The state chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) recently issued a threat to all other political parties in the state, and indeed the citizens that it was withdrawing from the election peace agreement reached and signed with other parties to guarantee a peaceful and rancour-free exercise in the forthcoming elections.
By such withdrawal, the party is otherwise threatening that it may resort to violence.
The reason touted by the party for threat is simply that the party was in possession of insinuations of an alleged plan by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rig the March 28 and April elections. It had said that there was a rumour making the rounds that the PDP giving out food items to woo the electorates to vote for it, and that the party was buying off the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
The APC state chairman, LatepDabang, while issuing the threat publicly in Jos had said, “If the allegations that the PDP in the state is buying off the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and giving out food items are not investigated, APC was pull out of the peace pact.
Dabang had led the leadership of his party to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in the state to issue such a sensitive statement a mere allegation.
He added that, “The PDP has resorted to underhand tactics, including the purchase of PVCs in the wake of the postponement of the general elections. We in the APC are aware that there are plans by the PDP to rig the governorship election.
“Our members have alerted us to the fact that PDP councilors in Plateau State have been collecting PVCs in exchange of money. We saw people queuing to collect bags of rice and fertilisers in exchange of their PVCs.”
The threat, whether mere or serious, has sent jitter down the spines of the people of the state, who are now getting intimidated. In fact, a cross section of the electorates in the state are already scared of the violence threat and are saying they may not come out of their houses on the election days on the account of the APC threat.
The electorates, who are now recovering from the serial sectarian and religious crises that rocked it in recent years, and indeed the attacks by the Fulani herdsmen and the Boko Haram attacks, now have phobia for violence, and would not risk their lives and those of their wards after such a threat is issued.
The implications of this threat are multi-dimensional. There is the tendency for voters’ apathy. Having been threatened and intimidated, the voters may prefer to simply remain at home and probably watch the exercise on the television, thereby disenfranchised.
For a threat that was handed down publicly right at the doorstep of the INEC office, and in the glare of Nigerians, including the ad-hoc staff and the media men, there are possibilities of parents of students and Corp members withdrawing their wards from the exercise, thereby reducing the competent hands that INEC has spent fortune to train.
The INEC staff themselves may cave in to the threat and may succumb to doing the biddings of the APC agents.
Threat, they say begets threat, and even more threats, and indeed violence; the PDP and indeed other political parties in the state would of course not take such threat by the APC with levity. Indeed, no political party has the monopoly of violence. The other parties may also go and begin to begin to prepare for any eventuality, and this has a way of heating up the polity and returning the state to the past where it had long left.
If it makes do its threat, APC would have returned the state to the line of violence. The memories of the deadly post-election violence that rocked some states in the North are still very fresh; Corp members and many innocent Nigerians where killed in their prime, and properties, including worship places were destroyed. Certainly, no one would want to go back to those dark ages.
The state government, and indeed the administration of Jonah Jang, would be the last to want to see violence again. Having spent a huge sum on security to achieve the current peace being enjoyed by citizens, the state government definitely fears to be drawn back to those dark days of violence when the economy of the state was reduced to nothing, and citizens lived in fear of the next moment.
Reacting to the threat by the APC, a political watcher, Barrister Johnbull Musa called on the police to do a critical investigation, and call Dabang for questioning. He observed that such a threat at a sensitive such as now should not be taken for granted considering the fragile nature of Plateau State, and indeed Nigeria.
“That the threat is coming from a APC, a party headed by General MohammaduBuhari, whose followers wreaked havoc on the nation after the 2011 is the more reason the Police shouldn’t take Dabang’s threat for granted.
“In fact, Dabang should be made to sign an undertaken with the police to pledge that his followers would conduct themselves in a peaceful manner during the elections”, he advised.
Musa also cautioned the Police to be at its best to ensure that no group or political party violates the rules during the elections, adding that the Police has a duty keep everyone under the law
While advising Plateau people to ignore every threat and come out en mass to exercise their franchise, Musa assured that the Police would be dispatched to do their duties on the election days.
Meanwhile, a PDP Chieftain in the state, Honourable Daniel Kugmni has also condemned the strange position of the APC describing it as unbecoming of the party. He reminded the APC that PDP would not fold its hands and see its supporters intimidated in any way and for any reason whatsoever.
He dismissed the allegation that his party was purchasing PVC from electorates, describing it as unfounded and mere lies of the APC to create a platform to unleash violence on the unsuspecting electorates. He said, “We also gathered that the APC was busy purchasing PVC from electorates in Shendam, Kanam, Wase, and many places. But that was enough reason for us in the PDP to begin to issue threat.
“What we did was that we simply called our supporters in those areas and sensitize them over and again on the reason they should not sell their cards. We reminded them that their PVC was their power to enthrone the leaders of their choice. We told them of the consequences of selling off this right of theirs for money.
“That is what we expected the APC to do; sensitize their supporters against selling off their PVC, and not to begin to threaten other parties with violence. By the way, who is afraid of APC?”
He assured that having campaigned assiduously across the state for its Presidential and Governorship candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan and Senator GyangPwajok, and indeed the other PDP candidates across the state, he was sure of victory at all levels.
“During these eight years of PDP rule in the state, the people have witnessed unprecedented developmental projects like never before. Governor Jang has touched the lives of the people; the youths, the women, and indeed everyone. The good road network across the entire state is a testimony. Today, the civil servant conditions are far better than what it was before this administration. The improved Agriculture and healthcare services in the state are there for everyone to see. The electorates are wise, they know how to make right choices, and it will be evident on election days when they will vote massively for the PDP.
“We only admonish INEC not to be intimidated in any way into doing wrong things. If they will conduct free, fair, and credible election, we are sure that by May 29, PDP will continue the good work that it has started by the administration of Governor Jang.”
At a point when various groups are working hard towards peaceful elections across the country, every political party, including the APC must rise up and embrace peace, and also preach it to their followers.
Just recently, Nollywood stars were in Jos to sensitize electorates on the imperative for peaceful polls. There famous Patient Ozokwor and Kanayo O Kanayo preached peace to the people.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has equally rendered a voice in this regard. Speaking to THISDAY recently on the expectations of the conference, which has as its theme ‘Good Family, Make Good Nation’ CBCN President, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos said the current political atmosphere compels the Bishops to reflect on the situation and possibly charge politicians to chart the course of peace in the political activities.
Kaigama said: “We are very much concerned with the elections; that is why we have been meeting with some of the contestants. The 2015 elections is about who is going to be the winner, it is about Nigeria”.
As much as rigging of the elections will be a serious offense that must be visited with severe punishment, it will only be reasonable that politicians, who are even the front line stakeholders in the elections project embrace peace and conduct themselves and their followers in a peaceful manner that will not breach the existing peace in the state and the nation. Peace during the elections on the Plateau is not negotiable.