A bizarre spectacle recently played during the initial attempt by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to pick its standard-bearer for the governorship election in Ekiti State, slated for July 14. Suspected political thugs did not just invade the venue, Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, Ado Ekiti, despite the heavy security presence, but also vandalised ballot boxes and destroyed ballot papers, forcing many delegates to scamper for safety. The weird incident heightened tension in the political space: the build-up to the primary election had kept many on edge because of the mutual suspicion among the army of high-profile contenders for the governorship ticket. Sadly, like in the Ekiti primary election, the party’s congresses across the country were marred by violence, arson and killings. A number of party chieftains, including offfice-holders, and faithful were molested, beaten up, wounded with machetes or killed in gruesome circumstances. Sadly, only a few of the perpetrators of the dastardly crimes have been arrested by the police.
The violence is particularly disturbing because of its implications for the country as preparations for the 2019 general election gather momentum. The issue of security is paramount and crucial to the overall success of any election and the fact that thugs easily beat the security networks around the venues of the congresses could send wrong signals to the vast majority of Nigerian voters already gearing up to do the needful in 2019. Whatever the grievances of the thugs and their principal(s) were, they had no right to undermine democratic norms, values and ideals by resorting to the rule of the jungle. The laws of the country provide legitimate means to seek redress. The reign of impunity and brigandage at the APC primary election in Ekiti and the congresses across the federation constitute a threat to peace and stability, and those behind the lawlessness must be made to bear the full weight of the law.
Appropriate sanctions should be imposed on thugs and their principals/sponsors to serve as a deterrent to others who might harbour similar sinister motives. If key political gladiators and their hirelings are not ready to comport themselves and play by the rules of the game, the onus is on the security agencies to act appropriately, regardless of whose ox is gored. It still beats the imagination of right-thinking citizens that those thugs and criminals infiltrated or had the audacity to strike at the venues of the congresses, given the kind of large-scale security nexus on the ground.
While we recognise that any major contest for power cannot be absolutely devoid of frictions and hiccups, it is, however, a big shame that a few disgruntled and rascally elements who are averse to the fundamental rights and freedom of others were allowed to have their way and lord it over those who were minded to play by the rules. These deviants must be whipped into line. The security agencies must scale up their activities because such sore points at this stage of civil rule are capable of instilling fear in the minds of the generality of Nigerians regarding the capability, capacity and efficiency of the state and its apparatuses to guarantee law and order during major political events.
The APC congresses fiasco was another confirmation of leadership failure. Party leaders and candidates must ingrain in the subconscious of their supporters and agents, the necessity to comport themselves properly. Law-abiding citizens must be allowed to make their choices since the system has in-built mechanisms for conflict resolution. Anything short of this is ultimately a threat to democracy.