The 2015 general election scheduled to hold on Valentine’s Day and the aftermath of the election has become the dominant subject of discourse among Nigerians. The general apprehension lies in the belief that be it GEJ or GMB, there would be post-election violence which could engulf the country.
The mawkishness and schmaltz of the GEJ crowd was captured by Lagos State governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Jimi Agbaje when he said last week that the South-South could cripple the economy, by shutting down the oil sector if his principal fails to return as President.
Agabje’s argument: "I was active in the politics of the South-West in 1999. The Afenifere of which I was a very active member, did not support Olusegun Obasanjo as President but in 2003, it was difficult for the Afenifere as an organisation to go out and tell people that they should not vote a Yoruba man into office and so what did they do? They said they would not present a candidate because they had their own son (Obasanjo) who was running for office. That is the politics of that country.
"Now, in 2015, we are saying that the South-South has presented a candidate and we are talking about equity and some are saying that he should not be given a second term. This is a very difficult thing.
"In argument, some have said ‘what will happen?’ Well, people will be upset and they have shown that they have the power to shut down the system. I am not saying it is justified but the reality is there. If the system is shut down, where are we as a country?”
I daresay I find Agbaje’s argument rather pedestrian. A man who aspires to govern a cosmopolitan state like Lagos must grow above such level of thinking.
Those ruled by the fear of a GMB loss do so on the premise that terrorism in the North Eastern part of the country could escalate if power does not return to the north.
This is the Nigerian way. The leaders threaten thecitizens into subservience. They induce fear in their own people. It happens in every sphere includingchurches where pastorsand other clergymen threaten the congregation with diverse manners of retribution and repercussion.
The fear of a post-election violence is so real that Nigerians who can have relocated their families abroad. Many have also procured visas to bolt at the slightest sign of trouble.
I also heard that expatriates and multinationals especially in the oil and gas industry are turning their backs on long term commitments due to this fear of the unknown.
Businesses naturally abhor uncertainty. The political tension in the country has induced nervousness among foreign investors and created a ‘sell pressure’. The result is that Nigeria recorded net foreign portfolio investment deficit of N101 billion between January and October last year as foreign investors sold off Nigerian stocks worth $583.6 million.
The fears are very strong but I am an incurable optimist. I do not foresee catastrophic backlash for Nigeria after the February elections. There may be some protests here and there but they won’t go out of hand.
Elections naturally have been a source of violent political, ethnic, religious and communal conflicts in Nigeria since the late 1940s when limited elections were introduced. This problem deteriorated in the elections conducted immediately after independence in the 1960s.
In the Western Region, violent political conflicts, popularly referred to as “operation wet e“were recorded from 1964 to 1965 following both federal and regional elections as well as rift between Awolowo and Akintola. There were also violent conflicts in parts of Northern Region, especially between supporters of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) and supporters of other parties, mainly the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and Action Group.
The national election conducted in 1983 also witnessed massive post-election violence following the declared landslide victory of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Oyo and Ondo states considered to be stronghold of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Some persons lost their lives and large-scale destruction of property was recorded.
There is substantial similarity between the post-election violence recorded in 1983 and the post-election violence recorded after the presidential election on April 16, 2011 in which scores were reported killed and property worth billions of naira destroyed or looted. The main difference between the 1983 and 2011 election violence was the ethnic and religious dimensions that were introduced at the latter stages of the 2011 post-presidential election riots.
Based on the foregoing historical antecedents, there may be some pockets of post-election violence here and there, possibly but there won’t be a break down of law and order. There will not be war or collapse of the Nigerian state as has been feared and predicted by prophets of doom. Tops by mid-March, Nigerians will return to their routines. And life goes on again.
Abi who wan die?