2019 Polls: Marking the Flashpoints

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Evidence of a possible breakdown of law and order in some parts of the country is mounting ahead of the 2019 elections and the concerned authorities must buckle down, writes Shola Oyeyipo

The 2019 general election is just around the corner. As the electoral processes draw closer, the fear remains that many of the factors that drive conflict and violence are still inherently prevalent in many parts of the country.
Though going by its long-term preparations ahead of the 2019 elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has shown more than a passing interest in ensuring a free and fair election, however, two very key areas that will lead to the success of the elections are logistics and security. None of the two can be taken for granted in the run-in to the general election.

While logistics is more of internal INEC arrangements designed to facilitate the conduct of the election, INEC officials are hardly equipped with security training. They, therefore, rely totally on the expertise of trained personnel in the Police, Department of State Security (DSS), National Civil Defence and Security Corps (NCDSC) as well as other security agencies. Therefore, security issues must be meticulously planned along with logistics for successful elections.

For the purpose of the success of next year’s elections, INEC does not require rocket science to identify and name places that are likely flashpoints because judging from the actions of some major actors in some of these states, the indications are already clear that some opposing political groups are already spoiling for a showdown. Where nothing is done about these places, they could impact negatively on the quality of the elections.

Members of the European Union (EU) and other friends of Nigeria had expressed worries over potential violence in parts of the country. They were specifically bothered about states such as Benue, Plateau, Taraba, Borno and other volatile states. Their interest is in how INEC intends to confront the challenges from these states in the election year.

Thus, it is expected that for such places, robust strategies are formulated and implemented pre-election, during the election and post-election to complement all other logistical arrangements by the electoral umpire to facilitate credible polls.

Pondering the Kano Story
The rivalry between the serving Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganuje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso has climaxed. It is currently at a fever pitch. A lot of observers feel it would grow from bad to worse in coming days, as the former governor ranks among some of the most prominent contenders for President Muhammadu Buhari’s job.

The tension was heightened by Kwankwaso’s recent defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The political atmosphere of Kano State has been further charged. That is complicated by the possibility that Kwankwaso and Shekarau could work together in the PDP, because of the no-love-lost relationship between the two leaders.

At a point, a video clip went viral. And in it, the Kano State Commissioner for Special Duties, Abdullahi Sunusi, was seen asking his supporters to stone Kwankwaso if seen in Kano. In a nutshell, for a state considered as President Buhari’s catchment area, and which is strategic to his 2019 electoral victory, and also underscoring Kwankwaso’s fanatical support base in the state, steps must be taken to forestall any breakdown of law and other.

A Familiar Rivers of Blood
Rivers State is by every standard one of the bloodiest states in Nigeria and hardly can any well-meaning Nigerian feign ignorance of this fact. INEC was left with no other choice than to suspend the recent by-election for the Port Harcourt Constituency lll State Assembly seat held on August 18 after the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Obo Effanga cited widespread violence.

According to him, the exercise was marred by widespread violence and was consequently suspended in accordance with Section 26 of the Electoral Act 2010.

Issues of electoral gross violence are commonplace in the oil-rich state. A commission instituted by then Governor Rotimi Amaechi, to look into politically-motivated killings and destruction of properties before and during the 2015 general elections, and headed by Chidi Odinkalu, noted that there was a monthly average of 19 political killings between November 2014 and April 2015.

The factors responsible for violence in Rivers State are still very present. Incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike, who is poised to resist every attempt to take over the state from him, is not joking about his second term.

Currently, Amaechi is not just the Minister of Transportation; he is also the Director General of President Buhari’s second term campaign bid. As a result, more of the battle royal should be expected and efforts must be put in place to curtail widespread violence for which the state is known for.

Plateau As Their Killing Field
Since Governor Simon Lalong assumed office on May 29, 2015, his biggest challenge has been how to bring an end to the incessant and mindless waste of human lives and property that precede his coming on board.
Despite the combined efforts of the state government and the federal government, the killings which have both religious and ethnic colourations between the Baron people and the Fulani (herdsmen), have not ceased, even when the government has not rested on its laurels. Just recently, in June to be precise, no fewer than 200 people were killed in coordinated attacks on a dozen villages in the state. Plateau is prone to violence and cannot be overlooked.

Kaduna’s Heightening Tension
That ethnic minority tensions and conflicts in Kaduna State have stoked unmitigated violence than any other form of communal instability in Nigeria’s recent history is no news. Fear is that these tensions are not abating.
Added to the existing tension is the growing fear anxiety among the residents of Kaduna metropolis, over the trial of the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky. His followers have continued to threaten violence, particularly over his incarceration and trial.

The unhealthy relationship between the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai and the three Senators from his state is indicative of a state where the major political actors are working at cross-purposes. The governor recently accused the three senators of working against a World Bank loan request by the state government and he described them as “useless and ignorant.”

On the other hand, the lawmakers are not hiding their resolve to oust him come 2019. With the above indicators, showdown should be expected and violence cannot be ruled out. And as often said, it is more strategic to be proactive than reactive in matters of this nature.

Taming Benue’s Killing Sport
Benue State has consistently hit the cover of most of the major newspapers in recent time and the reason is simply due to the mindless killings of innocent residents by suspected Fulani herdsmen, who appear to be savouring official protection.

For whatever it is worth, security must be beefed up in Benue State before, during and after the electoral processes, because the atmosphere of the election period could encourage such mindlessness.

Particularly, in Benue, all eyes would be on the security agencies, because if you recall, a recent killing had fuelled accusation by a former Minister of Defence, General TY Danjuma, that the security agencies were culpable in many of the attacks and killings. This, of course, has further fuelled suspicion in the state about security agencies. But that should not stifle them from doing that which is just and fair in protecting lives and properties.

The Ruins of the North-east
All the North-eastern states need more than the usual security presence. It is worthy to mention that the Nigerian Army has reportedly decimated the dreaded Boko Haram. The insurgents cannot be taken for granted during the elections hence the need to beef up security in the zone.

States such as Borno, Adamawa and Yobe must get sufficient security personnel and modalities must be put in place to prevent suicide bombings and other scare tactics that could prevent the electorate from voting. In summary, security is very important to the success of the 2019 elections and so, it must be well planned and executed.