Sunday, April 14, 2024

Mayhem, violence during parties’ primaries foreshadow 2023

Uba Group

BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA

Except immediate steps are taken to nip it in the bud, what might play out in the forthcoming 2023 general elections were on display nationwide last week as political parties, particularly the two major ones, held their primaries nationwide.

Party’s primaries, by name and definition, are avenue to elect candidates that will fly the flags of the various parties at all levels, be it at the state where the Governorship, Senatorial, House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly members are elected or at the national level where the Presidential candidates are also elected.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and other political parties had some of their primaries last week with some still pending.

The quest to grab tickets by politicians even at all costs has often caused pandemonium and chaos. It has led to the death of party loyalists who as delegates lose their lives by trying to exercise their acclaimed civic right to vote for their choice candidates.

Howbeit, the process, like several in the past, claimed some lives and where there is no news of deaths there certainly is news of maiming.

During these primaries so far, sporadic shootings, kidnappings and beating of delegates by political thugs on behalf of their principals, rightly or wrongly, have all been witnessed.

Part of the sad reports last week includes the shooting of a delegate in the PDP primaries in Bayelsa State, several were mercilessly beaten in Oyo, Delta, Cross River, Lagos, Taraba, Jigawa, Abia, Imo, Kwara, Osun, Ekiti, Ebonyi and others.

This trend has created fears in the electorate, who are wondering what would be the situation in 2023 general elections if the primaries can record this high level of violent incidents and casualties.

Reacting, an Abuja-based businessman, Abdullahi Mogaji, expressed fears that the 2023 general elections would be fiercer than what is happening in the primaries.

He argued that the political parties and the politicians’ attitude of winning at all costs has remained the root cause of the various violence recorded during primaries and elections proper.

“I’m sore afraid. Imagine the level of killings and beatings that are recorded in the primaries. If this can happen during a primary which is a party’s internal matter, what do you think will be the situation during the elections proper? We will be taking risks by going out to vote with this kind of desperation.

“This trend has created fears in the electorate, who are wondering what would be the situation in 2023 general elections if the primaries can record this high level of violent incidents and casualties”

“In fact, these politicians are the security threat we have in the country. Almost every state had one threat or the other. The story from Niger State is that three delegates were killed, in Plateau State, an aspirant was kidnapped, in Bayelsa, somebody was shot dead, in Oyo people were mercilessly beaten, and there was no place you didn’t record killing or beating or kidnapping of somebody and yet these are just party primaries. The worst, like I have said, will happen next year. And the worrisome thing is that the leadership of these political parties and the government don’t lose sleep over the happenings because they are involved.”

Mogaji further expressed fears that the politics of trying to outdo another by the politicians is the Genesis of the ugly situations witnessed during the primaries. He added that the two mega parties have created more problems for our politics than ever.

“Ordinarily, time of party primaries is time of jubilation for parties because both the delegates and aspirants will have fun but it was not so with what we witnessed this year. And I blame hunger in the land for all that was displayed by the desperate politicians. Their thugs and terrorists can’t be separated from one another. Who kidnapped the woman aspirant in Plateau State? Who killed the three delegates in Niger? They were all blamed on terrorists or bandits. It’s really terrible,” he said.

Obinna Okoye, a legal practitioner based in Abuja, said the level of violence associated with the party primaries may be a strong indication of what to expect in the 2023 general elections.

“There will be no difference. Killing, maiming and kidnappings and general violence will be the main threat of next year’s elections. The annoying thing is that we cannot differentiate between the terrorists, bandits, unknown gunmen and party thugs. I heard in the news that three delegates forgot what they were supposed to come to the primary with and were asked to go back home and bring them, on their way they were shot dead by ‘bandits’. Who is sure it was bandits that killed them. They could have been killed by thugs who believed they were going to vote against their own candidate.

“But even if they were killed by bandits or terrorists does it not prove that there is great danger in next year’s elections. I’m scared.

With what is happening, next year’s elections will not give us the best we are yearning for. It will be a time of who outwits the other will take it all. Besides the security issues, the kind of money involved in the primaries will be child’s play compared to what will happen in 2023. It will be ‘you must collect the money and vote for me, your life or your vote.’”

To another lawyer and political analyst, Ezra Enwere, elections in Nigeria and violence are twins and so killing and maiming during parties’ primaries can be said to be a shadow of what is to come in the 2023 general elections.

“Yes, elections in Nigeria have always been violent. I am afraid more killings and assassinations will precede the 2023 elections if we don’t act now. This violence is reminiscent of our electoral system. It is not unconnected with our perception of election as a career, business and a means to wealth.

“Expect other high-handed tactics such as the arrest of contestants, slamming contestants with trump up charges, and a lot of other dramas.

“With the foregoing indices, Nigeria never had any true, fair and genuine elections. We cannot say that those who emerged under this pseudo electoral process are truly the people’s choice.

“Again, these killings and maiming have created electoral apathy as well-meaning Nigerians will distance themselves from the election for fear of being killed.

“The violence has only begun. Those that cannot be killed may be arrested on trump charges, expect clashes by factions and party supporters, and abductions. We got our narrative on election wrong”

The Executive Director Adopt A Goal Initiative, Ariyo-Dare Atoye, decried the sorry state of the country that has led the citizen into doing things that are terrible.

“Nigerian political system is in a bad and a terrible shape because of the influence of not just money but due to the refusal of the political parties to embrace internal reforms and internal party democracy. What we are saying is the possibility of 2023 being truncated significantly due to the influence of money and violence because those who paid heavily to win party primaries will do everything to win the general elections. Somebody who gave 3.5 million naira to delegates to win the ticket of the party, will go to any length to win in 2023.

“Unfortunately we have not seen any reaction from the police, EFCC, ICPC and most importantly the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The INEC Chairman has reacted but he has no power of enforcing anything but the President, unfortunately, has dithered in making a commitment to improving our electoral processes. The killing that we’ve seen and the level of money deployed during the primaries is nothing compared to what is coming in 2023.

“The largest festival of money in the world is what we have witnessed in the primaries of PDP and APC. It is very sad that Nigeria is taking the lead when it comes to impunity and undermining credible elections. As an organization what we are currently pursuing is how to get the political parties to commit to transparency and accountability.

“We may not be able to do that now until after these primaries but we intend to not just embark on this but also campaign on the issue of vote-buying starting from Ekiti and Osun and hopefully we will be able to change the orientation of Nigeria. So the critical things we need to do now are political reform, and voter orientation reform, and these are very critical. The Electoral Act they are saying is causing confusion, the two sections; section 84.8 and 84.12 are important provisions, if we leave it at that it is still very good, let all delegates be democratically elected.”

However, a chieftain of one of the parties who preferred anonymity said there was nothing wrong with the delegates collecting money from the aspirants to vote for them. He argued that whether they pay them to vote for them or not when they become elected, they will never remember those who voted for them.

He, however, said the evil about it is that the very bad politicians are those who have money to play around with while the aspirants who have something to offer do not have money and that is the bedrock of bad governance.

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