Birds eat grasshoppers , yet Igbos say any grasshopper that meets its death at the hands of an okpoko (a particularly noisy bird) must be deaf.
If Biafra and its aftermath and its lessons are too distant to caution Nigerians, then Rwanda, and its graphic elaboration of the limitless boundaries of human depravity, a manifestation of a strain of spontaneous but highly contagious affliction of a compulsive obsession to hate and kill, must always jolt.
The virulence of that affliction in comparison to Ebola virus disease is made clear in the death toll of over 100,000 in just 100 days while Ebola with all its dreadfulness has killed about 8000 throughout this epidemic that has lasted more than a year now.
Some would say that Rwanda was not particularly about elections but it was about power struggle accentuated by ethnic rivalries. Rwanda should serve enough horror to deter those who have, out of desperation or ignorance, chosen to inflame divisive passions. That notorious picture of stacked skulls of thousands who were killed should never be forgotten.
In Kenya , Rwanda and the like, we have our fault lines, divisions and animosities deliberately accentuated and bequeathed to us by colonialists which our political leaders, neo colonialists in every sense, have continued to manipulate.
The electioneering campaigns have been full of sound and fury. Shakespeare must have many idiots here.
Who doubts that divisive political speeches portend grave danger in any volatile polity? Kenya’s election crisis in 2007 could address any such doubts. Politicians in Kenya made inflammable speeches prior to the fiercely contested elections. Minutes after the disputed results were announced , the opposition leader Raila Odinga rejected the results and violence exploded. Odinga had been the champion for the poor but when killing and maiming started ethnic rivalry inflamed it. Over a thousand died in a couple of days and over 250,000 where internally displaced and the country’s economy was shut down. Kenya lost big time. All the killings happened in the slums. Kibaki and Odinga and the other political elites later gathered to share power and everything else. Kenya was lucky in a sense.
Governor Fayose was on the podium the other day. In a display of characteristic indiscretion he exalted impunity by bragging about the futility of much vaunted anti corruption capability of the opposition party. “Am I not still here, did they not try (prosecute) me “ he mocked.
Fayose hadn’t quite finished that day when a minister mounted the podium and sought to impress the president with the verbal savagery he probably unleashed on his behalf to demonise his opponent. If you cant fetch him votes, wield cudgels on his opponents, it appeared.
That minister labeled Buhari, the opposition leader, “enemy of the Yoruba people”. There, was a federal minister playing dangerous tribal politics publicly.
He linked Buhari to the death of Awolowo. And the crowd cheered. The crowd would always cheer. In Central African Republic, they cheer as people are roasted and decapitated in the religious strife that has consumed Bangui.
The president came on the stage moments later, no worries over the hate-gospel. I guess only votes matter now. So he lionized Fayose, calling him Oshokomole repeatedly , literally endorsing his tactics . In the face of what had happened before he began his speech , a jocular reminder to all to avoid violence and maintain decorum would have revealed maturity. If Fayose was impudent then the president, in condoning him, was politically imprudent.
And those inflammatory rhetorics perhaps fueled Fayose’s next move which was to adorn front page of a national daily with advertorial that seemingly suggested Buhari would die in office if elected President. Sometimes Fayose is so tragically comical he should be disregarded but a man with a penchant for viciousness and violence must never be ignored.
The fear of large scale post election conflict and violence is not alarmist . In 2011 many, including innocent youth corp members were killed following some post election violence in parts of the north. It is expected that since there are now two evenly matched parties, the presidential contest would be the fiercest in Nigeria’s history. The National security adviser has said that much.
The parties have signed a peace accord. But what is the accord worth? Political tensions have risen since the accord . The visit of the US secretary of states to Nigeria to discuss the imperative of non violence approach speaks volumes of international concern.
The contestants are morally culpable for political and moral atrocities perpetrated or instigated by their campaign teams and parties. And their campaign teams have fanned the embers.
Could it be the that president Jonathan’s team has been at the receiving end of physical attacks ? Can that explain why The president’s team has been the more aggressive?
There have been acts of political violence in a few places. The PDPs campaign team was attacked in Jos in a part of Jos that is Pro Buhari. APCs offices in Okrika and Ndoni were bombed and a second attack against APC again in Okrika destroyed structures they erected for campaign. Okrika is the hometown of The president’s wife who is at daggers drawn with Gov Amaechi who leads Buhari’s campaign and so the implications of these attacks must not be lost on anyone.
Governor Sule Lamido has raised an alarm. No one openly supports Jonathan in the north now without being hounded. He referred to his experience in 1983 when he decamped from Aminu Kano’s PRP to ZIK’s led NPP and was branded a pagan and vilified. His speech gave expression to the prevailing situation in the northern part of Nigeria where any public identification with or promotion of Jonathan is almost an anathema. And that is Dangerous. If clandestine meetings are held and messages are spread to the effect that Jonathan must not be supported because he is ‘not our own’, that is a recipe for disaster. And if any support for him is a taboo, then national unity is in jeopardy. We understand ethnic politics but we know when it has taken a dangerous dimension
Let’s make no mistake, Jonathan and his people aren’t being persecuted in the north for religious reasons as some would like to propagate. He is loathed now principally in response to a certain unfortunate narrative that has gained traction amongst the ordinary people to the effect that he is in a sense responsible for the atrocities of Boko haram. Either for acts of commission or omission, they blame him for the decimation of the north by the sect. Any objective observer would find that assumption preposterous and plainly mischievous.
Many northerners subscribe to that narrative , that fallacy, and see Jonathan as an enemy. If you reinforce that attitude with their passion for a reputedly morally upright Buhari then the general understanding that any Jonathan’s supporter is literally a traitor can be explained but not accepted. Jonathan’s team was pelted with stones in Katsina and these actions are condemnable. These reactions need to stop because we are, by our structure, vulnerable.
Many clerics have cast aside caution and dabbled into partisan politics . Mbaka’s excursion into the politics of endorsements has been condemned by many but as objectionable as any such attempt may be, it serves national unity better if a Christian cleric endorses a Muslim candidate than for a Muslim cleric endorsing a Muslim candidate, and vice versa. So perhaps ethically , Mbaka fares better than Oyedepo.
Pastor Oyedepo must remember that there is no difference between a pastor who sees a Muslim as a heathen who is unfit to rule over the country and an ‘almajiri’ who refers to the Igbo trader as an infidel and by such a spiritual justification, in a moment of confusion, to eliminate him in the name of God . I respect Bishop Oyedepo deeply . But is tit for tat a Christian way?
The vice president has not been idle. He was hardly seen on the campaign trail in the south, he was perhaps writing his inflammatory speech which he delivered in Hausa, perhaps for added poignancy, in Jigawa. He was reported to have labeled professor Osinbajo a Christian crusader who presides over 5000 churches and whose ulterior ambition is to wreck Islam by ‘Christianising’ the country. He couldn’t be more divisive.
Many of our leaders are puerile and aloof but they are letting out so much from hell already as they fiddle its gates.
Violence, as we learnt from the holocaust and Rwanda, is nourished not just by false propaganda but the passivity and failure to defend the truth and justice by many others. The Buhari’s certificate imbroglio is a veritable example. Buhari should have submitted a certificate ab initio . He would have saved us a lot of stress. However, the handling of the fallout of that procedural lapse by the president’s team has been pedestrian , mendacious and vexatious. The PDP presidential campaign has two relevant persons with very contrasting characters. Fani Kayode and Gov Shema.
Fani has a reputation for good elocution and for careless talk. He insists Buhari has no certificate and is not qualified and he labels the statement of result released by the Katsina school as forged. Ffk, as he is fondly called, by implication , accuses Katsina state government of forging Buhari’s result since the authenticity of that result has not been refuted by Katsina state’s ministry of education that runs the issuing school. And Shema has been quiet, yet that school is indirectly supervised by him. Is that acceptable? Yet FFK speaks for the presidential campaign committee to which same Shema belongs.
FFK rants and rants but does not involve the police to investigate the forgery?
The president’s campaign director recently, made inflammatory remarks when he associated northern Muslims with Boko Haram.
Standing up for the truth to dispel false and malicious information is a moral and patriotic duty. But it is something politicians find difficult to do. Many were shocked when PDP’s Gov Yuguda of Bauchi debunked allegations that APC attacked president Jonathan in Bauchi , blaming squabbles within his party for the incident. It is good Yuguda spoke up.
What about Abba Moro, minister for internal affairs? A man who supervised an employment exercise that claimed lives of our people, a man who, ordinarily in atonement to man and God, must flee from lies, took the stage in Makurdi to state that the statement of result released by Buhari’s katsina school was fake had the effrontery to point accusing fingers at others?
“ Mr president I can tell you, as a teacher, that that result was forged,” he said in Markurdi.
Moro owes the president so much that such clownishness must be read as a public expression of gratitude for the contempt shown Nigerians by the president in retaining him. The president, disappointed many by literally trampling on the sensibilities of Nigerians in keeping Moro. Moro, who is yet to be probed for the scam that claimed lives claimed that the principal of Katsina state government was guilty of forgery.
The ruling party has become a victim of their devious political ploy in the north. They had sought to absolve the government of ineptitude in the handling Book Haram by declaring that the insurgency was the handiwork of political opponents particularly Buhari and his sympathisers. So without any tangible evidence and despite their control of organs of investigation and coercion , they demonized apparently innocent opponents.
Anyone who believed the government’s position on Boko Haram and had faith in their theory would have been stupefied by the grand welcome given Ali Modu Sheriff, the erstwhile suspected master mind of the sect, into the inner recesses of federal power. Even after that government officials have continued to label APC Boko Haram party.
Our leaders must come out and defuse political tension and make their supporters understand violence is not an option regardless of the outcome of the elections.
Ivory coast must interest our leaders and those fiddling with the gates of hell. If this fiercely contested presidential election ends inconclusively or in dispute, the seeds they have sown may sprout and what may follow is better imagined than said here. But they should give peace a chance for we have the right to live. Violence must not be our way.