Four months to the 2023 general elections, high scale violence has taken over the political landscape in Nigeria.
Checks by DAILY POST show that Ebonyi, Zamfara and Kaduna States are the epicenter of violence against opposition political parties. The trio are all All Progressives Congress, APC, governed States.
These are happening in spite of the peace accord signed by all the presidential candidates in Abuja, the nation’s capital, under the watchful eyes of the National Peace Committee (NPC) co-led by former Head of State, General Abudulsami Abubakar; Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar II; Cardinal John Onayeikan; Bishop Hassan Kukah and other eminent statesmen with the objective of supporting efforts at ensuring free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
The APC Presidential candidate, Ahmed Bola Tinubu was represented during the accord signing by his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
Many Nigerians are already worried that the situation could worsen as the elections draw near and may eventually threaten the credibility of the polls.
Ebonyi State, South-East Nigeria is currently a theatre of the absurd. The State has been peaceful until November 2020 when the State Governor, David Umahi announced his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
The Governor, though adjudged as one of the best performing Governors in the country in terms of infrastructure, is being accused of doing everything to suppress and silence every opposition, including members of his former party, PDP.
There is tension in the State known as Salt of the Nation, with the government-owned Ebubeagu security operatives in the centre of the storm.
Opposition politicians in the State say the Ebubeagu operatives rather than go after killer herdsmen and other criminal elements, the main reason they were formed by the South-East Governors, they have become notorious for hunting and hurting anyone opposed to the Governor.
DAILY POST reports that no day passes by without members of the opposition passing through one form of harrowing experience or the other.
The members of the Peter Obi support group, popularly known as ‘Obedients’ have not been spared either. The popular one-million man march being organized the group has been sailing until smoothly until it got to the turn of Ebonyi State.
Reports show that Ebonyi was the first State in the entire country where the Obidients were first attacked and tear-gassed, with the State Government coming out to say they refused to pay for a venue for their rally.
However, just early this week, Ebonyi started boiling again with the reported abduction of Mr. Linus Okorie, the Labour Party Senatorial candidate for Ebonyi South, Umahi’s zone.
Okorie, a former member of the House of Representatives, DAILY POST later learnt, was whisked away by the Ebubeagu security operatives.
As uproar grew, he was handed over to the police, who said the ex-lawmaker had been on wanted list. But the manner of his arrest has drawn the ire of the members of the public, including civil society organizations.
First to react were some women and youths from his community, who barricaded roads leading in and out of Onicha community.
The protesters carried placards with the following inscriptions; “No movement until we see Hon. Linus. Onicha will be too hot for everybody.”
In a swift reaction, the Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State command, CP Aliyu Garba, acknowledged Okorie’s arrest.
Garba, in a statement signed and issued to newsmen in Abakaliki by the PPRO, Chris Anyanwu, said: “It is also pertinent to mention that Linus Abaa Okorie has a pending case in which he is implicated in a drug-related offence, where the suspects purported to be his agents were arrested for hard drug sales and use at his City Hub Inn, Mile 50, Abakaliki. Case was later transferred to the NDLEA for further necessary actions.”
The State government also reacted through the Commissioner of Information and State Orientation, Mr Uchenna Orji, declaring that Okorie is currently cooling-off at the police net to answer for the various crimes he (Okorie) committed.
He accused the ex-lawmaker of circulating fake news and harbouring illicit drug traffickers in his club facility.
According to him: “Okorie was arrested in connection with serial crimes allegedly committed by him and the complicity of his club facility – the City Hub in promoting sundry crimes especially in peddling hard drugs and other illicit substances.”
Governor Umahi also exonerated Ebubeagu security operatives of having a hand in the purported torture and abduction of Okorie, saying the Ebubeagu operatives are trained and have the right by law to arrest any erring person in the society.
As of the time of this report, Okorie has been charged to court and remanded in Correctional Centre. He was arraigned in court on a five count-charge, bordering on fake news, murder, harbouring drug traffickers and two other charges.
Prior to Okorie’s arrest saga, Mrs. Ann Agom-Eze, who is laying claim to the APC Senatorial ticket for the zone, has also been crying out over threat to her life.
Agom-Eze and Umahi are in a fierce battle over who is the rightful candidate of the party, especially as Umahi was still seeking the presidential ticket of the party long before the senatorial primary was held.
Reacting to the development, the lead counsel to the defendant, Mr. Chika Nomeh, who spoke to newsmen shortly after the court sitting linked his client’s ordeal to the senatorial election.
He said, “There is a judgement of the Federal High Court by Honourable Justice Ekwo, that restrained the Nigeria Police and the state government from arresting Linus Okorie, and the judgement is still subsisting on the same subject matter.
“We raised an objection, which we were overruled. The aim of the charges is to keep him (Okorie) behind the bars. Our client is the leading senatorial candidate of Labour Party, LP, for Ebonyi South senatorial zone. The essence of these things is to weaken him and his supporters, but at the end of the day, the law will take its cost,” he stated.
While the dusts raised by Okorie’s case were yet to settle, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Prof Benard Odoh, also alleged that he narrowly escaped assassination by suspected hoodlums in Izzi Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
Odoh, who narrated his ordeal to newsmen in Abakaliki, said he received a distressed call from his supporters that the council chairman of Izzi LGA barred him from coming or campaigning in Izzi land.
According to him: “We have a visit to Izzi LGA because Izzi is part of Ebonyi State. We have our supporters in Izzi because it is one of the 13 LGAs of the State. We have our campaign office there.
“As early as 6:00 a.m. this morning, I started receiving distress calls. One of our coordinators called and said that the chairman of Izzi LGA called and warned him that no event will take place in the local government, that he is under pressure from the State government.
“The DPO also called and raised the same alarm, that he is under enormous pressure that we shouldn’t come. I’m the gubernatorial candidate of APGA in Ebonyi, and I’m in this race to govern everybody in the State, therefore, if I can’t go to Izzi, then it means that, I’m not qualified to stand election.
“On reaching Izzi LGA, we were confronted by Ebubeagu operatives. They shot at one of our cars, you can see it and the glass shattered. We went there with official security men, the police, the DSS, together with our campaign team.
“Governor David Umahi can’t force everyone, he should allow the people of the State to choose for themselves. This is not how to run democracy. We have the right to reach to our people.
“We are reaching out to the public to be aware, this is what has happened today. Thank God, nobody was injured but serious gunshot injuries on our cars.
“In Ezza South last week, they confronted us there. Two days ago, we inaugurated our support team, and they were also there. This can’t be the way to get into government house in 2023,” he lamented.
That is not all. The gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Ebonyi State, Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, just yesterday, Friday, raised the alarm over increased insecurity and killings in the State, ahead of the forthcoming general election.
Odii, who expressed worries over the recent threat to security in the State, especially in his Onicha LGA, called on the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Inspector-General of Police to wade into the situation.
The Gubernatorial candidate in a statement signed and made available to newsmen in Abakaliki, through the Director, Media and Publicity, AnyiChuks Grassroots Support Organization, Mr. Abia Onyike, called on President Muhammadu Buhari to deploy effective security measures to restore order and normalcy to the troubled communities.
According to him: “We are highly disturbed by the alarming State of security breaches in Ebonyi State, especially in Isu, Onicha LGA of Ebonyi State and its environs, including the latest abduction of the Provost of the Federal College of Education, Isu, Prof. Reuben Okechukwu.
“He was abducted by armed men on Wednesday, 19th October, 2022 at the boundary between Isu and Agba in Ishielu LGA of Ebonyi State.
“Within a space of six months, three prominent indigenes of Isu Okoma Community have been shot dead by hoodlums at different times, while the Traditional Ruler of the Community, Eze Ambrose Ogbu was kidnapped six months ago and is yet to regain his freedom.
“In the light of the above, we wish to call on the Federal Government and the Inspector-General of Police to wade into the security crises in Onicha LGA with a view to unraveling the mystery behind the continuous bloodshed in the area by miscreants.
Several organizations in the State are losing sleep over the developments, with some of them calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the State.
They are equally demanding that the Inspector-General of Police should immediately remove the Commissioner of Police in the State. The CP is perceived to be complicit in the illegalities going on in the State, especially the State Government’s alleged determination to suppress all members of the opposition parties in the State.
Prominent among them is a group, the Worried Nigerian Citizens, which spoke through its convener, Moses Idika, calling for emergency rule in the State.
“President Muhammadu Buhari, in line with the resolution of the National Security Council resolution of Friday October 14, 2022, (Which Mr. President convened and chaired), which enjoined all Nigerian politicians to go about electioneering activities ahead of the 2023 general elections within the laws of the land, call Governor David Umahi to order, to forestall the breakdown of law and order in Ebonyi State.
“That as an effective deterrent, in line with the constitutional powers of Mr. President as enshrined in Section 305, (1),(2), (3, b, c, d, and f) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the President Muhammadu Buhari should without any delay, declare a state of emergency in Ebonyi State, as Governor David Umahi has sufficiently proven his capability and determination to sink democracy and rule of law in Nigeria,” the group stated.
Similarly, the Association of Ebonyi Indigenes Socio-Cultural In Diaspora (AEISCID) has also called on the IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, to immediately sack the Ebonyi State Commissioner of Police, Aliyu Garba for allegedly bringing the force into disrepute.
In a statement by the AEISCID President, Ambassador Pascal Oluchchukwu, the group condemned “the gestapo style” in which Okorie was violently abducted, severely tortured and then later handed over to the police.
While urging President Buhari to urgently call Umahi to order, they said it was even more troubling that State institutions such as the Nigeria Police Force, the Ebonyi Judiciary and others are enabling these ugly and undemocratic conducts.
It noted that saner minds had expected that the Nigeria Police, Ebonyi State Command should have been more professional rather than act on a dangerous script handed over to it by the agents of the State government.
It said: “These all point to the compromises of the Ebonyi Police Command under the CP, Aliyu Garba, the lackeys appointed as Magistrates and Judges in Ebonyi State Judiciary and indeed, the desperate foot-soldiers in Umahi’s government.”
The North West State is also making news for the wrong reasons. Trouble started last week after Governor Bello Matawalle signed Executive Order No.10 suspending 2023 political activities, and locking down three local government areas – Anka, Bukuyum and Gummi.
Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara said the governor took the decision “following the loss of lives of our fellow brothers and sisters”.
“Political meetings and gatherings at individual residences are also banned with immediate effect, henceforth.”
But the PDP and other political parties in the State saw the development as a means of suppressing the opposition in the State.
The party wondered why the same State Government that re-opened over 40 schools was claiming the State was not conducive for political campaigns.
They have also accused the State Government of receiving defectors at the Government House on a daily basis, yet hides under the said Executive Order to prevent opposition political parties from exercising their right in line with the election timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The opposition party went ahead with its political activities but the rally ended in a chaos. There were claims that thugs were sent to disrupt the PDP rally.
According to the PDD, the party only had a meeting to receive defectors from the 14 LGAs of the state on Saturday.
Murkhtar Lugga, the PDP deputy chairman in Zamfara said after the event, the party received 50 defectors from each of the 14 local government areas.
He, however, alleged that some PDP youths were attacked during the event, adding that two of its supporters were shot in front of the campaign office of the governorship candidate in Gusau.
At least two persons were confirmed dead in the attack, with other severely injured.
A trending video has also shown security operatives firing at supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The incident reportedly occurred at the party’s campaign office in Gusau, the capital, on Thursday, the End SARS second anniversary.
No one has been held responsible for the attack on the PDP rally, with the APC-led government insisting that its members had no hand in the said attack.
However, the State Government has gone on to shut down several media houses for covering the PDP rally, an action that has been vigorously condemned by the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, the International Press Council, IPC, among other notable organizations.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, campaign train has also not been spared in Kaduna, another North West State.
Hostility was unleashed on the party members during a rally for its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
Unknown hoodlums were reported to have disrupted the presidential campaign of the PDP in Ranchers Bees Stadium, Kaduna State.
In a series of tweets, Atiku said the “sponsored thugs” attacked supporters of the party.
He said the alleged attack was against the peace accord signed by all the presidential candidates.
“I have just received emergency reports of attacks on Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 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,” he tweeted.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai is believed not to be making comments that would calm the political tension in the State.
Only recently, the Governor said he could order the arrest of Mr. Peter Obi, the Labour Party presidential candidate. He accused Obi of ordering his detention during a governorship election in Anambra State in 2013. “In 2013, I went to Anambra State as an official of the APC to witness the by-election for governorship; your next guest, Peter Obi, was governor. He got me arrested, and he detained me for 48 hours in my hotel room.
“Now, I am the governor of Kaduna State and he is coming to Kaduna. In addition to the police and the SSS, I have one mechanised division of the Nigeria Army, but we are northerners; we are civilised. We don’t do things like that,” Mr El-Rufai said.
This is despite confirming in a previous media interview that his arrest was orchestrated by certain authorities from Abuja. Obi was then a member of the APGA, while the PDP was in charge of the Federal Government.
These kinds of utterances from highly placed leaders have been criticized to be capable of inciting some members of the ruling party against the Labour Party and other opposition parties.
Speaking to DAILY POST, the coordinator of the Civil Liberties Organization, CLO, in the South-East, Comrade Kindness Jonah said the organization was worried over the attempt to muscle opposition parties across the country.
Jonah said, “We have come to observe that what is purely undemocratic and unethical in the political landscape is happening now. What cannot be tolerated at all in any sphere of equity, is happening in some States of the country. We expect parity, which is democracy.
“But right now, they are not allowing opposition. It is condemnable; no matter how acidic the voice of the opposition is, you have to allow them to operate.
“One thing about democracy is that you must allow your opponent to say what he wants to say; you give him leverage to talk. You can counter him by your ideological points. Marshall them out, counter them, not to come physical. If you go physical, then it is not democracy.
“So, what is happening now across the country where you have people burning the office of Labour Party, PDP members being attacked and vice versa, APC carrying out attacks on others, things like that, we cannot tolerate it in civil society and in any civilized nation at all.
“We in the civil society are condemning these unprovoked attacks no matter where they are happing. Live and let live is the hallmark of democracy anywhere. You must accept the opposition. Go and campaign, convince people, market you candidates, propagate your party’s ideology. Let the electorate support you based on what you present to them, not to come physical and attack the opposition; such actions stand totally condemned.”
On the implications of the development for the 2023 polls, the Jonah cautioned that, “It will jeopardize the election. Once this thing is not curtailed, once everybody does not rise up to condemn this anomaly, then be sure that all these miscreants will also handle gun and start shooting sporadically to ward-off opposition and have their way. When this happens, it will impugn on the integrity and credibility of the elections.”
Also speaking, the National Coordinator, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko knocked the Nigeria Police for showing lack of capacity to checkmate the widening political violence.
“Political violence is heightening with the rapidity of a stormy weather and the Nigeria Police Force is incapable of stopping these trends for a number of factors and indicators one of which is the deep politicization of policing institution in Nigeria, beginning with the unnatural way that the Constitution ceded the power of command and control on the President with very loose checks and balances by a weak National Police Council, that is also chaired by the President and a deliberately weakened and institutionally compromised Police Service Commission, which has also failed to instil discipline and professionalism in the Force,” Onwubiko told DAILY POST in an interview.
He added that, “the political party running the federal government and the parties controlling all the States use their financial clout garnered illegitimately from the commonwealth to corner loyalty by the armed forces of Nigeria and sadly, these governors and offices of the Central government often misuse their powers to deploy the police for dirty political actions targeting their political opponents.
“The police must at all times be professionally governed and there is the need for the Police Service Commission to be allowed to work independently so as to enforce the ethics and laws and regulations guiding the operation of the police.
“Heads of police at the Central and sub-national levels must as of obligations of the law not use their men and officers for logistically motivated jobs and there is the greater need for up-scaling the skills of the police to curb violence by political thugs and ensure that violent political thugs are charged before the competent court of law and punished.”