• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour rein in your supporters whipping up ethnic divisions

Party leaders, rein in your supporters whipping up ethnic divisions

Since the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the February 25 presidential election result, indicating that the candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, won the vote in Lagos, social media has been awash with vile attacks and tribal slurs directed against minority groups in Lagos. This is condemnable, and party leaders ought to rein in their supporters.

The narrative that APC is losing because Igbos are voting against them is being bandied about in segments of social media, and supporters of the Labour Party are returning fire by employing nasty retorts of their own. Rather than sell their candidates and their track records, supporters are appealing to their baser instincts.

There are coordinated attacks on the person of Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour, the Labour Party’s candidate in Lagos state for the March 11 governorship polls. Married to someone of Igbo extraction, where his mother is also originally from, the APC supporters on social media are working feverishly to paint him as an outsider, almost a betrayer.

Many reviews by BusinessDay showed a pattern of attacks seeking to tag him along with the Indigenous People of Biafra, a separatist group, and rouse the citizens of the Yoruba ethnic group against their Igbo counterparts in Lagos. Previous posts are unearthed and, devoid of context, present an entirely different picture. This is concerning, as election violence in Kenya had similar motivations.

We equally observed certain elements on social media casting the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, as responsible for inviting soldiers who shot at protesters at the Lekki tollgate ENDSARS protests in 2020 without proof.

Derisive posts fill the social media, meant to reduce the estimation of the governor in the minds of the public. These attacks cannot convince anyone inclined to vote for him, as they disregard a record of tangible successes in Lagos.

Traditionally, politicians and their supporters attempt to win elections by convincing people that their candidate has a better track record and trying to smear the opposition. But political parties and their leaders should always know where the lines are.

While we note with dismay the erosion of reason and rectitude in political discourse in Nigeria, we are concerned that stoking up ethnic divisions in Lagos, is a recipe for disaster.

After a hotly contested election where many are still sore from Mahmood Yakubu’s decision to deviate from the agreed rules, these attacks serve the end of mutually assured destruction.

In the country’s commercial capital, where fault lines are frayed and tension still simmers, we find it unconscionable that online thugs are empowered to foment trouble by appealing to primordial sentiments.

Lagos is not just Nigeria’s most important economic hub; it is the melting pot of commerce, religion, and different ethnic groups. The state is undergoing a massive change in its demography, with over 60 percent of its population under 35.

Read also: PDP, APC react to LP’s victory in Lagos

These young people, from all tribes and tongues, who call Lagos home contribute to its economic growth through taxes enforced by the state’s tax agencies. This includes thugs, who, with official cover, extract levies from market women, shop owners, and commercial bus operators with the threat of violence. Efforts to ascribe ‘other’ to anyone in Lagos have no basis in reality.

In politics, there are ebbs and flows. When a party’s fortunes are declining, the appropriate response is not to engineer chaos but to double up on persuasion. In the end, democracy is a popularity contest, and parties appeal to reason rather than rage. This is why politicians embark on campaigns to sell their agendas.

The 2023 general elections, regardless of INEC’s ineptitude, signal Nigeria’s political renaissance. Candidates aspiring for political office would think twice before treating voters with contempt by ignoring debates and town hall discussions organised by the media and civil society groups.

For political parties who feel their fortunes threatened, the right response is to use the window open for campaigning to sell their plans to residents in Lagos, meet various interest groups, make amends where grievances linger, and show their policies would produce better outcomes than those of their rivals.

Relying on tribal slurs, thuggery, and rigging are not sustainable strategies because they give the beneficiary a dubious mandate, lack legitimacy, and fail to inspire trust.