QUESTION: Did Amaechi’s ‘war songs’ violate Electoral Act? It appears so
ON Tuesday, during the presidential campaign rally of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi challenged the state’s governor, Nyesom Wike, to an open duel.
Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers State, told President Muhammadu Buhari that 80 percent of all the politically successful citizens of Rivers State passed through him, including Wike, but that they have all betrayed him.
This time around, Amaechi vowed to “battle them to the last”. He then started singing traditional Igbo war songs calling on cowards not to hide their faces when warriors are holding a show of strength.
Already, there are reports that several persons were killed in a stampede that occurred during the APC rally though it is not clear yet what led to the stampede.
Here are Amaechi’s exact words during the campaign:
“Your Excellency, let me welcome you to Rivers State, and I welcome you to a state here whatever Wike wants on Saturday we will give him, free. We don’t want money from the federal. Whatever PDP wants in Rivers State, we are equal to the task. It’s as simple as that.
“You know it gets to a stage that a man must be a man. It gets to a stage a man cannot be any other thing but a man. Your Excellency, I’m not going to Abuja again. I’m here from today to the election day.
“You know for long I’ve not spoken like this, (but) today, we ill sing like the Igbo (people) would sing.”
The songs he sang translates roughly to the following: “It is time to show strength, let the coward not come close to where a show of strength is taking place”. “The warrior’s eyes are bloodshot”. As he sang, he displayed some war-like dance steps and the MC kept hailing him “Lion, Lion”.
“On Saturday, they should get ready,” Amaechi continued. “The support we want is that Mr President should just thank us when we finish. We are ready for them.”
Many have criticised Amaechi’s comments, saying such remarks could stir up violence, especially given that Rivers is a state that is already very polarised. Some even called for Amaechi to be arrested and prosecuted for contravening the Electoral Act.
Below is a clip of Amaechi’s war dance during the campaign rally:
Plz Chubuike Amaechi, Rivers state should not be set on fire. Election is not a battle.
How can Buhari be seated & Amaechi is making threats & boosting that Saturday will be a battle & not an election.
Amaechi should be held responsible for any violence in Rivers state on Sat. pic.twitter.com/K5yDG766kK
— NEFERTITI (@firstladyship) February 12, 2019
A Tweeter user, Chris Ayo Joseph, wrote: “This is the height of incitement and hate speech. Africa and the entire world shouldn’t sit and watch Amaechi and other greedy, selfish politicians set Nigeria on fire. Rivers State will be at peace.”
Checks by The ICIR show that Amaechi may have indeed run afoul of certain provisions of the Electoral Act 2015 as amended.
Section 95 (2) of the Electoral Act states: “Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.”
Subsection (7a) of the same section 95 provides the punishment to meted out on anyone who violates the section of the Act. It reads: “A political party or person who contravenes any of the provision of this section commits an offence and is liable on conviction – (a) in the case of an individual, to a maximum fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for the term of 12 months; and (b) in the case of a political party, to a fine of N2,000,000 in the first instance, and N1,000,000 for any subsequent offence.
Similarly, section 96 of the Electoral Act also provides that no candidate, person or group of persons shall “directly or indirectly threaten any person with the use of force or violence during any political campaign in order to compel that person or any other person to support or refrain from supporting a political party or candidate”.
Recall that the Department of State Services (DSS) recently arrested the director of media and publicity of the PDP governorship campaign in Kaduna State, Ben Bako, on the allegation of inciting violence. Bako had allegedly urged the people to “deal with” anyone that betrays the party.
On Tuesday, the DSS released a statement signed by one A.I Kaya, saying that such statements, “if left unchecked, could lead to complete breakdown of law and order in this state and beyond”.
Meanwhile, the PDP national leadership has called on the International Criminal Court to list Amaechi for inciting violence.