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Published On: Sun, May 13th, 2018

Worsening violence threatening 2019 polls

…going into an election with these killings, political instability, portend danger – Amb. Keshi

By Ezugwu Obinna

“I am not even sure yet if there will be elections because unless these killings stop, there may be no election next year.” These were the words of the respected preacher, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, the leading light of Nigeria’s and indeed global Pentecostal movement.

Pastor-E.A-Adeboye

However, Adeboye who was speaking at the Church’s May Holy Ghost Service titled, ‘Stronger Than Your Enemies 5’ on Friday a fortnight ago, made it clear that he was not prophesying, but merely expressing worry over the incessant killings happening in the country.

His words had come after suspected Fulani herdsmen invaded a Catholic Church in Benue State and killed 19 worshippers who had gathered for an early morning mass, including two Catholic priests.

It was an audacious attack that rattled the body of Christ in the country, and protests were staged in many states of the country by bishops, other clergy and laity. The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria released a statement asking President Muhammadu Buhari to step aside since, according to them, he has proved to be incapable of tackling the security challenges.

“It is clear to the nation that he has failed in his primary duty of protecting the lives of the Nigerian citizens,” the bishops said. “Whether this failure is due to inability to perform or lack of political will, it is time for him to choose the part of honour and consider stepping aside to save the nation from total collapse.”

But the Benue Church attack is only one of the numerous murderous attacks in a country where more people are now being killed on almost a daily basis than war-torn Syria; what many have described, alternatively as ethnic cleansing and genocide. And as the country prepares for yet another election in 2019, it is becoming less likely that such would hold as the attacks escalate.

“What is of graver concern is that if we go into an election with these killings still on, and given the increasing level of political disagreement even within the APC itself, you might just find out that the security situation may become worse, and that portends more danger for the country,” notes ace diplomat and former permanent secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Joe Keshi.

Only last week, the attackers invaded the community of Birnin Gwari in Kaduna State burning houses, rounding up fleeing villagers and executing them. As at Friday last week, the death toll had risen to over 71, while new corpses were still being discovered in bushes.

Amb. Joe Keshi

Similar attacks in Benue, Adamawa, Plateau, Zamfara, Kogi, Niger and elsewhere have continued without ceasing. A fortnight ago, Boko Haram terrorist group sniffed life out of close to 85 worshippers in a bomb attack at a mosque in Mubi, Adamawa State.

It is a country now effectively at war. A report by Vanguard Newspaper in March showed that 1,351 people have been killed in the first 10 weeks of 2018, starting with the massacre of 73 people in Logo and Guma LGAs of Benue State between January 1 and 6 by herdsmen.

Recent killings in Adamawa, Kaduna, Benue, Zamfara and indeed across the North Central have added significantly to this number. And what has left many in awe is the seeming unwillingness of the Buhari administration to tackle the perpetrators of these killings.

“There is a cause for all Nigerians to be worried about the security situation in the country,” Keshi says. “But even more worrisome and indeed, frightening is the helplessness the government is showing on the issue.

“This is government problem; we the citizens are completely helpless in this situation. It is the government problem to solve the government controls the security forces.

“Besides being vigilant and reporting suspicious movements to the authorities, there is nothing else we can do. But we also know that even when you report, there is no action taken. So we should be worried, seriously worried.”

In a statement on the occasion of 2018 May Day, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, warned that the ongoing “ethnic cleansing” in some parts of the country could degenerate into a genocide if the government fails to take a decisive action.

The above concerns are shared by most Nigerians and indeed, the international community. A strong lobby had gone to see U.S. President, Donald Trump to prevail on Buhari not to seek reelection in 2019 on account of the escalating security challenges which his government seems unwilling to tackle.

The invitation extended to President Buhari by the US President a few days ago had been informed on the need to persuade him to step down his second term ambition in the light of the security challenges.

“That’s the point the Nigerian media missed,” noted Mr Richard Mammah, publisher of the Difference Newspaper. “The U.S. is obviously worried about the security challenges in the country and that’s why Trump invited Buhari.”

Buhari’s visit to the US had followed an earlier trip to the United Kingdom where the security issues had also been raised by the British Prime Minister, Theresa May.

“The fear of the West is that Nigeria may further descend into crisis should Buhari return to power,” noted Tony Ezeugwu, a legal practitioner.

Buhari-and-May

“The U.S. and the U.K. are particularly concerned that a major security scare in Nigeria could destabilize the whole sub-region and constitute a major refugee crisis for them.”

For Mr Chidi Ajaegbu, former president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) and chieftain of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), it is not just 2019 elections that should be of concern, but, according to him, the security situation, apart from the loss of lives, could also have dire consequences for the country’s economy.

“Every responsible citizen of this country should be worried by the spate of killings in the country, especially in the North,” Ajaegbu says. “The menace of herdsmen now seemingly looking like coordinated armed attacks on settlements, especially settlements in the North Central. It is something that should be a major cause for concern.

“It is not just about the election, the economy is going to be affected adversely by things like this because no investor will put his money in a volatile environment.”

Ajaegbu who is vying for the Abia Central senatorial seat in the upcoming election is, however, confident that the government will do all it can to make sure the election is held.

“I know that every major player in the electoral process will make sure that the election holds,” he assures. “I don’t have any doubt about the election holding, I know that when the time comes, the government will do everything necessary to ensure that the election holds.”

Indeed, it is a country reeling from violence in many angles, and things could yet, as many observe,  get to a head in 2019.

 

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