Nigerians will do well to heed their former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, who dropped a timeously relevant message over the weekend in Uyo at the ceremony marking 35 years of the creation of Akwa Ibom State.
He advised voters in next year’s general elections to reject “killers”. According to Jonathan: “In 2023, you must not make the mistake to vote killers. Those who carry knives, guns, and all kinds of gadgets to go and kill people because of politics, are the enemies of society. If you kill to become a leader, you will continue to kill to remain a leader and the people will continue to suffer”.
In the past 23 years of our renascent democracy, Nigerians have had a mixed experience. The Olusegun Obasanjo regime witnessed a lot of political assassinations, militancy and military invasions/levelling of communities such as Odi in Bayelsa State and Zaki Biam in Benue State. There was also the seemingly intractable violence in the Niger Delta.
Nigeria has witnessed during the Muhammadu Buhari regime far more blood-letting than at any other time apart from the Civil War of 1967-1970. Besides Boko Haram, bandits and herdsmen terrorism, the military has engaged in several scorched-earth actions, including the killing of about 300 Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky’s members and incessant raids on communities in the South-East due to the activities of Biafran separatists.
Unlike what obtained during the administrations of some leaders, we saw how the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, through a simple conciliatory measure (the Presidential Amnesty Programme), quenched the Niger Delta militancy. It remains intact till date. We also saw how President Jonathan’s mantra: “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian”, which he faithfully implemented by personal example, made his regime one of the most peaceful ever, if not for the activities of jihadists.
During Yar’Adua and Jonathan’s tenures, there were no issues of political killings, disappearances or harassment of the media and advocacy groups. There were no political prisoners. Indeed, Jonathan allowed Nigerians to vote him out of power. Killers would not allow that! They will cow and force themselves with violence on the people. They will sweep away our civil rights.
Former President Jonathan’s call is a reminder for us to carefully check the antecedents of the people jostling for our votes. Let us steer clear of the killers and those who are adept at adopting extrajudicial means to maintain themselves in power. We could become their victim.
We need leaders who will fix our country, not those whose violent proclivities will endanger our lives and properties. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.