February Christmas: The Fear of Post-Election Violence

febuary

By Noel Onoja

It is the wish, aspiration, desire and prayer of every Nigerian that the forthcoming general elections holds peacefully without any rancour, destruction of property, blood spill or violence of any nature, before and after the elections come 14th February.

Because of past experiences where elections are marred with an aftermath of violence and chaos, Nigerians are always ready not to give in to any chance of getting caught up in such mayhem by taking precautions to safeguard themselves, their loved ones, business and properties, and one of the means of doing that is by relocating from areas they consider violence-prone to preferably their villages and hometowns.

As the political atmosphere gets more intense Nigerians especially those of us living in the northern part of the country wake up to see our neighbours packing up to leave and back to their villages till after the election for fear of post-election violence, people are moving their entire families from the urban cities to the villages and hometowns till the elections are over and everything is normal or in the event that anything goes wrong, they will feel safer in the villages or atleast ‘die’ in their ‘father’s land’.

I remember in June 1993 how my father hurriedly packed us into a station-wagon vehicle at night to transport us from Abuja to the hinter lands of Kogi State in a bid to avoiding any emergency that might happen as an aftermath of the 1993 election, even as I child I remember how the fear had gripped my entire neighbourhood and all our neighbours had travelled, we were almost the last to travel, the anxiety could be felt in the air they tagged that period “Abiola christmas”; I remember also how many families perished that period, how accident claimed many lives along the way, infact, it was a narrow escape for me and my people.

In 2011, those post-election fear was further magnified by the senseless violence that rocked some parts of the north after election results were declared, infact, it was even more appalling to learn about the targetting and killing of innocent Youth Corp members serving in some parts of the north, a few aggrieved politicians who lost out in that election further aggravated the situation with inciting and provocative statements.

Today, such realities are even taken more seriously, a lot of people have closed up their business and left town, today, in less than three weeks to election, Abuja for example is experiencing lesser traffic, some businesses are operating at half capacity, residence are quietly moving, the signs are obvious that people are travelling out of the city like they would do at Christmas season, maybe its ‘February Christmas’.

But this shouldn’t be so, if we are a country of serious people we should have learned that post-election violence is totally unnecessary and a barbaric way to seek re-dress in today’s civilised system, politicians who play war drums should know that violence will have no place in swaying or truncating today’s process of democracy – a demonstration of the collective will of the people.

Every Nigerian should consider himself or herself a proponent of the Peace process we collectively want and put all hands on deck; it is shameful and demoralising how electorate have embarked in some areas the burning of campaign buses of their perceived opposition, in Katsina and in Jos recently, campaign properties of opposing parties were set alight, even before then, the rhetoric of some political parties and politicians were like fuel for the fire and a reason to despair.

The coming general election should not in anyway be enmeshed in violence of any kind, politicians should educate their electorate on proper conduct during and after election, the attitude of ‘do or die’ should never be the theme; I mean, isn’t it enough that boko haram have continued to kill innocent Nigerians? Must we again add to their senslessness and madness by fighting and killing each other for sake of elections?

it is a welcomed development that the Presidential contestants for the coming election decided to come together to sign a Peace pact in presence of former United Nation’s Sectretary-General Mr. Koffi Anan, it was also for me, a welcome development when incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan suggested a Unity Government where parties that performed well during elections will be brought in as part of the newly elected government with the intention to work together for the collective good of the country.

Some will argue that the idea of a unity government may not work out as the idea may dampen strong opposition in the country and may also lead to conflict of governance interest as in the case of South-Sudan and even Zimbabwe; those are valid points, but to me any initiative that will douse the tension and discourage the ‘do or die’ politics we currently practise in Nigeria should be discouraged totally.

And then some of us will begin to ask: how do we deepen the Peace Pact process that was signed by contesting parties so that it will be absorbed deep into the mind of electorates and supporters of these politicians? It is our singular duty as Nigerians to make sure that this election,Our election remains free and fair, devoid of violence.

I honestly feel that if we cannot guarantee peace in our cities for the sake of elections then there may aswell not be peace in the villages and hometowns, so where do some of us run to? So instead of staying away for a “February Christmas” why don’t we all put hands, eyes, ears and legs on deck in ensuring peace through out the process, why don’t we as citizens partner with security agencies effectively in making sure all goes well, why don’t we begin to enlighten ourselves properly against election violence, why don’t we begin to disagree with those wicked politicians who wants to pitch us against each other?

In quoting President Goodluck Jonathan (2014) “my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian”.

And also in the words of Gen Muhammadu Buhari (1983) “Nigeria is our own,we will all remain here and salvage it together”

Let’s grow wiser.

 

Noel Onoja writes from Abuja