientation in collaboration with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to checkmate electoral violence during the forthcoming general elections across the country.

According to the Director General of NATFORCE, Dr. Osita Okereke, the programme would take place in all the six geo-political zones of the country for people to appreciate the importance of peaceful conduct before, during and after the elections.

Okereke told journalists in Abuja that the exercise “would go a long way to checkmate all forms of electoral malpractices and associated violence during the conduct of the elections” and therefore solicited the support of the general public so as to achieve their goals.

He said: “Already, we have indicated our intention to partner with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC under the platform of observer status to enable us checkmate all forms of electoral malpractices, vote buying and its associated violence. We have to cover 8,809 wards and polling units and no other security agency has that capacity”.

The director general explained that the training for participants in the North West comprising Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States would be held in Sokoto while those in North East (Bauchi, Plateau, Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe State) would take place in Bauchi.

Also, that of the North Central would involve Kogi, Niger and Kwara State participants in Ilorin; South South comprising Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom would be held in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State and South East’s Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi scheduled for Abia

Okereke said the South West was divided into two for the programme with Edo, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States to have their own in Ondo State while Ogun, Lagos and Oyo States would have their turn in Oyo, respectively.

He, however, commended President Muhammadu Buhari “for the right choice of the new Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu whose appointment we join the rest of Nigerians to say, a well-deserved appointment”. According to him, “Adamu has what it takes to guarantee the security of this country given his laudable achievements while in Enugu and other states of Nigeria”.

Also, the European Centre for Electoral Support, ECES has trained electoral stakeholders on ways to avoid or lessen electoral violence at all levels in the country. The Project Coordinator of ECES in Nigeria, Mr. Rudolf Elbling, said that the train the trainers’ workshop would equip facilitators with the tools that would help them resolve electoral dispute or violence even at the local levels.

Speaking at the training, with the theme: “Leadership and Conflict Management Skills for Electoral Stakeholders (LEAD) Train The Facilitator (TTF)”, held in Enugu, Elbling said it would also strengthen the long term capacities of participants to effectively prevent and mitigate elections related conflicts and its triggers. He explained that given the competitive nature of elections, conflicts among stakeholders are bound to occur at various stages of the electoral cycle, which must be effectively managed.

Unfortunately, for the umpteenth time, some Nigerian politicians have demonstrated their bestial nature by turning a routine civic exercise to a power struggle between two contending political camps. In this Fourth Republic, Nigeria has had five successive general elections from 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 with each of them recording high electoral violence. Indeed, over 800 lives were reportedly lost to pre and post-election violence in 2011 particularly in about 12 states in the North.

Since the restoration of civil rule, attempts have not been made by politicians to deepen and strengthen democracy. Instead, Nigeria has only added to its history of fraudulent and violent elections. The general elections that brought all the Presidents and many state governors to power were marred by such widespread violence and fraud. For example, this was how the US-based Jimmy Carter Centre for Democracy which monitored the 1999 election as an international observer concluded its report on the outcome of the presidential election like the others before it: “It is not possible for us to make an accurate judgment about the outcome of the presidential election”.

Empirical evidence abounds of how electoral violence affects the credibility of the electoral system, the democratic system and the rule of law. According to Obakhedo Neville Onebamhoi of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Benin, “this ugly trend raises a fundamental question about the capacity and ability of the Nigerian state to curtail electoral violence and fraud since security agencies and INEC officials are implicated in the macabre dance of violence that dots the nation’s electoral history”.

“In fact, the nature, extent and magnitude of violence and rigging associated with elections in this country are posing a serious threat to the national quest for stable democratic transition, as well as the attainment of the long term goal of consolidated democracy. And as a problem that has ravaged and permeated the entire bloodstream of our political system, it has become imperative for Nigerians to know the danger that it poses to strengthening and deepening the nation’s democracy with concomitant effect on national development”, he stressed.

For the nation to be able to achieve this and strengthen democratic institutions and deepen democracy, politicians, their supporters and the electorate alike should shun all forms of electoral and political violence. After this sustained process and strategy of political education, apprehended perpetrators of electoral violence and politics of bitterness should be punished according to the existing law. It is only through this strategy that the battle can be won.

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