With the very elaborate electioneering timetable that he published, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, may have (literally) thrown caution away to embark on a nationwide campaign, even to states, including Borno, in the insurgency-infested North-East corridor of Nigeria.
Other presidential candidates, including Peter Obi of the Labour Party, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party, who have also commenced nationwide campaigns, share in the optimism.
Though Kola Abiola of the People’s Redemption Party, Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress, Dumebi Kachikwu of the African Democratic Congress and others may not have been too visible on the campaign trail (maybe because of limited funds).
This reminds you of 2015 when the government of President Goodluck Jonathan pushed forward the general elections by about one month because of the intense military campaign against Boko Haram insurgents terrorising the Nigerian state.
The abduction of the Chibok Girls, a fallout of the Boko Haram menace, put so much doubt in the minds of Nigerian citizens that they probably thought neither the campaigns nor the elections would hold.
But surprisingly, after the shifting of the elections, (first hinted) by the then National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki, elections were held throughout the federation, including the so-called theatres of war.
Observers now draw parallels between what appears to be playing out these days and what happened before and during the campaigns, voting and swearing-in of those who emerged victorious after the 2015 general elections.
Right now, it looks as if the politicians (desperately seeking political offices), Independent National Electoral Commission, (the umpire of federal and state level elections), and the Federal Government (with the ultimate responsibility to hold the elections), all seem rearing to go, despite the security threats.
So far, the various political rallies have been held without much breaches, save for skirmishes of party stalwarts, but Nigerians are still apprehensive, wondering if it will be safe to hold the 2023 general elections without exposing the citizens to danger.
Videos showing ‘unknown enforcers’ pulling down canopies, breaching the security of INEC facilities, beating people up and killing others, to discourage Nigerians from registering with INEC or political parties, are almost a regular staple on social media.
Unknown gunmen recently attacked Isuofia, the hometown of Anambra State Governor Charles Soludo, killing two soldiers at a checkpoint even though the soldiers gave chase and killed four of the hoodlums in the ensuing exchange of gunfire.
Doubts about the ability of the security agencies to maintain peace are coming on the heels of the increase in violent attacks and abduction of people in the South-West region which was previously regarded as a safe haven while attacks seem to have plateaued in the North-East and North-West regions.
The South-West started witnessing the spread of violence from the abductions and killings in the Shaki axis of Oyo State; the kidnapping of Olu of Ilu Abo, Akure, Chief Olu Falae; killing of an Oba; and the Sunday morning bombing of a Catholic Church in Owo.
Oyo South, Ogun and Lagos states are looking like the next theatre of the assault on the Nigerian state. After the serial kidnappings on the Ibadan-Ijebu Ode Highway, the violence is now spilling into the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
A friend and public affairs analyst, Oladeinde Ariyo, who aptly conveyed a sense of fear and hopelessness about the security situation, confessed he had to counsel himself to give up his travel plans on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to avoid danger to himself.
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He put it in the following way in an essay he titled ‘Ibadan…bye bye for now’: “In my own interest, I have decided to stay alive and the trip to Ìbàdàn is canceled forthwith. I am back in the Lisabi Forest, a few kilometres from the ancient city of Abeòkúta, the capital of Ògún State, until further notice.”
He asked, “And in the midst of these unwholesome circumstances, elections have been scheduled to take place?” He must be in shock and belief that politicians, INEC and the government continue as if all is well.
Another Nigerian, posting an elaborate travel advisory online, cautioned, “If you are travelling from Lagos to any (other Nigerian) state by road, please abort the trip for now. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway is very, very dangerous now!
“The bandits have attacked motorists/travellers for (two) days now continuously. Today’s own was at Oni Garri (close to Ibadan). They were shooting sporadically. Please don’t go anywhere for now. This country is getting scary by the day. Please, if you can’t afford flight fare, stay back for now.”
Recently, a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academics) of the University of Ibadan, Prof Adigun Agbahe, who was shot in the head, and Olayemi Adejare and Oluwatobi Orekoya of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, were abducted, but later released after paying (presumably) ransom.
Unfortunately, some victims and two police officers died in a police gun duel with the kidnappers. Prof Agbaje was quoted to have wondered what would be the fate of some five abductees he left in the den of the kidnappers because they couldn’t raise the ransom demanded by the kidnappers.
Even though the commissioners of police in Ogun State (with the longest stretch of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway) and Oyo State, converged at the point where people were shot at and abducted, and made the right statements, Nigerians are still skeptical.
The embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany and Ireland raised hysteria when they issued travel alerts to their citizens about the increasing insecurity in the Federal Capital Territory where the Presidential Guards Brigade and Kuje Custodial Centre were assaulted.
Before now, there was a large population of aliens, most of whom fit the profile of bandits and terrorists, riding ‘okada’ motorbikes in Lagos, physically attacking Lagosians, almost on a daily basis.
When he had had enough of their intransigence, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu banished the yahoos away from the ritzy greater Lagos to the backstreets of rural Lagos. And the violence seemed to have diminished significantly.
This is the proactive stance that the South-West governors should take, now that the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari(retd.) is not interested in keeping with its promise to provide security for Nigerians, as required by Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution.
Also, the former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), has publicly declared that he doesn’t think the current security agencies want to protect the citizens from marauding alien bandits and terrorists.
So, if the South-West Governors want the 2023 general elections to hold in their region without untoward incidents, they should take a cue from their colleague, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who has motivated and equipped his state’s Amotekun Security Corps for swift action.
They should disregard the noncommittal response of the Inspector General of Police who coyly refused to give approval for the Amotekun Corps to carry arms other than the antiquated ‘shakabula’ dane guns that they are compelled to bear, whereas rumours have been flying that the Civilian Joint Task Force in Northern Nigeria openly bear arms.
This must be done so that the seeming choice of elections over security does not expose Nigerians to needless danger. All the tiers of government must cooperate to provide adequate security for all regions of the country. ,
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