17 July 2014

Nigeria: Tougher Action On Thugs


ELECTIONS present the best opportunities for candidates to say the worst things about their opponents. Threats and counter threats appear to be the only selling points of most candidates. We heard threats as contestants jostled for space in the governorship election in Ekiti last month.

Delightfully, the threats in Ekiti did not result in the sort of violence they promised.

Osun, next month, however, is raising the violence bar to heights that should be watched. The capacity for violence appears higher than those who issued threats in Ekiti. Their utterances, if they are unchecked, would set the tone for a wave of violence that can escalate the security situation.

These are mere preludes and preparations for the 2015 elections. In Ekiti, the earliest practising pitch, a party secretariat was torched, possibly at the level of intra-party feuding. Tempers cooled as the election held.

Worries about who becomes governor, to some, are more important than what happens to the States, and the larger society. In 2011, threats were made that Nigeria would be ungovernable if certain people did not win elections. Actors in the States are adopting the same approach, from rancorous primaries to campaigns themed on what has not been done, rather than what candidates would do.

Thugs are back in business. They have no reason to relent from a profitable venture. We did not punish thugs who destroyed lives and property during the 2011 elections. No efforts were made to find them.

Government assumed responsibility for the losses by paying compensations to victims. It is instructive that nobody was punished for riots that swept through many States. Some political leaders openly promised trouble if certain candidates did not win.

Mobs act on some people's behalf. They are equipped, they are fed, they are paid, they are drunk on their principals' violent utterances, and most importantly, they are assured the law would not inconvenience them.

Election seasons have been spread to their advantage. Every few months, an election holds, and they prosper. The law excuses murderers and arsonists when they act for politicians. Duplicity in treating electoral offences makes sanctions unjust and unjustifiable.

Every Nigerian has a right to lawful contention for power. Every Nigerian has rights to legitimate alliances to access power under constitutional provisions on freedom of association. We must avoid being so consumed about winning elections that we set the country on fire.

Laws guide our country. Those who aspire to lead - and their supporters - must eschew threats in their ambitions. They should be telling Nigerians how their leadership would improve Nigeria.

The country has gone through enough violence since 2010. Voters should punish those who threaten the peace by not electing them.


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