- BY ALIYKHAL LANRE•
Since democracy returns to Nigeria in 1999, the country has witnessed a few unresolved political assassinations. Consequently, several parts of the country today are convulsed in political intolerance leading to loss of lives as well as the destruction of private and public properties. The gun is beginning to rule and ruin our country. While some of the killings were discountenanced as ordinary murders, the timing of killings leaves no doubt that they were politically motivated. Actions by the government and law enforcement agencies to stem the ugly tide and find the killers of innocent souls were insufficient and ineffective. Alas, ever before 2019 general elections in Nigeria, there was a growing trend that reduces everything to politics in the country, this tendency became so common than that relationship at nearly every level calls for caution. Though, politics all over the world is about the canvassing of ideas that would make the electorates choose their leaders by ballot. But recent developments tend only to promote hate, violence, killing, maiming, and fear. Not only have politicians of opposing parties intolerant of each other, but they also endanger public safety as well, all at winning an election at all cost.
Being intolerant of the political views of others is as bad as rotten eggs, but to give an erroneous impression that other subsequent elections are war instead of elections, is also very bad and condemnable. To the extent that a father would be accused of shooting his own son over political differences and affiliations, can no longer be accepted as politics. Sadly enough, political leaders who should provide the needed political education to their followers are not able to moderate their utterances. They are doing nothing to discourage the youths from reducing political activities to gun-fights. It is a shame that politicians are now associated with plans to edge out opponents by all means possible. They are also careless about the peace and safety of the citizens they pretend to love. These political jobbers forget that politics is supposed to be robbery neither do nor die affairs.
There is no need to remind those in politics that they are first and foremost members of the same community, sometimes even linked by blood, this is not what politics can wash away. In fact, politics is supposed to be for the good of the people and not otherwise. The tide is saddened by the fact that some people have actually killed themselves, while the politicians’ families are living fine at the detriment of the masses. It has tended to emboldened politicians to engage jobless youths to inflict violence against opposing parties. It is worrisome that youths who should bring positive change to the practice of politics have allowed themselves to be used as tools and instruments to further endanger electioneering in Nigeria. Even when some have lost their lives in the process, many still present themselves as sacrificial lambs. In every game, there are rules, in politics too, but the apparent abuses that the authorities have decided to give blind eyes to, are now beginning to give politics, even democracy a bad name in Nigeria.
It was in searching for political limelight that they killed our beloved one’s leaders of democracy; it was on December 23, 2001, that former Justice Minister and Attorney-General of the federation, Chief Bola Ige was shot dead in his home in Ibadan, in the Southwestern state of Oyo, it became the highest-level politician to have been killed in Nigeria while in office. Marshall Harry was also killed on March 5, 2003, he was then the National Vice Chairman for South-South Zone of the now-defunct All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP), Ogbonnaya Uche, an ANPP Senatorial candidate too in the Southeastern state of Imo was also shot in his home in Owerri on February 8, 2003, and died two days later.
In 2002, Barnabas Igwe, the Anambra State Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association and his wife, Amaka Blessing were gruesomely murdered. Barnabas was at the forefront of the campaign for good governance then in Anambra state. Armed men waiting at the junction cornered Barnabas and Amaka Blessing Igwe, pulled them out of their Mercedes-Benz and cut off Amaka’s leg before they pumped bullets into Barnabas body. A few weeks ago, another young lawyer, Mr. Erukilede Oluwarotimi was reported to have escaped a brutal assassination attempt along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway due to his political opinion. Unknown assailants trailed him from Lagos and ambushed the vehicle he was travelling in at Mowe along the Lagos/Ibadan expressway. Unlike the Barnabas, he was lucky to have escaped death. As the gunmen fired into the air to frighten away passers-by, some community vigilantes ran towards them and rescued the victims before further harm could be done. Unfortunately, some other occupant in the vehicle was not lucky enough as they were surrendered to the cold hands of death thereafter. Why killing innocent souls in the name of politics, no politician or political party worth dying or killing for.
Ayo Daramola, a PDP governorship aspirant in the Southwest state of Ekiti was killed on August 14, 2006, in what the police said could be a political assassination, and also Engr. Funsho Williams, a leading governorship aspirant in Lagos State then under the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was strangled to death in his home, a few hours after he returned from a political meeting. The astonishing aspect of the scenarios is that to date, those who killed these innocent souls were moving freely in our country and funny enough the government of the day could not ascertain the killer of those fellow Nigerians, what sort of country are we living in? No security, no job, no vision for the inhabitants of this country. Why the Fulani’s valued their cows than human life? Why could the government helpless in tacking the security of this country, indeed, no one is safe in this country anymore.
For a while now, Nigeria has been in a difficult situation because of the activities of killer herdsmen. Mind you, these herdsmen have been labelled as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world by the Global Terrorism Index. They have carried out massacres in rural and agrarian communities, and have been emboldened enough by the slackness of state security forces to move into urban settings. Many farmers have lost their lives and entire investments in farming to the herdsmen menace. Even, those that have survived deadly encounters live in fear of the herdsmen.
The fact that death is cheap in Nigeria does not mean we should refuse to label an issue for what it is. The killing of Baba Reuben Fasoranti’s daughter, Mrs. Funke Olakunrin by Fulani herdsmen was traumatic and shock to the entire Yoruba region, which calls for more security attention in the country. However manner Olakunrin might have died, the fact still remains that she was killed and allegedly by herdsmen. To even overlook the circumstances of her death, sidestep the tense reactions by the exasperated populace, and begin to meander logic through bush paths is moral cowardice.
Political intolerance remains a major problem of our dear country, shedding blood of innocent souls have become the order of the day, bloodletting now rampant in the country, indeed, political intolerance is a form of hatred, rejection, and prejudice which people develop against fellow human beings due to tribalism, religious difference and many more. Politicians must do everything to moderate themselves and around the pitfalls of the earlier republics in Nigeria. They must show that they know what politics is all about and that they have what it takes to provide leadership and not violence. Even as we hope that parents would call their children to order, posterity will hold those in charge of our security responsible for whatsoever political, religious and tribal misadventure, because they fail to act when it mattered most.
Though our society is gradually becoming an intolerable place, different tribes across the country are building walls instead of bridges. The various forms of discriminations, agitations, terrorism, killings, maiming, violence and political intolerance across the country have given rise to discord and fanning the ember of disaffection among Nigerian youths on daily basis, as people are not ready to tolerate one another especially when it involves power politics. Respect and recognition of the rights and beliefs of others is the essence of being tolerant. The negative effects of violence and intolerance are needed to be taken so seriously. The need for peaceful co-existence irrespective of political and religious affiliation should be our watchword in this country.
Boko Haram, the extreme Islamic group is not ready to tolerate western civilization and other human beings who they see as an infidel. The Niger/Delta Militants and Avenger are seeing themselves as superior to other Militia groups. Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) members are not ready to tolerate anything that has to do with Nigeria. The Arewa youths have expressed their intolerance against the Igbo in the North. Some men of God are finding it very difficult to tolerate their fellow men of God due to envy and unhealthy competition. In the name tribalism, some local Nigeria tribes are busy killing themselves due to intolerance and tribalism. When Benue state government passed into law the Anti-Open Grazing Bill, some people described it as a form of intolerance against herdsmen; while for the majority of the citizens, it is a welcome development, long overdue and the only way to safeguard their lives, property, and farmlands.
Indeed, capitalism does contribute to the problem of political intolerance in this country, it has widened the gap between the poor and the rich. The rich are getting richer through the siphoning of our resources while the poor are getting poorer. This has given rise to intolerance between the rich and the poor. The rich cannot send their children to public schools which, for them, are meant for the poor, they do send their children abroad during the election period, while the poor masses of the country would be sending to kill, maim and foment trouble during elections. Those even sending on these risks errand do not think twice before embarking on such operation, with the token amount of money being expended on them during the electioneering campaign.
The rich hardly approve any marriage between the poor and their rich children, they don’t even allow their children to mix up with poor children. When the rich are celebrating, attendance is usually strictly based on the invitation. The rich hardly mingle with the poor. For them, birds of a similar feather flock together. Nevertheless, a tree cannot make a forest. No one is an Island. We need each other to survive in this country. An African adage declares; “I am because we are and because we are therefore I am.” Tolerance is a courageous act. It takes courage to tolerate people, even when it is obvious that they do not meet our standards or expectations. Intolerance, on the other hand, is an act of cowardice. Show me a coward and I will show you a man that does not tolerate fellow human beings.
We believe the only solution to this killing of innocent souls and unhealthy development in this country is tolerance by all tribes across the country. It is time for all lovers of the truth to stand up and speak against intolerance, killings, maiming, and violence which is building up and may spiral into more bloodletting if we allow it continue without check. Discrimination and intolerance can never and ever solve our problems in this country. Our cultural, political and religious difference, notwithstanding, we need to tolerate one another because we belong to one entity and the common human race. Tolerance is the only way forward! As St. Paul rightly wrote; “Tolerate one another and forgive one another; just as the Lord has forgiven you.”
- Lanre, a Journalist, and public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abeokuta, Ogun State Capital