The assassination of Mr Oyibo Chukwu, Labour Party (LP) senatorial candidate for Enugu East District and five others in his car at Amaechi-Awkunanaw community in Enugu South Local Government Area of Enugu State, sadly brings into stark reality the volatile nature of Nigeria’s electoral process. The spate of killings and attacks, an ugly part of Nigeria’s pre-election violence which has claimed lives with several property destroyed, has also been recorded in Imo, Rivers, Bayelsa, Anambra, Kaduna, Kano, Nasarawa, Osun and Lagos states.
It is saddening that in the course of the electioneering process for the 2023 election cycle, various candidates, political parties and their supporters, rather than to speak to issues of governance to woo voters, have during campaigns launched verbal and inciting attacks against political opponents, even to the extent of preventing political opponents from campaigning. This has encouraged violence which, in some instances, has unfortunately led to deaths.
The National Association of Seadogs, (Pyrates Confraternity), condemns in its entirety, the callous killings of political opponents and resort to arson and intimidation to coerce people to vote for particular candidates. It is appalling that after 24 years of democracy in Nigeria; the political class would still see elections as warfare where crude tactics and coercive methods are easily deployed to subdue political opponents and the electorate.
Nigeria’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) stated that 1,149 Nigerians including its officials were killed during the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections. Out of this number, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in a report stated that 625 Nigerians were killed between the commencement of campaigns and elections in 2019 elections. A geo-political research firm, SB Morgan in a report, ‘Insecurity and the 2023 General elections’ released in January 2023, indicated that 27 persons were killed in 57 political violent incidents in 2022. The International Crisis Group(ICC) in a 26 -page report entitled, ‘ Mitigating Violence Around Nigeria’s 2023 Elections’ released on February 10 had identified Lagos, Imo, Kano, Kaduna, Rivers and Ebonyi states as flash points of the 2023 general elections. According to the report “the failure to punish perpetrators of violence in past elections has sustained a climate of impunity that is continuing in 2023.”
Disappointingly, signing of peace accords has had very little impact on the attitude of politicians and their supporters. The appeal by the Chairman of the National Peace Committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) for political parties and candidates to stick to issue-based campaigns has been largely ignored by some of the candidates. The various peace pacts have not deterred them and their thugs from the orgy of pre-election violence across Nigeria’s political landscape. Government should move beyond signing inconsequential peace accords and go after the masterminds of political killings. Sadly, political killings across the country are never resolved.
The National Association of Seadogs, (Pyrates Confraternity), has taken note of the assurances by the Federal Government and the security agencies to ensure a violent-free poll. However, having been unable to walk the talk on tackling the spectre of insecurity across the country, it is our considered view that the Federal Government and security agencies must demonstrate seriousness in curbing political violence by fishing out the killers of Mr Chukwu. Apprehending the despicable elements behind the killing would be the first step to reassure Nigerians that the government is ready to deal with the impunity that has pervaded our electoral process.
We expect President Muhammadu Buhari to seize this opportunity and deploy the full weight of the law to arrest the merchants of electoral violence stalking the electorate across the country, regardless of their political persuasions. The ambitions of candidates and the dangerous victory-at-all-cost disposition of political parties should not be placed above the collective interest of the country. Candidates and political parties should rein in their goons and allow Nigerians to vote peacefully.
We call on law enforcement and security agencies especially the Inspector- General of Police, Alkali Baba Usman , the Director- General of the Department of State Security( DSS), Yusuf Bichi , the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Faruk Yahaya, the Commandant-General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps( NSCDC), Ahmed Abubakar Audi, to deploy all available resources at their disposal to ensure violent-free elections in Nigeria. The lackadaisical attitude which has headlined operations of security agencies in the past few months is what Nigeria cannot afford at this crucial time. Trouble makers must be promptly and decisively dealt with.
President Buhari must ensure that Nigerians vote under an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, and help in deepening democracy in Nigeria.