By Oji Odu
Former President Goodluck Jonathan will always be remembered by posterity for making the 2015 general election violent free, even when under pressure not to do so. With 2019 election just days away, calls and pleas have re-echoed for violence free polls.
Will there be violence free elections when the gladiators have continued to tear each other with hate speeches, unguided provocative languages and words? Will it be violence free when such words are echoed by both religious and traditional rulers?
Will it be free polls when there are heightened fears of impartiality of security personnel, there are no implementable laws to punish electoral offenders? And will there be no disruptions when eligible voters are disenfranchised by no fault of theirs, but the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)?
Following several recorded electoral violence both intra and inter party, the National Security Adviser (NSA), retired Major General Mohammed Monguno, during his meeting with members of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) made a very shocking revelation on how some politicians are scheming to arm political thugs during the general elections. He said that intelligence reports had indicated plans by some individuals and groups to instigate violence during and after the upcoming elections.
Lamenting to the Magazine, Charles Ojinma, a political analyst, he regretted that it is the youth, the working population of the country that are either maimed or sent to their early graves, “ by this old brigade politicians who have been at the leadership of this nation in one capacity or another, some of them since their 20s and 30s.”
Speaking on the anxiety and fears of violence in the 2019 election at a news conference on international religious freedom, Samuel Brownback, United States Ambassador at- large for International Religious Freedom recently challenged religious leaders in Nigeria to preach non violence to their members in the 2019 election, saying the whole world is watching the way Nigeria’s general election would be organised.
“My advice to religious leaders is to suggest to everybody for there to be a calm election, a peaceful election, and no violence in the election. And I would ask all the religious leaders in Nigeria to put that message out: that people get out and vote, but that it be calm and peaceful and no violence.
“That this is a right that everybody in Nigeria has to vote. It should be exercised, but it shouldn’t be something that people then are threatened with violence or deadly force in various places, and the religious leaders have a role to play and a strong role to play asking for people to do this election peacefully.
“The world is watching. Nigeria is an important, incredibly important country, and it’s important throughout the world. It’s certainly a key country in Africa. “And what you do on having a peaceful election cycle is an important thing for the progress in Nigeria.
“And the religious leaders should be just adamant about that this must be peaceful. We do these things peacefully and we showcase that to the world,” he said.
Brownback explained that he came to Nigeria for several days recently and went to the middle belt and the southern part of the country. “I tracked the situation very closely. The United States Government is strongly concerned that there be free and fair elections, and that they be safe elections – that the factions vote, but not attack each other. “And that the government itself that’s in power now do everything they can to protect the people, to make sure that they’re safe,” he said.
Earlier call s were made by Stuart Symington, United States Ambassador to Nigeria. He said the future of the country depends on the forthcoming 2019 general elections, as he urged the institutions of government to promote credible and peaceful polls. Symington made this known after meeting with the Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
With three mysterious infernos at INEC offices in two weeks in Abia and Plateau states, and with thousands of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) lost which are yet to be replaced, and INEC yet to make solid arrangements not to disenfranchise these voters, is this not enough to cause violence at this period? Are others that are going to be disenfranchised because INEC could not print their PVCs, or was unable to do their transfers to their new polling centers not likely to cause electoral disruption?
The Magazine’s findings reveal that just as there is increase in the number of voters, many may stay at home to avoid any violence by political thugs, while others say they will do so because of distrust of the electoral umpire, INEC.
Meanwhile, the tension raised by the anxiety of violence in the 2019 elections led to the signing of the
non violence pact by the Presidential political gladiators in the election today, February 15, 2019, for anyone that loses the not to resort to violence.