The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released the list of governorship candidates for the September 19 election in Edo State. No doubt, this action has put the state on the march again and set the tone for another round of electioneering. Going by recent happenings in the state and elsewhere in Nigeria, there is no doubt that there are palpable fears among the populace, that the state, which prides itself as the Heartbeat of the Nation, is set to go on fire. These fears are definitely not unfounded as the reasons for these sincere worries from the masses are not far-fetched.
In recent past, in the build up to any major election, Nigerians have always witnessed human rights abuses, destruction of properties, wanton killings, kidnappings and series of other violent acts. These had not only happened in Edo State, many other states have had their shares of electoral violence. In most cases, politicians would have actively recruited and armed gangs in preparation for the election. Rather than renouncing violence, many Nigerian politicians have always encouraged the wickedness and taken the ugly route of ‘might is right’.
Sadly, we recall a few incidents; the gruesome murder of the PDP governorship candidate in Lagos State, Chief Funsho Williams, who was killed in his bedroom on July 27, 2006; and the killing of a governorship aspirant in Ekiti State, Dr. Ayo Daramola, who was shot and stabbed by armed men, who forced their way into his home on August 14, 2006.
These are just a few of the numerous cases. So, there is need for caution and tolerance because there had been accusations and counter-accusations in Edo State over billboard destructions. We also recall a few incidents that had occurred in Benin City and elsewhere in Edo State, which saw to the bombings of houses and killing of young people allegedly by cultists.
Those were happenings that left every peace-loving people of the state bewildered. Some politicians in the state are reportedly intimidating people and discussing violence openly while taking the people for granted, a scenario that is common with many politicians.
Edo State and Nigeria must not be allowed to drag back into the inglorious past of killings and wanton destruction. This is why we must advise politicians to sheath their swords and emulate the statesmanly attitude of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who honourably left the exalted office, while declaring that his “ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian.” We are aware that, for some politicians, their preoccupation is to use thugs to undermine the electoral process for their selfish gains.
Some politicians are already embroiled in desperate ploys to outdo one another, in a bid to grab power. We therefore advise that politicians should learn to play by the rules while we also implore them to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship.
There is need for the political class to understand and value people’s support and also appreciate rejection at the polls; losing an election is not the end of the world. But because many of them spend so much on their ambitions, which they see as a lifetime project, they tend to see the contests as a must win.
The ‘battles’ to win and get elected into political offices should be seen as mere games and not do-ordie. The essence of politics is to foster unity, enhance development and bring about allinclusiveness. Politics is not meant to perpetrate evil and definitely not for endangering of human lives. So, it is important for governments at all levels to rise to the occasion and nip the crisis in the bud. The local councils, states and federal government must put all security agencies on notice, with stern instructions not to spare anyone who has an agenda to undermine the security and peaceful coexistence of the people. Wherever there are criminal intentions, even without crimes committed, they should be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The law must be brought to bear on all those who have decided to criminalise the polity and its politics. We reiterate that we are deeply concerned that widespread violence is rearing its ugly head in Edo State, because supporters of rival candidates are reportedly engaged in violence and rights abuses, which have become the hallmark of our elections. As the nation gradually approaches the governorship polls, anything untoward would beam the world’s searchlight on us, as such, governments at all levels have duties to protect the image of the country.
The ambition of any politician is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. We therefore call on politicians, political parties, security operatives, the state and federal governments, as well as the people and all other stakeholders to rise to the occasion and ensure that Edo State breathes air of non-violence. We also appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari; the state governor, Godwin Obaseki and his estranged godfather, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as well as leaders of all political parties and every stakeholder to publicly preach peace and speak out against violence and rights abuses, now, before, during and after the election. We again call on all relevant authorities to institute an independent panel that will look into cases of electoral violence and prosecute offenders, with a view to bringing them to justice.