Ekiti shooting – The Nation

  • The fumbler-policeman got his due. But there are fundamental issues that must be tackled, on electioneering and violence

Just as well the policeman that accidentally shot Opeyemi Bamidele and others, at Kayode Fayemi’s gubernatorial campaign opener for the July 14 election in Ekiti State, got what he deserved: dismissal. But the real issue: the nexus between electioneering and violence, needs to be urgently appraised and tackled.

On June 1, Ekiti made news for the wrong reasons, when shots rang out at the opening campaign of Dr. Fayemi, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the July 14 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. Mr. Bamidele, a former member of the House of Representatives and former commissioner in Lagos State, was hit with some others.

The initial fear was that it was an “assassination attempt.” But later, fuller information revealed it was an accidental discharge by a fumbling police officer, poached from his official duty post in Lagos, to do illegal guard work in Ekiti.

The big question is: why would a politician just poach a policeman from his legal duty post, and procure him for inter-state guard duty, at a campaign rally? That such is even possible is an umpteenth indictment on the Nigeria Police. The police authorities must frown at such lax behaviours and ensure they don’t happen again.

But the real answer to the question is the seeming inevitability of violence at electoral campaign rallies, which ought to be bastions of free gathering, free speech and free choice, as guaranteed by every democratic constitution. If there is violence, the Nigerian politician would most self-righteously reason, I must protect myself, anyhow necessary.

But why sure violence? Because, at the turn of every election cycle, there appears an illicit personnel security market, manned by thugs and allied suspected criminals. From the revelations so far, from police investigations into the Offa robbery case, it would appear this market is patronised, and the illegal security ring run by the cream of the political elite. Because the elite also doubles as the principal agents of the Nigerian state, with their sick penchant to dispense illicit patronage and influence, the security agencies tend to play dumb to such dangerous developments.

For too long, that has evolved into a sick political culture and electioneering convention, with both the thugs (the supply side) and the politicians (the demand side) doing brisk business but wreaking great havoc in human lives and limbs.

This is the dangerous ring that must be smashed, to minimise violence and deaths in Nigeria’s electioneering space. But it would take an iron will and especial persistence to do it. Having been part and parcel of the electoral structure for too long, and the means of livelihood of not a few, it would not just vanish. But for the good of Nigerian democracy and the sake of violent-free elections, it must be done.

That takes the matter to Ekiti’s July 14 governorship election and the scare of looming violence.  It is instructive the initial scare of “assassination attempt” resonated with not a few. That can be adduced to the excitable bellicosity and hysterical irrationality Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose often embraces, when good, old gubernatorial grace and dignity should hold sway.

Still, the Ekiti APC side that in the crisis of the moment cried wolf, not at all sure there was any, projected itself hardly above the Fayose antics. Taking a human life is the ultimate crime. But being frivolous and hysterical about pointing fingers of guilt, is no less tantamount to pandering to that ultimate criminality.

Rallies of any kind should be peaceful. Not politicians alone hold them. Yet they are most fraught with violence. Perhaps it happens because no litigations have cautioned them as sometimes happens in non-political rallies.

All of these should stop. Ekiti has had a government in the past four years. Ekiti is neither populated by ghosts nor zombies. So, where the sitting government has done well or has faltered, the people living there, as beneficiaries or as victims, can testify. Both sides should therefore leverage these strengths (on the part of the Fayose government) and weaknesses (on the part of the opposition) to pitch for votes in the most peaceful, convincing, rational and civilised of ways.

That is when the election can be issue-based, and the electorate given full tutorials, en route to making free and unfettered choices on July 14.

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