by Sadiq Abdullahi
The campaigns for the February 14, 2015 Presidential Election have reached their apex and tensions are rising as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), candidate President Goodluck Jonathan and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate General Muhammadu Buhari are cautiously trading words not to incite violence during and after the election.
Both are determined to appeal to the swing voters, those who may change their minds last minutes. Winning the hearts and minds of voters remains the focus of the last few days of campaigning. Both candidates have shown the determination needed to win a Grand Slam tournament, slugging it out and winding down the opponent stamina and tactics in a marathon match that is getting closer to the finish line.
But there are speculations of violence if things don’t go as expected as both candidates want to win at all costs. History reminds us that partisan politics, ethnic and religious sentimentality are the causes of political violence in Nigeria. Internationally, this is not a new phenomenon but as the people and democracy mature, violence diminished. Take the case of Jamaica in the 1970s: It was the late Bob Marley’s efforts and concerts that turned the tide towards peace. Today Jamaica and some Latin American countries have learned the bitter lesson of election violence and are campaigning seriously to avert it.
It appears as if both candidates have shifted to issues- and problems-based campaigns. This is a good thing. By doing so, the voters are focusing on the issues not the rhetoric. It is also nice to read that Jonathan in one of his campaigns charged his party and followers to a civilized campaign. He is quoted as saying that “The world is asking, will Nigeria get it right…our commitment to free, fair, credible and violence-free election remains unshaken.” General Buhari too has been drumming and asking for a free, fair, credible and violence-free election.
Political violence in Nigeria has a long history dating back to the 1950s. We have not put in place the machinery and mechanism to check election violence because of several factors. INEC has promised to conduct a free and fair election come February 14, although National Security Adviser and others have been calling for a postponement. Whatever that means.
Some of the volatile areas likely for violence include Port-Harcourt, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi, Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, and Gombe. I am living temporarily in Kashere, Gombe State as a visiting lecturer. I can attest to the political charged words from former Governor Danjuma Goje, (APC) who appears to be very popular and likeable and incumbent Governor Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (PDP) who is equally liked and admired by supporters. The history in Gombe state is obvious. From 2003 to 2011, the state has witnessed activities of the so called Yan-Kalare. Although, it is on record that Dankwambo made honest efforts to squash this group, there is now fresh evidence that new violence may emerge. What happened in Kashere town after Dankwambo visited the Federal University at the request of the Vice-Chancellor for the first time in three years is a prelude to violence.
There is an urgent need for political parties and their presidential hopefuls to call their die-hard foot soldiers to order. Fancy proclamations, declarations and summations will not be sufficient. INEC and law enforcement agencies must be vigilant and ready to stem violence as they emerge.
As the wind of change blows in every direction in Nigeria, we should all imagine a new country without violence; imagine an election that was indeed free, fair, and violence-free. This is will be a triumph for Nigeria, triumph for Africa, triumph for democracy. True, the world is watching! Go Nigeria!