By Victor Gotevbe
Nigeria has been on the precipice of cult violence as each day comes with a manifestation of fear and apprehension among the citizenry, especially during elections.
The activities of cultists across the country have continuously firmed up in the face of government’s failure to arrest what has been a growing concern.
In fact, it would not be out of place for one to say that the government is an accomplice in the entire episode. More because politicians seem to be the greatest beneficiaries of the situation.
In my last article, I highlighted the significant negative effects of this growing concern and how politicians have exploited the chaotic situation to advance their political interests. Since that piece was published, new findings have emerged in the recent elections held in Bayelsa and Kogi States of Nigeria.
These elections were held on November 16, 2019. The polls, indeed, unraveled unbelievable dimensions in the adoption of violence as a tool for power capturing.
What was remarkable isn’t that cultists were used in causing mayhem and taking away the mandate and right of the citizens to elect their choice candidates, but that the height at which these crimes were committed has never been seen before. Kogi state was pathetically a worst example.
Putting this in perspective, before the election date, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had on November 13, 2019, acting on classified information about an impending violence on election day held a stakeholders meeting in Lokoja, the capital of Kogi State.
The meeting was meant to sensitise stakeholders by admonishing them to play by the rule, and also warn them about the consequences of violence and sharp practices before, during and after the elections.
As the INEC Chairman spoke, the event turned violent, as cultists masked as political thugs invaded the meeting causing pandemonium.
From a witness account, these political hoodlums were fortified as they destroyed all they could see and beat up whomever their hands could lay hold of. The incident was the first sign of things to come.
Surprisingly, at the meeting was Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu; INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; and the Director-General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim. The effort of the police to maintain order proved abortive. To ensure safety of everyone, tear gas canisters were released to disperse the surging political hoodlums.
In Bayelsa, the atmosphere was welcoming. It was a sharp contrast to the violent shame that took place in Lokoja. The sensitization workshop for stakeholders was held without news of violent episode, but that wasn’t exactly what it later became on election day.
According to reports from multiple sources which was collaborated by videos that emerged from the election, Kogi was chaotic.
The video showed footage of cultists running riot on the streets, brandishing guns, shooting in the air and carting away ballot boxes.
In some other videos, they wore police uniforms to deceive unsuspecting voters before pouncing on election materials. In fact, a video showed very clearly ten men on police uniforms shooting into the air, scaring voters away, while five of them approached the INEC officials, beating them and carting away election materials.
In Bayelsa, reports absolved them of a violent prone election given that so many local government council areas witnessed peaceful elections. This is not to say it was without violent blemish.
The Bayelsa cases aren’t as dire as that of Kogi, but it indeed raised questions as to why the police have failed to curtail the excesses of cult-related activities especially these days where their impact is a danger to national development.
However, the issues around Bayelsa and Kogi election videos were disturbing and indicated that the rising cases of cultism in the neighborhoods had strong negative impact on the country and must be dealt with immediately or the country will risk a rising violence-related death rate among its youths in few years time.
The insecurity in Nigeria without mincing words is getting worse by the day. Only last October, Justice Chioma Nwosu, a Judge at the Benin division of Court of Appeal regained her freedom after spending 15days in kidnappers’ den.
This was not after her police orderly who accompanied her was brutally killed and dismembered in the process, in a most gory manner by these cultists whose trademark is not limited to only kidnapping, but also robbery and murder of their godfathers’ political enemies.
Her abduction led to public outcry from various quarters with the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) boycotting court for 3 days in protest.
Nigerian human rights lawyer, Mike Ozekhome who had also experienced similar abduction, in a statement, said the abduction of Iheme-Nwosu in broad daylight in Benin City, was “the saddest reminder of a beleaguered nation in the asphyxiating throes of death by installment”.
Ozekhome vehemently stated that “it is heart-rending that Nigeria has been turned into a gruesome theatre of blood, with absolutely no government protection in sight.”
If this could happen to an important personality like a judge, what is the fate of the ordinary man or even Journalists who write about these heinous crimes?
One can be quick to recall the reported incidences of rising cult activities in Satellite Town area of Lagos, Nigeria, and across other parts of Nigeria. The silence of the police over their activities leaves most of us -and our family- who have remained vocal in the war against cult-related violence in danger.
Victor Gotevbe is a Media Consultant. He writes from Maryland, the United States.