By Carl Umegboro
THE treasure base of the nation, Rivers will on December 10 host the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in respect of rerun elections into the State and National Assemblies which were earlier quashed by the court. Major contenders are the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). As the election day approaches, tension, threats of brimstone; of bury alive, of slay and dry, of cultists’ annihilations and others have continued to gather momentum.
Luckily, Ondo State governorship election held on Saturday, November 26 has set a positive precedent that elections can actually be conducted in a civilized manner instead of opting up for the bizarre. The electorate, candidates and the electoral officials proved to the world that Nigeria is no longer a nascent democracy. The upcoming election in Rivers must not witness further bloodshed or grotesquely odd remarks. Violence, forcefulness or belligerence is never a characteristic of democracy as peddled by some folks in some quarters. Succinctly, it is intellectual pursuit of power, and definably, the act of selecting the representatives of the people in a free and fair manner purposely for good governance.
Today, the two arrowheads: Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi and the State Governor, Nyesom Wike are believably akin to then Iraq and Iran, and the grassroots parochially fight for them crossing boundaries and cutting down barriers, but unknown to them, by the indisputable feature of our politics, may be disappointed to witness the two leaders of their respective political parties eventually in one party dining together in the nearest future. All it may take is just a closed-door meeting in a five star hotel in the United Kingdom or United States of America with a few other bigwigs. At that point, those that grossly bullied opponents, beheaded fellow indigenes, killed political opponents, kidnapped or committed other atrocities of intimidation will be left alone. The deeds by then had been done and cannot be reversed. Or, do you assume Amaechi and Wike will remain in opposing political parties for life? Absolutely not. Rivers people should emulate the people of Ondo State and maintain amity and decorum. Whoever wins is a victory for democracy and for the state. Enough of political extremism, mediocrity, terrorization, hedonism and debauchery!
At the moment, the state is administratively under Gov. Wike’s control, and therefore, should as the political leader proactively douse all the political tensions in the state. Politics is not a do-or-die affair and political statements must reflect maturity, decency and administrative know-hows. What is vital is to conduct a free and fair election. No political party ever emerged both a winner and loser at the same time and any democracy must be characterized by victory and defeat.
The finest priority any selfless leader could set in motion is to ensure that the will of the people takes superiority in sync with Section 14 (2) (b) of the 1999 Nigeria’s Constitution which provides that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Hence, any government that creates unwarranted scenes that are inconsistent is anti-people, anti-democracy and an agent of destruction.
At this juncture, violence-free election mantra should be amplified by the leaders from both sides rather than incitingly making the people misappropriate values on anyhow victories just for peanuts. Any adventures that recklessly waste human lives are calamitous. Democracy itself is strictly centered on people’s wellbeing, improvement and empowerment, and never programmed for obliteration. Rivers residents must shun all aberrations knowing that all political parties in the country are identical, including their manifestoes. Hence, politicking must be conducted within the ambits of civility and the laws.
Regrettably, the same politicians that make things happen today in a particular party may defect and assume leadership positions in another without consultation or even intimating the grassroots aficionadas. If violence-free election could be witnessed in Ondo, it can be done in Rivers too. All the public funds earmarked to service and make thugs combatant-ready from both sides should be converted for their empowerment, particularly as recession has dealt a big blow to low income earners.
Above all, it is imperative to note that lethal weapons provided to thugs, mercenaries and assassins during elections are rarely withdrawn same way ‘giving a cup of water to a monkey is no big deal but to retrieve it’. Without a doubt, political leaders could maximally protect themselves with security aides, drive in bullet-proofs, and sleep in-between combatant soldiers with latest sophisticated security gadgets. However, their helpless relatives, friends and colleagues might be the victims of attacks with these weapons after the election. Let all stakeholders keep to the rules of the game. A fascinating attribute of democracy is time limit; whoever wins has a specified period in office, thus, needless of the do-or-die politics.
Umegboro writes from Lagos