TheNigeriaLawyer Editorial

By the intendment of our laws, elections are meant to be peaceful, fair and credible in other to afford the people (voting population) the freedom to make the choices devoid of intimidation, suppression or coercion according to age-old democratic principles.

However, in Nigeria, the case has been the opposite. Every election cycle, there are a litany of reported cases of politically motivated violence triggered by desperate political leaders and executed by their overzealous followers.

Despite the introduction of commendable innovations to the Electoral process by the 2022 Electoral Act, the Presidential and National Assembly elections was not substantially different from previous outings as it was marred with violence and intimidation in several states.

Lagos state, the commercial capital of the country, a cosmopolitan city which serves as a melting point for different ethnicities and tribes, was one of the states with several recorded and reported cases of violence.

After the declaration of the Presidential election result showed that the Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi won the state ahead of the State’s former Governor and now President-Elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the embers of ethnic strife particularly targeted at Igbos in the state was stirred.

Since then, there has been the repeat of violent tribal rhetoric and threats to Igbos in the State ahead of Saturday’s Governorship election where Labour Party’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is seen as a strong contender to the incumbent Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress.

Most recently, the Chairman of Motor Parks and Garages in the State, Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo openly threatened Igbos against voting against the APC on Saturday.

Addressing supporters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) at a meeting, MC Oluomo threatened Igbos who will not vote for the party to stay at home.

“We have begged them. If they don’t want to vote for us, it is not a fight. Tell them, Mama Chukwudi, if you don’t want to vote for us, sit down at home. Sit down at home,” he said.

While the threat by MC Oluomo is undemocratic, barbaric and condemnable, what is found more baffling, is the silence of all institutions of the state constitutionally empowered to check the rampage of anti-democratic elements like MC Oluomo.

Section 128 of the Electoral Act, 2022, criminalises the use of threat in elections and prescribes appropriate sanctions.

The section reads,

“128. A person who—

(a) directly or indirectly, by his or herself or by another person on his or her behalf, makes use of or threatens to make use of any force, violence or restrain ;

(b) inflicts or threatens to inflict by his or herself or by any other person, any minor or serious injury, damage, harm or loss on or against a person in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting, or on account of such person having voted or refrained from voting ;

(c) by abduction, duress, or a fraudulent device or contrivance, impedes or prevents the free use of the vote by a voter or thereby compels, induces, or prevails on a voter to give or refrain from giving his vote ; or

(d) prevents any political aspirant from free use of the media, designated vehicles, mobilisation of political support and campaign at an election, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of N1,000,000 or imprisonment for a term of three years.”

The silence of INEC and all security agencies in the face of this blatant violation of our electoral law and daylight assault on our democracy has given rise to questions about the independence of our institutions and the application of rule of law.

It worrisome that MC Oluomo has given clear orders to his foot soldiers to haunt and hurt persons from a particular tribe, and those who should counter and checkmate such are watching by the sidelines.

One also has to wonder the role of NBA branches in Lagos state in this whole brouhaha. The NBA has as one of its core objectives to protect and defend rule of law in times of clear threat to the rule of law like this, the Association should not be found absent. The NBA has a solemn duty to call-out every threat to the constitutional right of people to vote.

Is MC Oluomo, a Parks Management Chairman, a sacred cow that can do and undo without any form of repercussion? Is he treated preferentially because his long-time Boss, Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been declared President-Elect?

Those who have ignored this open call to violence on Saturday by a member of the ruling APC must understand that no individual or group has monopoly of violence, and when non-state actors like Oluomo are allowed to attack people, the people would be force to act in self-defence and reprisals which will lead to anarchy and total breakdown of law and order in the state.

A stitch in time saves nine, all conflicts are cooked on the pot of provocative utterances. The authorities should immediately arrest MC Oluomo in order to forsetall are violent breakdown of law and order in Lagos.

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