• Friday, April 12, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Before the dog whistle, ethnic profiling turn into civil war

The violence in Lagos and my fears for the future

The 2023 general elections will be remembered for the flagrant abuse of an agreed electoral process by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with some security agencies enabling violence against minority ethnic groups, forcing Nigeria into its sharpest descent into infamy. This is a dangerous trend that can truncate our democracy if it is not checked.

Many supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos did not make any pretence about civility; they unleashed a mob of thugs against voters perceived to be voting for the opposition. The attacks were systemic and coordinated enough that even revered traditional leaders joined in the show of shame.

It started the previous day with Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, threatening Igbo voters against voting against the APC. Rather than respond with the seriousness it required, Idowu Owohunwa, the Lagos State police commissioner, said it was a joke. Emboldened, the thugs unleashed mayhem the next day.

Nigerians who pontificated about racism in Europe were openly pointing out their neighbours to a lynch mob. Traditional leaders disgracefully announced traditional rites and littered the roads with sacrifices, ostensibly to scare off opposition voters. A crying shame of a political class that calls themselves “progressives”!

In a supposedly cosmopolitan city, the so-called “centre of excellence”, violence orchestrated by the thugs and street urchins, commonly called ‘agbero’, reigned supreme with attacks on voters, especially Igbos, and journalists.

They were egged on by bigots masquerading as intellectuals like Bayo Onanuga, a top official of the APC, who tweeted on Saturday: “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigerian state. It is not No Man’s Land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business.”

 

Online thugs were egging on the depraved thugs, ostensibly fighting against the “takeover” of Lagos by Igbos in an election where all the candidates were Yorubas!

These hoodlums were openly harassing and carrying out ethnic profiling of voters in the full glare of policemen and women drafted to secure voters. Some were reportedly aiding them, as restrictions on movement never seemed to apply to thugs riding into polling units in cars and buses. The brazen brigandage and criminality bode ill for the ruling party and the state. Those who breed monsters usually end up with them in their bellies.

In Rivers State, about 10 people were killed in an orgy of violence that was both gory and stupid. To declare a winner in that state after the violence and the shame of an election is unconscionable. In the South-East, violence was recorded in Ebonyi, Anambra, and Imo states.

The police force and security agencies that secured over N64 billion to secure the elections must be made to account for it. Impunity reigns in Nigeria because no one is made to account for their role. INEC officials commit crimes during elections because the party that they rig for, upon victory, rewards their actions.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission claimed it arrested dozens of people for vote-buying, and the police claimed people were arrested for violence. The troubling thing is that the same people supposedly arrested will reappear to perpetrate more crimes in the next election.

Some INEC officials think their duty is to keep the ruling party in power and openly desecrate the will of the voters. This current INEC management must be made to account for over N305 billion budgeted for the general election after an apology to the electorate.

We must collectively start demanding these institutions play their roles. International donors who pour money into INEC for various training must now demand minimum standards of competence for the commission to qualify for funds.

Nigerians must resist the effort of the political class to corrupt every institution in the country. The introduction of election management technology has been corrupted. Politicians are corrupting young, impressionable youths serving as electoral workers, as some have posted on social media that they received $200 to commit electoral crimes. University lecturers really don’t need much help from politicians. In the circumstances, the police, the electoral umpire, and the judiciary have become turncoats that have helped to destroy the democratic ethos.

Intimidation and voter suppression may breed apathy in the short term, but they may set the stage for carnage in the long run. The ethnic group being profiled and harassed would take only so much before it starts fighting back. This is how a flourishing country becomes Somalia.