Apart from the All Progressives Congress governorship primaries in Ekiti State, I did not think much of the state congresses of the party held last Saturday. My eyes were on Ekiti because three of my friends were involved, campaigning and working for a candidate; thereby forcing me to look out for them and their safety.
But what I saw around 12 noon that day made my heart skipped a beat. Having decided to branch at my tailor’s place on that hot and sunny afternoon before proceeding to the car wash, I was not prepared fro what I saw. Nearly 50 young men and boys wielding many dangerous instruments walked by me on that street in Isolo, Lagos chanting songs and stomping their feet. One, most likely a teenager or in his early 20s, was drenched in blood clutching a shirt also soaked in blood and I saw them holding saw, machetes, and bottles breaking them at will on the road. Totally paralyzed, I waited with other drivers and pedestrians, allowing them to pass before we moved. Some were in Odua Peoples Congress golf shirts and since a police station was nearby, my guess was that they were going there.
Suddenly, memories of the violence that trailed the 1983 governorship elections in the then Oyo State flooded my mind. Aftermath of the disputed elections said to be rigged in favour of the National Party of Nigeria against the Unity Party of Nigeria; some citizens took to the streets burning and destroying properties of NPN members. It was also like that in the then Ondo State. The experience scarred my mind for life against participation in politics and subsequent growth and development with what I saw on Saturday have not convinced me that, perhaps, we have changed for the better. Not that one support rigging, no, but the violence that characterizes our political disagreements in this part of the world makes one shudder about participating beyond voting. While at the car wash, policemen of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) came blasting siren ostensibly to quell the violence. Not too long after, a detachment of soldiers too came, indicating that most likely the policemen could not stop the turbulence.
Later in the day, reports emerged of violence across the land from Delta, Imo and Rivers States. Indeed, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State actually ordered the arrest and arraignment of APC members who came to conduct the congress in Imo State. Let’s for a moment forget the legality or otherwise of Okorocha’s order, it is instructive that a state governor had to recourse to security agents over the conduct of his party’s congress. Good enough that he had briefed President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday on what transpired at the congress. We have also seen love gone sour between Senator Magnus Abe and Rotimi Amaechi, transport minister. Theirs actually started last Friday and it was no surprise that it spilled over the next day. Someone was murdered in Ughelli South after complaining of illegalities in the way the congress was being conducted. Pre and post electoral violence has been with us for a long period that it is possible we have become desensitized to deaths because of elections.
What do we then say to the show of shame in Ekiti State over the weekend? Granted that justice is the fulcrum or cornerstone of an average Ekiti person that propels him to fight injustice in its tiniest form, how do we justify the crude inter-party rivalry that bedeviled the primaries? The level of money that one of the candidates allegedly offered the ‘delegates’ to vote for him is obscene even by our usual money politics. How could someone offered a million naira to be elected in a primary election? Folks were given hundred thousand each before voting and were asked to copy the serial number of their ballot paper which would then be tracked eventually so as to get the N900, 000 balance after the election. So, when the other candidates saw how they were being beaten in the money game with the connivance of security agents, they revolted. Another crucial factor in Ekiti and other states is the partiality of the security agents. Senator Abe accused Amaechi of using security agents to intimidate those opposed to his candidates in Rivers just as Kayode Fayemi was similarly accused in Ekiti.
Let no one think this is peculiar to APC, we witnessed similar occurrence under PDP. It is a tale of Nigeria in microcosm. I think there is much struggle within APC because it is the party in power, and members assume that government’s apparatus will back them during the general elections and so they must do everything and anything to install their cronies as party executives or secure the party’s ticket. We cannot continue like this, however. But as I told the young men at the car wash, where are the children of the candidates? Let them lead the violence the next time their parents asked others to protest.