Following the bombing that occurred in Ile-Ife, Osun State over two weeks ago, there's been more violence in the ancient city as thugs allegedly belonging to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) attacked supporters of the governing party All Progressive Congress (APC) penultimate Monday leaving many people injured and properties destroyed.
A familiar pattern is beginning to emerge and it appears the PDP wants to use violence and intimidation to win votes in the South-west rather than campaign on their plans for the electorate. In cases where they do campaign, its all about telling lies and telling voters the state government has got the state indebted and mortgaged their future. It was the same campaign theme of the PDP in Lagos in 2003 and the fulcrum of Musiliu Obanikoro’s campaign for the Lagos Governor’s office in 2007 and obviously Lagosians who are way too sophisticated saw through their unending lies. It appears the PDP has not changed its tactics and still uses the same means when it comes to South-West politics.
The only dimension they tried adding to it two weeks ago, was the Boko Haram angle. The waters were tested with the explosion in Ife to see how the people would react to it and it seems the desired response was not achieved. It would be absolutely stupid for anyone in the PDP to use the Boko Haram menace in the North to achieve any political aim, just as the APC would struggle to get any political slingshot at the PDP using the terror group. Thus for any silly politician in the PDP advising the government to use the political Boko Haram to foment trouble in the South-West and blame it on the opposition APC, what they would get is a counter response from Nigerians seeing as the people are beginning to differentiate between the religious Boko Haram led by Abubakar Shekau and the political Boko Haram which has various leaders including people within the ruling PDP.
In late April 2012 a shocked nation woke up to the news that the sudden spike and sophistication in attacks from Boko Haram stemmed from the lack of internal democracy and anti-democratic forces within the PDP. Delivering an address in Asaba, Delta state at a South-South Economic Forum, then National Security Adviser (NSA) late General Andrew Azazi could not hide his disgust at the lack of internal democracy in the PDP that led to the increase in terrorism in the country. He said: “PDP got it wrong from the beginning, by saying Mr. A can rule and the other person cannot rule according to PDP’s rules and regulation and not according to the constitution which created the climate (terrorism) for what has manifest itself”. He also castigated the ruling party for their ‘do or die’ attitude (as started by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo) when it comes to elections. Azazi asked: “is it possible that somebody was thinking that only Mr. A could win, and that if he could not win, there would be problems in the society?”. General Azazi may be dead (bless him) but he left us the source to the problems we are facing now. Boko Haram started as a religious idea and in some form still is religious but it has been hijacked by elements in the PDP and unleashed on all Nigerians just for their power hungry ambitions.
Thus rather than use a terror template to win elections in the South-west, the time has come for everyone to take the lives of their countrymen serious and not sacrifice it like pawns to grab power. A political candidate going around campaigning with masked thugs carrying rifles all but shows that the PDP isn’t taking the issue of terrorism seriously and are only interested in the glamour of power and winning elections. The use of despicable characters like Musiliu Obanikoro, Jelil Adesiyan et al. and clownish figures like Femi Fani-Kayode to spread hate messages against the opposition APC and pin the blames of terrorism on notable opposition figures like Bola Tinubu is nothing short of tyranny and would only further fan the embers of violence in the country as noted by the late Azazi.
A large chunk of the needless killings of innocent Nigerians is due to the power at all cost of our politicians particularly the PDP who would do anything to get into power or cling to it. That is why the recent bombings in Ile-Ife puts the lives of even paramount Obas like the Ooni of Ife at risk. Desperate figures in the PDP could target him like the late Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero was targeted and lay the blame on Boko Haram and indeed the opposition APC, especially as one of its leaders - Tinubu has only recently just made general remarks about Obas in the South-West who he felt were not politically active and supportive enough to defend the interests of Yoruba people compared to some other Obas particularly in trying times.
In light of all these it would be advisable the opposition APC take the following steps in countering any plot to label it as terror sponsoring party. They must: 1) Articulate a general position on how they aim to end terrorism and indeed Boko Haram menace in the country if elected as the national ruling party 2) Come forward nationally with its notable leaders and denounce Boko Haram and terrorism (not that they haven’t done so regularly, but at least this time it would be on record before the whole nation). 3) Encourage leading opposition figure General Muhammadu Buhari to start any form of negotiations with Boko Haram just like Obasanjo did recently (especially as the Federal Government has mentioned that they do not need to grant permission to anyone who wishes to talk to the terror group on behalf of the government). 4) Ensure that any subsequent bombings or explosions (especially in the South-West) are well investigated by competent bodies including foreign agencies like the FBI to deter elements within the government from using Boko Haram menace as a subterfuge to blackmail or even arrest opposition figures.
5) Institute as a party or personally, court cases against government officials (like the Minister of state for defence - Musiliu Obanikoro) who blackmail top opposition figures with accusations of founding Boko Haram without showing such proof or links. 6) Approach the judiciary to give constitutional interpretation of the role of the Army when it comes to elections (as the army world over is known to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a nation, not to protect ballot papers or damage public buses). 7) Increase security around paramount rulers in the South-West particularly in opposition controlled states especially as we approach the 2015 elections (so they are not attacked and its blamed on Tinubu and his party).
Above all, what we need is peace for the country to thrive not violence. Nigerians with all the hardship they undergo do not deserve to be killed for any politician to get into office due to their greed for power. A situation where the government sends roughly 20,000 soldiers to fight a deadly terrorist group that has killed close to 25,000 people across three states in the North-east, and then uses 36,000 security men including sniffer dogs to secure paper and ink in one state which isn’t even up to half the size of Sambissa forest shows how degraded we have become as a nation and the fact that we do not place premium value on the lives of our countrymen. These fight for power at all cost must stop, before we tear Nigeria apart. No one is born to rule, and if there is anyone still carrying that mentality they need to go on a mental ward and get evaluated, Nigeria has changed and is still changing.
Every Nigerian deserves the right to contest for political positions including the presidency and there should be no north/south dichotomy in a sane country. President Goodluck Jonathan has the right to contest the 2015 elections (if decides too) but I would like to say to him that re-contesting an election is optional not mandatory, and if you contest, winning is not compulsory!! The way some people are going about the 2015 elections is like its either Jonathan wins or else...Its either the North wins or else...It should not be so, what we want is a peaceful and viable country that works for all Nigerians not violence or a country torn apart.
P.S : FIFA’s Suspension of Nigeria
World football governing body has unsurprisingly suspended Nigeria from football related activities. They need to understand that the NFF had its President and board ousted for corruption and fraud and not due to government interference. If they won’t listen then the Federal Government should hands off sponsoring football including the payment of staffs and the board of the NFF if FIFA insists the corrupt Aminu Maigari must return. The FG should also mandate state governments not to sponsor the NFF in any football related activities. They should also demand FIFA pays back to the government N850 million (about $5.3 million) given to the NFF to prosecute the world cup , as well as the $3.6 million appearance fee given by the FG to the team and its officials (including the greedy NFF officials who shared out of it). FIFA can then pick up all the bills, salaries and expenses of the NFF board led by Maigari as well as its staffs.
If they cannot, then they should set up a ‘normalisation committee’ like they did to the suspended Gambian FA on Thursday just gone. They acknowledged that reinstating the Gambian FA board would offend major stakeholders in that country, which would be the same in Nigeria as the FG is unfortunately the major stakeholder in our football. Thus just as the five man ‘normalisation committee’ appointed in Gambia by FIFA was given till September 15th to conduct an election, a five man ‘normalisation committee’ should also be appointed by FIFA to manage the NFF and conduct an election by August 26th.
*This article is concluded.
Ola’ Idowu, a Management Consultant and Researcher writes in from the UK.