The just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections that took place on February 23rd have come and gone, but the disaster left behind cannot be forgotten in a hurry. In its wake, there were reports of clashes between the security operatives and overzealous party supporters.
The issues of election violence has become a recurring decimal in Nigeria elections over the years. After the 2011 election results were announced, some non-state actors went on a violent rampage and unleashed terror on innocent citizens, leaving behind a high number of casualties.
The position for the President of Nigeria was keenly contested by the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari, himself a former Head of State from 1983 to 1985 during the military era, and the major opposition party candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a former Vice President between 1999 and 2007. The general election of 2015 as been reported to have been the most peaceful, as many voters were able to exercise their civic rights in a peaceful atmosphere.
The supporters of the two major political parties – Buhari’s All Progressives’ Congress and Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party – were involved in violent clashes in some part of the country. While ballot boxes were snatched and burnt in some polling booths, there was video evidence of violent clashes in some parts of Rivers State. States like Lagos and Kogi also experienced violent clashes of different degrees. According to some reports, not fewer than 35 people, including election officials and security personnel, lost their lives during the election. However, convener of the Situation Room, which represents more than 70 civil society groups, Clement Nwankwo, said that about 16 people lost their life, one of whom was identified as a 25 year old man from Oyo State.
The oil rich giant of Africa has a high percentage of people living below the poverty line, according to a report, and about 70% of Nigerians live in abject poverty. The money accrued from oil exports over the years has long been embezzled by politicians and their cronies through various shady contracts, graft, money laundering and outright theft. This has left the majority of the ordinary citizens living in hunger, and having to contend with starvation and malnutrition. The fight for the seat of power is always an intense, largely to a desire to control the oil wealth, or the ‘national cake’ as it is commonly referred to in local parlance.
It is a pitiable sight to see the ordinary citizens wallowing in poverty in the midst of abundant natural resources which are not limited to crude oil. Such revenue should be channeled toward providing food and basic amenities to its citizens in other to reduce the violence that stems from poverty and ignorance. Another possible solution is to reduce the remuneration and allowances of politicians which run into billions of naira and taking a large chunk from the yearly budget, not to mention the various constituency projects – akin to earmarks in the United States, on whose system of government Nigeria’s is based – which has been a norm in contemporary politics.
For the citizens to be able to fight for their rights, they must be properly educated and enlightened about them in order to demand good governance, social amenities and basic infrastructure which will improve the quality of their lives, and stop further violence in future elections.