OVER the past few months, governments across the country have been giving out cheques to victims of the political riots that followed the results of the 2011 presidential election.
It is instructive that nobody has been punished for the riots that swept many States, where political leaders had openly said they would cause trouble if certain candidates did not win.
Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State at an event where victims received cheques 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. Democracy goes beyond periodic elections and survival of our nation should be paramount in all that we do.”
The governor should have mentioned that mobs that caused the mayhem acted on some people’s behalf. They were equipped, they were fed, they were paid and most importantly, they were assured the law would not inconvenience them.
Have we not witnessed mayhem that descended on Nigeria after the 2011 election? Have we not seen how the crisis has continued with extensive bombing and daily killings in the North?
In the South, victims of political violence were also compensated. Their sponsors are strutting, boasting of future mayhem; they have no reason to re-think their destructive approach to politics. The high level of impunity we are seeing is related to not punishing the perpetrators of the 2011 post-election violence. Why is government paying for destruction they caused without punishing them? Is it acceptable to destroy Nigeria if one does not win an election? The duplicity in treating issues creates precedents that make sanctions unjust and unjustifiable.
Nigeria must protect itself. The responsibility lies with leaders, aspiring leaders and all who have risen to such prominence that the public take them serious. Their utterances mislead their followers and cause more troubles.
Every Nigerian has a right to contend for power within the law. Every Nigerian has rights to enter into legitimate alliances to access power; the constitutional provisions on freedom of association permit it. What we must avoid is being so consumed about leading Nigeria that we threaten to set the country on fire, if we cannot actualise the ambition.
Laws guide our country. Those who aspire to lead – and their supporters – must eschew threats in their ambitions. They should be telling Nigerians what qualifies them to lead the country and how their leadership would improve the lives of Nigerians.
They are better options to threatening more crises on a country that has been soaked in blood since 2010. Nigerians can also punish those who threaten their peace by not electing them.