There is growing concern regarding the conduct of Nigeria’s 2015 general elections as allegations of arrest and harassment of leaders and members of the main opposition party rent the air.
In spite of two separate Abuja Peace Accords signed earlier by President Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the Kaduna state Police Command on Friday (a day before the presidential election) summoned the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, Nasir El-Rufai, to report for questioning in their offices. Summoned to appear along with Mr. El-Rufai are Suleiman Hunkuyi, the party’s senatorial candidate for Kaduna North and Lawal Yakawada, Chairman of the party campaign council in the state.
Among those in police custody are the APC agent at the Port Harcourt office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Emma Edeeyah, four leaders of the party in Akoko Edo 1 of Edo State and an APC member of the House of Representatives from Ondo State, Hon. Eniolorunda Omosule. Equally unnerving is the alleged attempt by plain clothes soldiers to arrest the State Youth Leader of APC in Edo State, Osakpamwan Eriyo.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) finds the above reports very distasteful. Harassment, intimidation and coercion of the opposition at this crucial period are capable of causing panic and igniting unrest. Eligible voters may also be scared away thereby defeating both the letter and spirit of one-man-one-vote. Such actions stand in contradistinction to the peace accords entered into by the political parties.
The implication here is that Nigerian security agencies are compromising. They are undermining a free, fair and peaceful election. There is no gainsaying the fact that summoning candidates and party leaders on the eve of elections can be destabilizing. It can also cause ‘costly’ distraction. It gives the ruling party undue advantage. It is the root of rigging. This is highly unethical of the security agencies. It is quite unhealthy for our nascent democracy for the security agencies to be seen deliberately stunting the growth of democracy.
MURIC has the following posers for the Inspector General of Police: must police summons and arrests come 24 hours to election? Why are all the summons and arrests targeted only at leaders and members of the main opposition? Is the IG aware that the Nigerian Police can provoke the electorate through unethical and openly partisan acts?
Is the IG aware that undue and unprovoked hostility towards the opposition is tantamount to favouritism towards the ruling party? Can these actions of the Nigerian Police stand the test of international best practices among the police during election periods?
MURIC affirms that there is no difference between hate speech and partisanship on the part of umpires.Both provoke people to engage in violent acts. It is paradoxical that whereas security agencies should prevent the breakdown of law and order, the Nigerian security agencies are indirectly aiding and abetting anarchy.
We demand the immediate release of all political detainees of the last 48 hours. We also charge the IG to use his good offices to stop further intimidation and arrest of political opponents. The International Criminal Court is advised to beam its searchlight for culprits of election violence on Nigerian security agencies.
In view of the fact that any outbreak of crisis in Nigeria and its attendant humanitarian calamity is bound to affect the rest of the world, we invite Nigeria’s partners in democratic practices like the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations to conduct independent investigations into the role of Nigerian security agencies in the 2015 general elections. Those indicted should be tried at the Hagues. This will help in checking the excesses of overzealous security officials in future elections. It is high time Nigerian security agencies realized that the world is now a global village and that professionalism is the key to growth.
In conclusion, MURIC reminds President Goodluck Jonathan that coercing the opposition not only constitutes an indelible dent on a free and fair election, it also poses a potent threat to peaceful elections. We appeal to Nigerians to ignore all sorts of provocations and to conduct themselves peacefully during and after the elections. We cannot afford to turn into cannibals and arsonists at this crucial time. We urge both Christian and Muslim leaders and clerics to prevail on their followers on the need to eschew violence in all its ramifications.
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)