The contentious season beckons again; and expectedly, the atmosphere is sweltering more than ever before. The polity is heating up as political foes get at daggers drawn. With tempers fraying, verbal shots are flying left and right, characters are being smeared, names dragged in the mud as propaganda machineries are fine-tuned, firing from all cylinders. And for spiritual fortification, by now, nearly all herbalists and ritualists’ dens have suddenly turned Mecca of some sort.
Welcome to Nigeria, a land of grubby politics run by desperate political gladiators. A land where politics is a do or die affair where you either take it by hook or crook; and where winners take it all and losers lose it all.
Like a sour grape in the mouth, electioneering in Nigeria is sadly characterized with such ignoble incidences as killings, kidnappings, maimings, intimidations, harassments,dollarization and vote buying – all cast into one block of psychological mind frame – do or die syndrome. Money, compromise and desperation are the lubricants that turn the wheels of politics in Nigeria.
2019 election is no difference. As at the time of writing this piece, violence, and in some cases, killings have been recorded already in campaign rallies in states like Lagos, Kogi, Bayelsa, Oyo, Imo to mention but few. At least, not less than three state chairmen of political parties have been reported kidnapped and not less than twenty supporters of political parties reportedly killed with scores of others sustaining varying degree of injuries due to bullet wounds.
For instance, Abia state All Progressives Congress (APC) chairman was kidnapped alongside his secretary few hours before arrival of President Muhammadu Buhari to the presidential rally in the state. In a similar development, the APC chairman in Adamawa state was kidnapped ahead of governorship rally in the state. Those are the few cases reported in the media. There are several others that went underground unreported.
Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, there are more than 30 cases of politically motivated assassinations across the country. Many of such cases are unresolved up till date.
Chief among them are those of “the late Bola Ige, a former Attorney General of the Federation who was shot dead in his bedroom in Bodija, Ibadan on December 23, 2001”. “Similarly, Chief Aminasaoari Dikibo, PDP Deputy National Chairman was ambushed near Asaba in daylight and was murdered in October 22, 2004”. “The gruesome cold blood murder of Dr. Harry Marshal on March 05, 2003 is another”. “In February 2003, Ogbonnaya Uche, ANPP senatorial candidate for Orlu was killed in his home residence by unknown gunmen. Killers are yet to be found till date”. “In July 2006, Lagos PDP gubernatorial aspirant, Funsho Williams was killed at his Dolphin Estate home in Ikoyi. Dipo Dina, fell to the bullets of assassins On Monday, January 25, 2010 around Covenant University, Ota. The late Dina was defunct Action Congress (AC) gubernatorial candidate in 2007. Source: Daily Post Nov 15, 2018.
Journalists were not spared, Godwin Agbroko, Chairman, ThisDay Editorial Board was assassinated on December 22, 2006. Bayo Ohu of Guardian Newspapers was shot dead on a Sunday, September 20, 2009 by a gang of 5 men and a woman in his home in Egbeda, Lagos. Bayo Ohu was working on the certificate forgery story of former Customs Controller General, Abdullahi Dikko before his murder. Source: Daily Post Nov 15, 2018.
These cases represent only a microcosm of the plethora that replete the entire landscape of the country. As a matter of fact, if asked, almost every Nigerian have one personal experience or know one politician or the other who have experienced political intimidation, harassment or near-death situations in the hands of political opponents.
One of such many instances is that of Hon Adeyinka Alex Banso, a former member of Ondo state House of Assembly representing Akoko North-West constituency 1 between 2011 – 2015 on the platform of Labour Party.
Due to irreconcilable differences and crisis rocking the Labour Party at the time, Hon. Adeyinka defected to PDP in October, 2014 and got a return ticket to run 2015 election but lost in the general election.
No sooner he won election into the state house of assembly than his travails started from the opposition politicians and exacerbated when he joined the PDP. In many of his ordeals, Adeyinka had a fatal accident in Akure while returning from a campaign in Akoko on 16th February, 2012. While narrating his ordeal, Hon. Adeyinka said, “on discovering that some men suspected to be hired thugs of opposition party followed me with full speed, I sped off and ran into some big fabricated concrete blocks being used by the company constructing road along Oba Adesida road in Akure. The bike men trailing my vehicle disappeared when they discovered that I had an accident. I was hospitalized for months before I later recovered.
As if that was not enough, Adeyinka’s house in Ajowa Akoko was invaded by suspected ACN hired thugs, …when we were preparing for the 2012 gubernatorial re-election of Dr Mimiko in November that year. They did not meet me at home but met my gateman and beat him mercilessly. This happened after so many threats to my life. I reported to the police and some arrests were made but nothing happened thereafter”, Adeyinka lamented.
He continued, “When, I got PDP ticket in 2014, there was another attempt on my life on my way to Ajowa from Akure by suspected opposition party thugs from (APC). I got wind of the information that they had laid an ambush for me on Erusu/ Ibaram road, but before I got to the spot, I hard to turn back.
“This is aside regular assaults, harassment and incessant threats to my life. I receive several phone calls almost on a daily basis from people threatening to kill or kidnap me for reasons best known to them. As a result of these threats and due to the fear of being attacked as it happened before, I could no longer sleep in my house. I am presently confined to exile away from the comfort of home and family love.
“Now that we are approaching another general election in February 2019, and moreover that my party is now in the opposition, the ruling party saw me as a thorn in their flesh which they must eliminate.”
Hon. Adeyinka’s experience is one of many faced by grassroots politicians in Nigeria. This kind of experience does not only present Nigerian democracy in bad light to the international community, it portends danger to the survival of our fledgling democracy.
Recently, politicians have been criss-crossing the nooks and crannies of the country to woo electorates to their favour in the forth coming elections.
Unfortunately, these campaign efforts have nothing to do with issues. The quality of the debate is watery. It is rather full of hate speeches, more of personality attack than issue based. This situation is generating a scenario of panic in the society.
To redeem the situation from degenerating into anarchy, partisan politics should be cast aside for now and more focus put into the problems we are facing because Nigeria is clearly a nation at war with itself. The path in which we are presently treading is a threat to the continued peace, unity and prosperity of a place we call our home.
Our leaders need to tread carefully and focus more on pressing matters facing the nation at hand irrespective of political parties, because events unfolding from Boko Haram insurgency, political violence, corruption, nepotism among others, are clear indicators of a failing state.
In order for these crises facing us as a country not to escalate into a civil war or the breakup of Nigeria, politics should not be a do or die affair. Rather, the growth and development of the country should be the main focus for our politicians.
Lanre is a journalist, wrote from Abuja.
He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org