Sonnie Ekwowusi canvasses political campaigns without violence

Unable to match Peter Obi’s’ eloquence, competence, rising political stature and wisdom, his main competitors in the Presidential race are now resorting to recruiting political thugs and street urchins and using them to attack the supporters of Peter Obi ostensibly to dampen Obi’s spirit and morale.  While some of the hired thugs are directly inflicting severe injuries on some of Obi’s supporters, others are content with just harassing and intimidating the supporters in order to make them back out of their commitment and support for Obi. What is the “offence” of Obi’s supporters? The hope and dream they have found in the person of Peter Obi.

I find it loathsome that a politician in our 21st Century democracy could throw decency overboard and resort to recruiting political thugs to brutally attack and intimidate his political opponent simply because his opponent is gathering more momentum and gaining more political support than him. The chilling video clips and recorded interviews in front of me as I scribble are the evidence in support of the sponsored brutal attacks, violence and thuggery and intimidation against Obi’s supporters lately. For example, John Solam is a young man who happened to be a cripple. He hails from Adamawa State. He is a supporter of Peter Obi. He lives in Lagos. Prior to relocating to his current squalor at Egbeda, Lagos he was a beggar living under Ikeja, Lagos. One day some hired political thugs mercilessly beat him up and destroyed his wheelchair. Why? Because he publicly supports Peter Obi. Hear him: “I was attacked at the first under bridge, adjacent to the General Hospital, Ikeja. I was coming from the G.R.A side and heading to the Computer Village where I would normally stay to campaign for Peter Obi. I had his banner in front of my truck. Some men numbering up to five alighted from a bus and approached me. They asked me why I was moving with Peter Obi’s banner in Tinubu’s land. Before I could respond, they landed a huge blow on my face and started beating me. They broke my wheelchair. They beat me for some minutes before passers-by could come to my rescue. They warned I should never put up Peter Obi’s banner or preach his message again and left me with bruises”

Mr. Olaiyitan OLayiwola is Yoruba of the South-West extraction. Sometime in May this year he made a video clip wherein he compared Peter Obi with Bola Ahmed Tinubu and thereafter urged his audience to vote for Peter Obi in the 2023 Presidential election. That was his only “crime”. What did the hired thugs do to him? First, they threatened him to desist from supporting Peter Obi failure which he would regret coming to Lagos. Initially, he thought it was an empty threat and continued his support for Obi. But one faithful morning, he was walking down his street when suddenly a hit-and-run driver in full speed came from behind and rammed his vehicle onto him breaking his right leg back. Thank God he did not die.  Since then life has become a nightmare for Olaitan. He hardly walks the street unaccompanied by someone let alone for fear that he would be a victim of another brutal attack.  John Eze and Agbene David are two die-hard supporters of Peter Obi. The duo eagerly look forward to when Peter Obi would win the 2023 Presidential election and restore economic prosperity to the wasteland. They exude confidence that the Peter Obi Presidency would make a new Nigeria of our dream. But one day they were brutally attacked and seriously injured by hired political thugs as they walked the street brandishing the Labour Party flag.

 Two days before the Lagos Four-Million-Obedient March in Lagos, one of the key organizers of the March called Joseph Onuorah was arrested and harassed on his arrival from Paris for the March. Also, prior the March, a social media crusader, Obi Flag Boy, was brutally attacked in Oshodi Lagos while other Obi supporters were arrested. The tricycle (keke) riders and market women in support of Peter Obi were not left out in the brutal attack and intimidation. You may be aware that the tricycle commercial riders in Lagos are not only being forced to pay N500 for the purchase of the Tinubu/Shettima car sticker but they are equally forced to gum the sticker at the rear of their tricycles. In fact the political thugs of Tinubu/Shettima have warned them that if they dare gum or place the campaign posters or stickers of Peter Obi or any other presidential candidate on any part of their tricycles they would be chased out of Lagos. I have just finished watching the video showing one of the tricycle riders narrating his ordeal in the hands of the Tinubu/Shettima thugs. You will recall that prior to the Pro-Tinubu/Shettima Rally in Lagos, some Lagos market women were forced not only to contribute N500 in support of the rally but to ensure that they were physically present at the rally failure which they would lose their shops in Lagos. So, the APC hired thugs are shutting down the political campaigns of other political parties in Lagos.  This probably explains why there are no Peter Obi stickers or campaign billboards or stickers and billboards of other presidential candidates in Lagos.

Apart from Lagos, the supporters of Peter Obi are also being threatened and attacked in other parts of the country. For example, a yet-to-be identified gunmen numbering about four recently attacked some members of the Labour Party who were holding a meeting in Awgu Community of Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu State. In Nasarawa State, the supporters of Peter Obi were severely attacked. The attack led to a serious bodily harm on Joshua Alamu, one of Peter Obi’s supporters. Another Obi supporter called Jamilu Sufi had posted a photo of a seriously injured Joshua, as he was receiving treatment and wrote: “Dear @PoliceNG, Our attention has been drawn on the attack to Mr. Joshua Alamu, at Nasarawa State during @NgLabour sensitization yesterday, we call on you to protect the life of our citizen and bring perpetrators to book.”

What does the foregoing illustrate? Betrayal of democracy. Barbaric desperation for presidential power. Fraud. Jealousy. Bitterness. Frustration. This is Sad. I would advise Peter Obi supporters not to succumb to their attacks, violence, intimidation and blackmail. Instead they should continue to boldly and fearlessly campaign for Obi without any fear. They should petition the police to arrest and prosecute their attackers and molesters.  The 1999 Constitution guarantees the freedom of expression of every citizen, including freedom to hold, receive or to impart a Peter Obi political ideology or information without interference. Ours is not a one-party system.

We operate a multiparty system guaranteeing popular participation in the electoral process. Popular political participation is the elixir of presidential democracy. Electoral violence is a gateway to electoral anarchy. Electoral violence is a great offense punishable by terms of imprisonment under our Electoral Act. In fact, section 97 of the 2022 Electoral Act prohibits the stoking of ethno-religious violence in the presidential campaigns. You don’t have to be a Peter Obi supporter to come to terms with this. Even the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC), Omoyele Sowore, who is a die-hard Peter Obi critic, has condemned in strongest terms, the attacks on supporters of Peter Obi.

Therefore the intolerant presidential candidates dispatching their political thugs to attack Peter Obi supporters should desist from doing so. Though tongue and tribe may differ we are all members of the same human family.

As many political philosophers continue to argue, we in Nigeria need a national character that defines democracy and establishes the parameters and moral high ground in which democracy should operate in order to promote the wellbeing of the people. The separation of culture and character from politics or from public life in Nigeria has led to a palpable moral bankruptcy that has been hindering progress over the years.

Ekwowusi writes from Lagos

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