Politics is the struggle for power. But the sweetness of power can sometimes be a curse. It is evident in in the needless loss of lives and ruptured peace occasioned by the do or die philosophy of a great number of players of the game of politics during electioneering.
Of course it is understandable, especially when winning a governorship or presidential election, for example, is synonymous with grabbing the ticket to be immersed in an ocean of stupendous wealth and almost limitless powers. Let pauperised Nigerians sing songs of lamentation till thy kingdom come; you are pampered in and out of office because our laws have engineered it to be so. It somewhat explains why decency often takes flight when those deemed as the quintessence of honesty and godliness capture power. At least, the pursuit and acquisition of power have over the years revealed the true colours of some Nigeria’s political gods.
Right was Abraham Lincoln when he quipped, “Nearly all men can stand adversity but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” But, away from power and the crooked ways of the men that wield it, the struggle for power is hardly devoid of heart rending violence in this part of the world.
From the First Republic to the Fourth Republic, especially the latest addition to the gory tales of electoral violence in Nigeria- the Kogi/Bayelsa election- nothing appears to have changed. Even before the aforementioned election, ominous signs pointing to the possibility of violence were writ large. The burnt Social Democratic Party’s secretariat in Kogi and the murder of Simon Onu, a van driver with Radio Bayelsa, among other pestilential stories, proved a dress rehearsal of what to expect at the polls.
Palpable fear became an unwanted companion of not just the electorate but Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and civil society groups as they trumpeted their concerns about the impending war. Yes, war! Or, how else does one describe what was supposed to be a simple process of selecting leaders that turned children orphaned, husband and wives widowed?
With the rain of bullets in all directions, wanton destruction of lives and property, it would not be out of place to state that we asked for an election but got war instead. Ordinarily, with the deployment of 66,241 personnel in Kogi and Bayelsa alone to cover every terrain as claimed by the police, it should be expected that merchants of evil were in for a tough time for they would have no breathing space. But no, the police would later give excuses why miscreants and fake police had a field day.
Sadly, what can best be described as the height of man’s inhumanity to man played out in Kogi when thugs suspected to be loyal to a political party burnt a PDP women leader, Mrs Salome Abuh, alive in her home, leaving only ashes and skull for her family to recover.
It is apposite to state that Madam Salome was someone’s mother, wife and relative before the ones who sold their conscience to the devil struck. Her loved ones will now live with the psychological trauma accompanying her death knowing that the one that once symbolised joy, light and hope was reduced to mere ashes and a burnt skull!
Why must elections almost always yield death certificates? Why must elections precipitate a harvest of tears, sorrow and blood? Without any particle of doubt, if there is one thing the murder of Madam Salome has once again established, it is the hypocrisy in high places and the scant regard for human life in this part of the world.
Despite the irregularities, bloodletting, violence that characterised the Kogi and Bayelsa elections, President Buhari had congratulated the APC winners and told the losers to go to court, informing everyone that cared to listen that the elections were well run .Really? And, in what appears to be an afterthought, Buhari only found his voice to condemn the gruesome murder of Salome almost a week after the PDP politician was killed with an order to the police to fish out her killers. Miraculously, the police swung into action, and in less than 48 hours, six suspects were arrested.
Was someone actually waiting for a presidential order to perform their statutory duty?
While the beads of tears for Citizen Salome still flow, we must expedite the process of amending the Electoral Act to check the spate of electoral malfeasance and violence during elections, which, sadly, have become a recurring decimal. Election should be what it is – election. Not war.
– Ladesope Ladelokun