There is need to review the remunerations of public officers

Violence is sadly becoming a defining feature of elections in Rivers State. The 2015 general election in the state went down as the bloodiest in the country with about 100 reported deaths. Unfortunately, despite all warnings, the rerun legislative elections conducted on March 19 were no better. There were outright abductions, bombings and shooting to death of many innocent citizens while scores of others were injured, many of them severely.

Perhaps the most agonising was the shooting to death of Mr. Samuel Okonta, a National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) member, and an ad hoc staff of INEC in Ahoada West Local Government Area of the state. The corps member had reportedly finished his assignment at the polling unit and was heading home when he was shot dead by some hoodlums. “It is very bad that we cannot conduct an ordinary election without conflict,” said Solomon Dalung, Minister of Sports and Youth Development. “If the politicians kill all Nigerians, will they rule over animals?”
Incidentally, the build up to the National and State Assembly elections was even bloodier. There was cold-blood murder across party lines, a situation aptly captured by Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a “bloodbath”.

It was a thuggishly vindictive battle between the ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the main opposition, APC. Most of the politicians had recruited their own private armies with clear instructions to either kill or maim their opponents. Narrowed down, it was an extension of the supremacy battle between the current governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike and his predecessor and Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. But it was a warfare that increased the misery of the people.

Unfortunately, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not help matters, as the commission was infuriatingly ineffective. There were reported shortages of voting materials in many polling units. The situation was also not helped by the fact that the security agencies that ought to maintain law and order failed most woefully.

In a recent editorial, we had expressed concern that some people could resort to killing in the name of politics, especially when there was no real evidence that the interest of the downtrodden (often used as cannon fodder in this violence) was being served. We also warned that the “end justifies the means” approach that defines political engagement in Rivers State today has over the years provided the incentive and motivation for politicians and power seekers to believe that all is fair and acceptable, including cold-blooded murder of opponents. Yet the sad irony of all these killings is that up to date, the police have not successfully prosecuted and brought conviction against any of those suspected to be involved.

It is thus clear that it is this failure of the authorities that has directly encouraged further commission of such crimes. It is also clear that with eyes on the enormous spoils of office attached to the nation’s political positions from the presidency to local councillorship, many of our politicians would do anything in order to ensure easy ride at the polls.

As we have canvassed in the past, we again emphasise the need for a review of the remunerations and other perks of public office holders in our country. Perhaps we will begin to see a reduction in politically motivated killings if and when the fat allowances attached to the elective offices are slashed considerably.

However, since Rivers State has become a classic case of how quickly order can yield place to anarchy, we call on all the authorities to thoroughly investigate the recent killings and mayhem and put the culprits on trial. This nonsense must stop.