Politics of Intolerance, Violence and 2023 General Elections

Politics of Intolerance, Violence and 2023 General Elections

There’s an emerging development of intolerance of opposing views of magnitude hitherto unknown in Nigerian polity. This spirit of intolerance has given birth to violence that now pervades the political landscape and are now a daily occurrence across the land. It is a worrisome trend whose ascension should be checked before we get into the

There’s an emerging development of intolerance of opposing views of magnitude hitherto unknown in Nigerian polity. This spirit of intolerance has given birth to violence that now pervades the political landscape and are now a daily occurrence across the land. It is a worrisome trend whose ascension should be checked before we get into the nitty-gritty of the 2023 general elections, for it portends danger.

Damaged vehicle at a political rally

Compared to our previous experience as a nation, politicians of the first and second republics would easily be adjudged more tolerant and civil in their approach to politics. Ideas ruled their world. Not that there weren’t incidents or disturbances at campaign rallies; they never attained the current pedestal. The political class of the first eight years from 1999 to 2007 was quite more tolerant and excellent in conduct than what we are beginning to witness with the present class of politicians.

Political tolerance is the “willingness to extend basic rights and civil liberties to persons and groups whose viewpoints differ from one’s own”. Intolerance on the other hand is a lack of respect for practices or beliefs other than one’s own. In political parlance an intolerant person could be likened to a dictator. In the social or religious realms, he would be regarded a bigot.

Let truth be told, some of the current political actors behave like dictators who are intolerant and would not yield any space to opposition. It is this kind of intolerance that leads to infighting, violence and instability as the different groups may like to resort to force and aggression against their oppressor. Across Nigeria, difficult rules and regulations aimed at stifling opposition are being made through the instrumentality of Executive Orders just to shrink the space and make life difficult for the opposition parties. The timing and wordings of the orders are suspect.

There are several instances of acts of intolerance across the states from incumbent parties in power. In this latest dispensation, it started with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential campaign flag off in Kaduna, Kaduna state. The Party was denied the use of the Ahmadu Bello stadium in Kaduna by the Federal government for its mega rally citing renovation work on the facility. The rally which took place October 17, at the Ranchers Bees stadium was eventually disrupted by thugs and both the attackers and the attacked started trading words.

When the obedient movement staged their marches in Lagos, it took the intervention of some soldiers to save the life of one of the supporters of the Labour Party who took part in the march. But, when the women and youths staged their marches in support of the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, incidents were not reported.

On Wednesday, the convoy of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was attacked in Maiduguri, Borno State was attacked by thugs on their way to the Ramat Square where their rally took place. Though, police said there were no attacks on the convoy, the PDP said 74 persons were attacked. There were allegations of gunshots but there was no fatality. But video seen on social media, shows that a group of people were seen running in different directions and vehicles vandalised.

Recently too, it was reported that thugs suspected to be from a camp of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Rivers State, attacked some supporters of the same party, but who are loyal to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the party’s presidential candidate. Information was that the coordinator of the PDP’s Presidential Campaign Council in Omuma LGA, Nnamdi Nwogu, was among the persons attacked and that the victims were inflicted with machete cuts and gunshot wounds.

The intolerance goes beyond violence and physical attacks. The Rivers State government
recently revoked the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of a land belonging to Senator Lee Maeba, the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council in the State and close ally of the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Alabo-elect Chris Finebone, said the government will continue to uncover and destroy all evil plots against it by those opposed to it.

“It is important to state when a friend decides to turn to an enemy, he or she has voluntarily relinquished what relative friendship brings. You cannot call off a friendship and still expects the largesse that accrues from the friendship to be available to you. Who does that?”

Acts of intolerance will breed resistance and instability. For instance, the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara State, Dr. Dauda Lawal Dare, recently boasted that nobody or any political party in the state can intimidate him. As law abiding persons, we duly informed all necessary relevant security agencies about our political programmes, but to my greatest surprise a day before, we received circular from the commissioner of information, saying that the state government has banned all political activities citing security problem as the reason.

“I personally feel it was not right because we abide by the stipulated rules and regulations as law-abiding citizens prior to the commencement of the banning circular. Dr. Dare noted that he was not going to engage in politics of bitterness, stressing that he would not give up due to intimidation. He advised his supporters to remain law-abiding, saying that the ruling APC in the state does not want any political challenge.

He called on the security agencies to do their constitutional responsibility without fear or favour, stressing that all the political parties in the state have the right to play politics according to the rule.

In the southeast, the Abia State government suddenly banned the use of public-school facilities, stadia and other public places in the state without the consent of the state governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu. The directive came two days to the kick off of the Labour Party’s campaign in Aba scheduled for Thursday November 10, 2023, according to the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Alexander Chioma Otti.

The Abia state government statement reads: “It has been brought to the notice of Government that some misguided Political Parties are now embarking on the wilful invasion of School Facilities, Stadiums and Valuable Public Premises across the state all in the name of holding rallies and political campaigns.

“Whereas, the Abia State Government, as a staunch promoter of participatory democracy and democratic freedoms will continue to give necessary support to all citizens to exercise their rights, it must be pointed out that the enjoyment of such Constitutional rights must be conducted within the ambits of the law.Public Utilities, School Facilities, Stadiums and Valuable Public Premises are properties of the people of Abia State entrusted into the care of Government.

“Therefore, no responsible Government will stand by and watch such Facilities as they are willfully vandalised and degraded by sadistic elements with malicious interests disguising as politicians. In view of the foregoing, henceforth, in addition to notifying the Security Agencies, the written consent of the Education Secretary of a Local Government and the Executive Chairman of that local Government must be duly sought and obtained before the use of any Primary School Premises.

“Groups and individuals seeking to use any Secondary School should direct their applications and obtain their permit via the Secondary Education Management Board and the relevant Local Government Chairman.

Senator Shehu Sani has advised that violence or threat of violence by individuals or groups should not deter candidates or Nigerians from exercising their democratic rights. He wrote on his Twitter page “violence or threats of violence by individuals or groups should not deter candidates or Nigerians from exercising their democratic rights. Atiku defied violence in Kaduna. Jagaban (Asiwaju Tinubu) should go ahead with the Southeast rally. Obi and others should move in defiance”

A lot of Nigerians have called on the National Peace Committee to reconvene a meeting of all the political parties to appeal to them to maintain peace so that we can have a good election. The spate of violence must be addressed. Law enforcement agencies have to be proactive and should remained non-aligned to any of the political parties and dispense their duties without fear or favour. All Nigerians are looking forward to a peaceful and successful election in 2023.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun
ADMINISTRATOR
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