By John Amoda
THE Uyo Confab ought then to have this present condition of the Nigeria society as the reference of all its deliberations.
It is a condition defined by the increasing ineffectiveness of government society wide-hence concerns expressed in terms of state failure or of a slide into anarchy and of the challenge to the existence of government defined by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The impact of both challenges on each other defines the character of the Nigerian security challenge. As government is preoccupied with the JTFs, less attention is paid to the STFs that address the problem of societal disorder caused by armed groups.
Equal attention, therefore, needs to be paid to both threats, threats from anarchy engineered by gangs that have developed into militias, and threats from the Boko Haram sect whose insurgency has developed into Islamic state formation civil war.
Nigeria is now Mali writ large. The Uyo Confab as announced seemed convened to deal with the governance consequences of the societal crises; it must also address the effects of the crisis of governmental challenges defined by present civil war insurgency.
The 2015 elections, therefore, raises governance issues whose relevance is directly and ultimately determined by how the Jonathan administration copes with the twin issues of anarchy and the civil war insurgency. And the interaction of the governmental and governance challenges defines the context of the governance issues.
Elections and electoral induced violence are in themselves automous source of security challenges; and the journey to 2015 is already simmering with tensions- a raison d’efre for the convening the Uyo family meeting.
For this reason, it is of strategic importance that the Uyo Confab holds, and that it deals with the need for the prevention and management of election violence. Vanguard, Friday, July 5, 2013 news section carries the story of armed violence associated with the local government elections in Warri North. The story is titled: “Warri North crisis; Gunmen kill couple, daughter.
– Militia threatens local govt election in Delta.
– Implement Warri peace agreement-Ijaw group tells state govt.
– Kuku criticizes killing of Itsekiri indigenes.
– Egbema clan demands inquiry”.
The following is an excerpt from the story. “Gunmen have shot dead an Itsekiri man, his wife and 16- year-old daughter, who were fleeing from crisis-torn Warri North Local Government Area in Delta State to Gbokoda in Ondo State, bringing the death toll of the crisis that erupted Tuesday (July 2, 2013) to 12. The criminals stumbled on the family from Tisun community while they were escaping for dear lives and opened fire on them from close range, a source said yesterday.
Meantime, Egbema Rights Group, EPG, whose actions in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, led to the killing of about 12 persons and burning of three Itsekiri communities yesterday threatened that if government failed to examine its grievances, no election would hold in the council”. The Sunday Vanguard of May 12, 2013 carried a story titled “Oyo Mayhem is a manifestation of govt’s intolerance of the opposition-Ex-Gov. Ladoja”. I quote from the story: “What can best be described as the return of mayhem in Oyo State politics occurred on Thursday, May 2, 2013.
Attacked were supporters of the state’s leading opposition party, Accord, who had staged a reception to welcome defecting members of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, into the Senate Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja-led party.
The government of Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the ruling party, ACN, and the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, fingered in the mayhem, promptly denied involvement”. In the interview, Ladoja was asked the following question: “It was alleged that the attackers were led to the place by policemen and soldiers under the aegis of Operation Burst, which is the security outfit of the State government.
Did that portend that you did not have police permit for the event?” Ladoja replied: “We sought police permit for the event and were granted. But on that day, we discovered that the ACN had another canopy about 15 metres away from the spot where we were to hold our own event”.
In the Delta and in Oyo the violence was not a spontaneous riot resulting in the breech of the law, but violence by groups organised for use in contestation for space and supporters. They both are harbingers of what the general elections of 2015 portend.
More to the point are events associated with the rerun election in a vacant state constituency in Imo State. I quote from a news report in the Vanguard of Friday, July 5, 2013: “INEC declared the election inconclusive upon the fact that the election was disrupted in three of the 11 wards where the election took place.
The violence was despite the water-tight security that was deployed in Oguta”. Kayode Idowu, chief press secretary to INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega, said: “The Commission finds it worrisome that politicians brazenly flouted the restriction order on movement during the election. Reports showed that officials of Imo State Government and some members of the National Assembly across party lines moved around freely despite the restriction order-some of them with security escorts! Worse, some of these politicians aren’t even from Oguta constituency where the election held.
Field reports showed that even though security agents mobilized appreciably for the exercise, there were cases of violence as well as ballots and result sheets snatching by thugs, as a result of which election was cancelled” in the units affected. President Goodluck Jonathan’s comments are worth noting. “Those who made it impossible for the rerun election in Oguta to be conclusive must be brought to book. We must make it clear that impunity in the perpetration of violence and irregularities during elections will no longer be tolerated.
Sanctions promptly imposed on guilty persons will deter others from engaging in such acts in future,” he declared. The fact of the Imo rerun elections speak contrary to the declaration of the President. Election as currently undertaken are war operations in winner-take all contests and the “before elections” violent intimidations of opponents through thugs now transformed to militias employed by individual politicians, factions of parties, local government chairpersons, state governors, national parties leaderships, are only indications of the high stakes of office holding. Governments are electorally partisan and thus politicise governance.
The conveners of the Uyo summit are being realistic. They are on target when they are disturbed by worsening insecurities and political tension in the country ahead of the 2015 general elections. There are 774 local governments, 36 states, one Federal Capital Territory, and one National Assembly where offices will be filled through elections. If politicians see their incumbency as prebends, then they will seek election and re-election as a “do-or die” affair.
It is thus of national importance that the Uyo Confab addresses possibilities of election-caused wide spread episodes of armed violence and their governance consequences. It is, therefore, not 2015 that is the issue, 2015 will only be the outcome of preceding events that need to be understood and adequately managed.
The President needs the support and goodwill of the Uyo Confab but this support will not diminish his task of leadership, for ultimately it all depends on how the preceding electioneering for 2015 is conducted in the context of the present security situation and the President’s role in piloting the Nigerian society in its present crisis condition is strategic in its importance.