As the general elections draw near, there are concerns about the effect of hate speeches being made by some politicians canvassing for votes
| By Olu Ojewale | Mar. 30, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
The high level of hate campaign going on ahead of the general election is causing worries in many quarters. This, evidently, has forced many concerned individuals and organisations to warn that the tendentious hate messages could be the harbinger for violence either during or after of the elections.
Apparently disturbed by the development ahead of Nigeria’s election, Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, ICC, for the second time reminded Nigerian politicians that they risked being taken to The Hague, Netherlands, for trial if they continued with the level of violence already witnessed in the country.
In a statement released on Monday, Bensouda recalled her earlier message to Nigerian politicians and leaders to refrain from inciting their followers into violence because of the elections. The statement said in part: “Following my statement of February 2, 2015, and my office’s subsequent visit to Nigeria from February 3 to 5, I reiterate my previous message. At a time when abhorrent levels of violence already plague parts of the country, I recall that the International Criminal Court has jurisdiction over Rome Statute crimes committed on the territory of Nigeria.
“Any person who incites or engages in acts of violence in the context of the upcoming elections or otherwise – including by ordering, inciting, encouraging or contributing to the commission of crimes that fall within ICC’s jurisdiction – is liable to prosecution; either by Nigerian courts or by the ICC.
“No one should doubt my office’s resolve to prosecute individuals responsible for the commission of ICC crimes, whenever necessary.”
Indeed, if the ICC is looking for evidence to know those who have been inciting people against their opponents, it does not have to probe deeply to get links. On Monday, March 16, the All Progressives Congress, APC, called on the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the federal government to jettison its plan to assassinate General Muhammadu Buhari, its presidential candidate.
Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the APC, who made allegation in a newspaper interview, claimed the PDP-led government had security men specially trained as snipers to eliminate those opposed to President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid. Mohammed said: “I have never seen a government so terrified of elections as this present administration. And I have never seen a candidate so terrified of the opposition as Jonathan. Even as recent as last week, (Governor Ayodele) Fayose (Ekiti State) was asking for the withdrawal of Buhari from the presidential election; and it is just bizarre -but that coming from Fayose, one should not be surprising.
“Coming to issue of security, they have made an attempt on his (Buhari) life once before; it can be done again. But, let us warn them that any attempt on the life of Buhari or Bola Tinubu will lead to a consequence that will be very dear for this country. They should not even contemplate it.”
But Abdullahi Jalo, deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, dismissed the allegation saying it lacked basis, asking the APC to provide evidence of any of such plan by the ruling party to assassinate Buhari. Jalo told The Punch newspaper: “The PDP is committed to the election peace pact signed in Abuja. We will abide by it. It is a covenant we are determined to keep. Having said that, the burden of proof concerning Lai’s allegation rests on him and the party. In the usual manner of whipping up sentiments to deceive Nigerians, they have come up with this propaganda. Let him and his party provide photo, video, audio or meeting place where a plot to assassinate their presidential candidate was hatched. Nigerians have become wiser today. They cannot be swayed by the APC propaganda machine.”
While the APC allegation was still simmering, Ejike Mbaka, a Catholic reverend father based in Enugu, during a church service on Sunday, March 15, alleged that President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife were planning to kill him over his criticism of the federal government and for his opposition to the president’s re-election. Mbaka, who made the allegation during a sermon he delivered in his church, told the congregation: “Although I sent a letter about this somewhere but I want to say this to the atmosphere. Let me say to the whole world that President Jonathan and his wife, Patience, are planning to assassinate Father Mbaka. It is a known secret, so whoever they want to use, I don’t know. They may not come themselves. They may use these unemployed people. The same people I am speaking for. I don’t know why people no longer have the fear of God.
“Do they think that killing Father Mbaka will make Jonathan and his wife win the election? Is Mbaka their problem? And a priest asked a question that touched me. He said all this while that Father Mbaka had been supporting Jonathan and his wife, did Buhari and his party make any statement to threaten him?”
Similarly, Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State alleged that the wife of the president was the person masterminding the attack and arrest of members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state, using the police to intimidate and harass innocent Rivers people. Amaechi, who is also the chairman of a faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, and the director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, insisted that the arrest of the Rivers APC members was led by Dan Bature, commissioner of police in the state.
The governor who spoke at the Government House, Port Harcourt on Monday, March 16, while inaugurating the two newly appointed commissioners, said: “It is alarming that over 400 APC members (in Rivers State) have been arrested by the police. In Nigeria, criminals do not go to jail any longer. The arrest of the APC members was led by the state’s commissioner of Police and that is why I said, the fight in Rivers State is between APC and the police. The wife of President Jonathan is the person masterminding the attack and arrest of APC members, using the police to intimidate and harass innocent people.”
As if that was not bad enough, the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation, APCPCO, on Sunday, March 15, alleged that Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State had been pressured by the federal government to grant a hate interview against Buhari. The APCPCO said that the interview was the only requirement needed from Lamido to prevent the arrest and prosecution of his son by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
At a press conference in Abuja, Shehu Garba, director, media and publicity unit of the campaign organisation, said that Lamido’s interview was aired at Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN. According to Garba, Governor Lamido was to tell the North that Buhari when elected president would not be in charge but Yemi Osinbajo, his running mate. He said: “The contents of the interview as agreed with VP Namadi Sambo and President Jonathan are to essentially damage GMB along the following lines: “GMB will be a figurehead while Osinbajo will be the de facto president. He will give examples of GMB’s leadership style mentioning (General Tunde) Idiagbon (COS-SHQ) and Salihijo (PTF). This situation he will claim is unfair to the North as the South-West will be indirectly getting another term of office as president in addition to the (Olusegun) Obasanjo years, so Northerners should not be deceived into voting the APC.”
However, Garba reminded the public that Lamido had never worked with Buhari to know his leadership styles. He also queried when Lamido became the spokesman for the North. “As a self appointed Northern interest spokesman, what is his response to the pejorative references made by Mrs. Patience Jonathan about Northerners?” Garba queried.
Indeed, the first lady has been getting a backlash of her hate campaigns against the opposition. Now she cannot go to the North to campaigning for her husband’s re-election because of her alleged hate speeches against Buhari. Instead, she has been sending Amina Namadi Sambo, wife of the vice-president, to represent her.
The PDP leaders in the North are said to be seriously concerned about her hate speeches and that of Femi Fani-Kayode, publicist of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation, PDPPCO. Jibrin Aminu, a former minister of petroleum and stalwart of the PDP, was quoted as saying recently: “I think we have a problem, some issues to clear up as fast it we could. We had Fani-Kayode to contend with over hate speeches and advertorials, and recently the first lady who described the opposition presidential aspirant as ‘brain dead’ to worry about. And as party faithful, we deem it necessary not to allow her go to the North for the rallies, you don’t know what will happen.”
Further Aminu said: “The first lady never got it good going by the way she has presented herself and as for me and you know, the northerners, even if they are in the PDP or the APC, won’t take insults on their kingmakers, leaders or revered gentlemen and it is a good thing she doesn’t come here as there are people ready to start the stoning from here.” The first lady while campaigning recently for President Jonathan in Calabar, Cross River State, told the PDP supporters to stone anyone campaigning for change in the state. This prompted Amaechi to petition the ICC.
Apart from her, Fani-Kayode and Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State are other members of the PDP whose media campaigns have been largely regarded as brimming with hate messages.
Receiving Chidi Odinkalu, chairman, National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, into his office, on Thursday, March 12, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, challenged President Jonathan to denounce what he called “hate speeches” by his wife and other PDP members, warning that such hate speeches could lead to violence ahead of the general elections scheduled for March 28 and April 11. Fashola pointed out that the “hate Speeches” made in favour of the PDP candidates had created panic in the country, saying: “People are leaving the country out of fear.”
Similarly, the northern emirs and chiefs, under the aegis of the Northern Traditional Council, after a one-day emergency meeting at the old Lugard Hall, Kaduna, Kaduna State, on Thursday 12, also called on politicians, and elder statesmen to desist from making inflammatory statements that could jeopardise the nation’s democracy.
The Voting Right Movement, a non-governmental organisation, described the first lady’s campaign as condemnable. In a statement signed by its leaders, Florence C. Ozor, Okoi Obono-Obla, Sesugh
Akume and Daniel Olatunde, the VRM described Patience Jonathan’s speech as outrageous, mindboggling and unbecoming of a woman of such exalted position. The group said: “We make bold to say that the speech by Mrs. Patience Jonathan amounts to an instigation and inciting supporters of the PDP to attack those of the APC. It is completely unbecoming of Mrs. Jonathan to make such a hate speech that is calculated to arouse passion and cause violence. “There is absolutely no need to resort to use of such intemperate language that is capable of causing a breakdown of law and order by Mrs. Jonathan; who as a woman and the first lady of the country should be in the vanguard of the crusade for a peaceful election.” The VRM pointed out that the use of hate speech is prohibited by the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and, therefore, a criminal offence.
Expressing the same concern, the NHRC feared a possibility of post- election violence in Lagos, Rivers and Kaduna states. Odinkalu, stated this on Saturday, March 14, when he met with Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero, who is also the PDP candidate in Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, governorship candidate of the APC, staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the state police command.
Odinkalu noted that the Ahmed Lemu’s panel report showed that more than 1000 persons were killed across the country with Kaduna State having the highest casualties of about 847 during the post election violence of 2011. He disclosed that the commission had so far received about 25 petitions alleging acts of violence during the party primaries and political campaigns which he stressed was worrisome. He said: “We want the election to be peaceful, but if the parties and relevant authorities don’t provide an enabling environment for a peaceful election, we will press charges and demand accountability,”
Besides, he said: “Hate speeches have become intolerable and must be condemned by all, as far as we are concern in the commission, the only winner we are interested in is Nigeria, politics of do-or-die must be avoided. Our major concern ahead of the elections are Lagos, Rivers and Kaduna states.”
Responding, Yero assured the NHRC boss of the state’s readiness to do all within its powers to forestall a repeat of the 2011 post-election violence in the state in the 2015 general elections.
But whether the hate speeches which have become trademarks of some politicians would abate is another thing. Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and former chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch, warned that those of them who are heating the polity could still be picked up after the elections. “People should remember that Laurent Gbagbo’s wife (Simeone) was jailed for 20 years for the inflammatory statements she made in the post-violence of the election 2011 in Ivory Coast. So, our politicians can also be taken before the ICC; they should be careful of what they are saying. The world has changed.”