Political Thugs And Elections

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Mar 13th, 2014
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Published on March 13, 2014 by   ·   No Comments

By Ignatius Adegoke

The great body of critical discourse on the politics of the era seems to have little good to say about those in government, the politicians and their parties. Thus, when years ago a military ruler sought to change the face of the country’s transition chain by decreeing a five-party structure into existence, the arrangement was rubbished by a wit who called it “the five fingers of a leprous hand”.

Who would want to be part of a terminally diseased system? So, it didn’t last. Earlier another military creation – a two-party affair that held much promise at the beginning – collapsed because of the chicanery of the evil genius behind it. Successor governments – military and civilian – have borne the scars of the woeful failures of those which came before them.

The reason they posted lack-lustre performance wasn’t difficult to locate: they did not have lofty ideas, revolutionary concepts of governance that marked them out as serious custodians of the mandate to rule. It is claimed that ideas rule the world. But they did not seem to believe this axiom and so they stormed the scene largely without a plan. In a word, they were unprepared for the high office they occupied.

He who fails to plan, plans to fail! And how abysmally our politicians might be on the way to flopping again as governorship polls hold in two South-west states in a few months while general elections come up nation wide in 2015, if they refuse to learn from the past, if they refuse to bring up new ideas.

Because apart from the preparations being put in place by ballot umpire INEC, where else needs a tender attention, whose neglect could make nonsense of INEC’s ”fool-proof” strategies and spell doom for the poll and the soul of the nation?

So, how are we planning in order not to fail? As I said we must not restrict ourselves to what INEC or its state counterparts say they have worked out to ensure a good outing at the poll. We must put on our thinking cap to identify what can upturn the umpire’s “perfect” plans.

A governor in one of the South-west states, Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo, has done just that coming up with the position that in the past, political thuggery involving the unholy alliance between governors and warring road transport union workers, was responsible for the violence that gave elections and campaign rallies a bad name.

His claim is that, armed with an understanding of this ruinous enterprise his predecessors engaged in to unleash sorrow on the people of Oyo State, he told all the warring road transport union workers that his “government was not interested in making use of them for election as was done in the past…”

He should know! He is governing the cradle of political thuggery, where one of his predecessors jettisoned the official security outfit and opted for a faction of the transport workers’ unions for protection. Members of this unofficial police killed and maimed during campaign rallies and elections as they “escorted” the governor across the state.

It was the height of impunity. These hooligans engaged open and perceived political opponents of the sitting governor. Since the governor procured the weapons and cash for them, they could not be accountable to the law. They operated above the law and trashed any outcome of the ballot. They could raid homes and offices of those not on the side of government in power. They instilled fear in the society and therefore to fear them was the beginning of wisdom.

Almost every week in the period of that preceded Ajimobi’s advent, you had deadly clashes between the union on the side of the government and those on the opposite side. They were fatal encounters that led to casualties not only on the part of the thugs but alas! also on the part of innocent passers-by and motorists!

Such heavy toll on the society all because of one man’s inordinate ambition to stay put in power which he was not even wielding appropriately in the interest of those he claimed put him there! Ajimobi’s prompt and decisive rejection of these hirelings is what is responsible for the sanity and peace in Oyo in the past three years of his rule. Ibadan motor parks, which used to be the hub of crime, violence and training ground of the ex-governor’s dogs of war, have been tamed.

There is no governor to recruit and shield them. There is no governor to pump tax payers’ money into their bottomless war chest. There is no governor to fund their insatiable taste for extravagance and lust for drugs. What you do not feed starves and dies. The present governor has refused to feed political thuggery and so the union workers who were suborned for the devil’s work have been starved to death. They have been shoved off the scene to make way for tranquility not only during the poll in 2015 but also for all times.

If other key political players nation wide follow in the footsteps of Governor Ajimobi on this score, it is certain that we shall by the grace of God enjoy a violence-free ballot in the country in the years ahead. Then the conversation will change, with critical observers reviewing their stand that there is nothing good to say about our politicians.

–Adegoke is a political scientist in Lagos.

—First published in TheNEWS magazine

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