© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Congresses of woes
By Wale Fatade
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 shop on that hot and sunny afternoon before proceeding to the carwash, I was not prepared for what I saw. Nearly 50 young men and boys wielding dangerous instruments walked past 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. I saw them holding handsaws, 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 heading to the station.
Suddenly, memories of the violence that trailed the 1983 governorship elections in the old 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 was chaos. 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 against participation in politics. What I saw on Saturday have not convinced me we have changed for the better. Not that one supports rigging, no; but the violence that characterizes our political disagreements in this part of the world makes one shudder about participating in partisan politics beyond voting. While at the carwash, 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 violence.
Later in the day, reports emerged of savagery across the land from Delta to Imo, Rivers and other states. Indeed, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State ordered the arrest and arraignment of APC members who came to conduct the congress in the State. Let’s for a moment forget the legality or otherwise of Okorocha’s order, it is instructive that a state governor had to invite 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, the 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 resulting from election outcomes.
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, but 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 the standard of our 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 roguery that cuts across political parties in Nigeria. 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. But as I told the young men at the carwash: Where are the children of the candidates? Let them lead the violence the next time their parents asked others to protest.