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 are seeing more threats as people jostle for space in the governorship elections in Ekiti (June) and Osun (August).
These are preludes to the preparations for the bigger ones, the 2015 elections. In Ekiti, the earliest practising pitch, a party secretariat has been torched, possibly at the level of intra-party feuding. Nothing stops opposing parties from pulling that stunt. All seems to be fair in the war they call politics.
Worries about who becomes governor, to some, are more important than what happens to the States, and the larger society. We are again seeing the damaging threats that precede elections. In 2011, there were thrAeats of the country being ungovernable if certain people did not win the elections. Actors in the States are adopting the same approach, from rancourous primaries to campaigns themed on what has not been done, rather than what candidates intend to do.
Thugs are back in business. They have no reason to relent from a profitable venture. Instead of punishing the thugs who destroyed lives and property during the 2011 elections, government assumed responsibility for the losses by paying compensations to the victims. It is instructive that nobody was punished for the riots that swept through many States. Some political leaders had openly promised trouble if certain candidates did not win.
Last year while handing out cheques to victims of election violence, Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State said, “Let me take this opportunity to call on the political class in this country to exercise utmost caution and high sense of responsibility in all our actions and utterances before, during and after elections.”
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. We cannot excuse murderers and arsonists because 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 the 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.