• Monday, July 22, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Violence in Kaduna, Zamfara threatens peace accord

Youth, protests, and the politics of ethnicity in Nigeria

Less than three weeks after the signing of the Peace Accord by the 18 political parties pledging to play the game according to the rules, violence marred political rallies in some parts of the country this week.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that it was attacked by some thugs in Kaduna, although it went ahead to hold its rally in the state.

The party also said that the state government refused to grant it access to the Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna.

It alleged that the state government, working through the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports, denied the party the right to use the stadium on the grounds that the stadium was under renovation.

Hassan Hyat, state chairman of PDP, disclosed that the party received the correspondence withholding approval only on October 15, 2022, citing “renovation work on the facility as an excuse”.

“However, a physical tour of the stadium has revealed that there’s no renovation work ongoing either on the main bowl of the stadium or its adjoining structures. This is even as the same facility was used for the 2022 Eid-el-Maulud prayers just last Monday,” he said.

Iyorchia Ayu, the PDP chairman, told the gathering that some miscreants had wanted to stop “this rally, to disrupt us, but they could not do it; PDP is in your DNA”.

“Whether they give you the venue for the rally or not, even if it is on the road we shall gather and we shall win.”

In his tweet on Monday following the alleged attack, Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the party, said: “I have just received emergency reports of attacks on @OfficialPDPNig supporters by thugs sponsored to scuttle the ongoing PDP campaign rally in Kaduna State. This is undemocratic and against the Peace Accord all parties signed up for just a few weeks ago.

“I urge President Muhammadu Buhari to call on all parties to call their supporters and members to order and to ensure that campaigns, just as with the elections themselves, are kept free, fair and safe. –AA”

Supporters of the PDP in Zamfara State on Sunday, also alleged that they were attacked by thugs recruited by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. But the allegation was refuted by the APC, which claimed that it was the opposition party that attacked its members.

The Zamfara police command said one person was killed, while 18 others sustained injuries following a clash by two youth groups in the state.

According to the police, the groups involved in the clash are suspected to be supporters of the two dominant parties, the APC and PDP, in the state.

The state government claimed that it had placed a ban on political campaign activities in the state, through an Executive Order on the basis of insecurity. It said the ban was to forestall attacks by bandits hiding under political campaigns to cause mayhem.

The PDP said no Executive Order can override the Constitution of the country where the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) derived its powers to lift ban on electioneering.

Mouktar Lugga, deputy chairman of PDP in the state, who spoke on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Monday, alleged that the ruling party in the state had no right whatsoever to suspend the political calendar released by the INEC. It also said that if the state government felt that Zamfara was not safe, it could have officially approached INEC and formally requested an adjustment not just to unilaterally ban political activities in the state.

Lugga also said the PDP was not aware of any letter from the state government banning political activities, adding that it was just hiding under insecurity to muzzle opposition.

“We do not believe that there is threat to lives and property as a result of political activities. They trampled on the rights of parties and individuals, which caused the problem. We are a law-abiding party. No amount of intimidation can stop us from carrying out our lawful activities. They only hide behind insecurity when they want to attack opponents. We will not allow that,” Lugga said.

But Yusuf Idris, publicity secretary of APC, said that the PDP supporters did not abide by the state government’s order.

Femi Falana, while reacting to the violence in Zamfara, said: “Violence is part of the game as far as members of the political class are concerned. You are talking about Zamfara. There are states where these things are worse.”

Recently, the Labour Party political meeting was attacked in Aninri, Awgu, Oji River, and at Igboeze North local government areas all in Enugu State.

The hoodlums were believed to be political thugs.

Read also: Thugs attack PDP campaign rally in Kaduna

In another part of the state, several vehicles belonging to the party members were burnt.

The incident, which happened at Umuida, Enugu-Ezike, in the Igbo-Eze North local government area of state, was the fourth time hoodlums would be attacking meetings called by the party in the state.

In recent months, stakeholders in Nigeria have advocated for tougher actions by the government and the electoral commission for electoral violence and related crimes.

Part of the suggestion is that the country should set up an independent body, mandated to deal with electoral related crimes including violence.

“I don’t really know what transpired in Zamfara that led to the killings. However, what I have seen so far among the three top party’s contending is that they are not engaging in an issue based campaign, but they are looking for mistakes in speeches and conduct of candidates which they have been puncturing with different tactics,” Elias Adagunduro, public affairs commentator said.

“This in my own opinion would lead to more violence if not curtailed before the campaign gets tougher.”

Tope Musowo, public policy expert, predicted that the situation may remain the same except perpetrators of violence are prosecuted by the security agencies.

Musowo said: “Nigerian elections have not neither been about the issues nor about addressing the many challenges faced by Nigeria’s largely struggling citizenry.

“It is a systemic problem that may not change especially with the level of impunity in the country. That is why some people are calling for an electoral commission.

“How many people were prosecuted after the 2019 elections for violence? When people know they can do these things and get away from it, they would do more of it. I am predicting that we would see more as the campaign starts fully except we start prosecuting.”