UN AND POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE
Assessment of the just-concluded general elections in the country cannot be complete without taking into account the orgy of violence that characterised the polls in some states, especially in the Northern part of the country. Although the elections were adjudged comparatively successful by most stakeholders, scores of lives and property were lost to political violence.
The murder of some members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) by rampaging mobs protesting the outcome of the presidential election was one of the heartrending moments of the polls.
By all standards, violence is a big threat to democracy. It negates all cherished values of humanity. In a fledging democracy such as ours, electoral violence can truncate the democratic process and threaten the stability of the country.
However, as reprehensible and condemnable as the post-poll violence was, we see no justification for the plan by the International Criminal Court (ICC), an organ of the United Nations, to institute a probe into post-election violence in Nigeria. This plan by the UN is undue interference in the affairs of Nigeria. The UN would be stepping outside its boundaries into the internal affairs of the country.
Nigerians appreciate the UN for its interest in the elections, but we reject any plan that encroaches on the sovereignty of our nation and the power of the Federal Government to maintain law and order in any part of the country. Few days after the gubernatorial and state legislature elections, the ICC prosecutor, Mr. Luis Moreno-Ocampo, was quoted as saying at the Hague, headquarters of ICC, that the planned probe was essentially to determine whether crimes against humanity were committed in the riots that broke out in the troubled states in the North.
We recognise the fact that as an independent and permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to look into cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, ICC can investigate crime resulting from political violence in any member nation such as Nigeria. But, that can only be right if the government in the affected country is unwilling to probe such incidents. This, frankly, is not the case with Nigeria, as President Goodluck Jonathan had already vowed to set up a high-powered Judicial Commission of Inquiry into all post-election riots in the country, including the unfortunate death of the NYSC members, before the ICC interjection.
Already, the president has set up a 22-man panel headed by Sheik Ahmed Lemo, to investigate all remote and immediate causes of pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom State and post-election violence in the states in the North. Unless the Federal Government proves incapable of doing whatever is needful on this matter, any 'external assistance' as planned by the UN will be unnecessary interference that smacks of neo-colonialism. We will not welcome that. At best, Nigeria will only welcome intelligence from foreign bodies such as ICC. Beyond that, the UN should hold its peace.
However, we urge the Federal Government to rise quickly to the challenge that political violence poses to security of lives and property, and our democracy. The planned judicial inquiry must look into all areas of electoral violence and determine why it persists in elections.
Government and relevant agencies should look into, and address all the factors responsible for outbreak of violence during elections. We believe the problem persists in our electoral process because politics, unfortunately, has become a thriving business rather than an avenue for the improvement of the human condition.
This view is supported by the fact that our government officials often neglect their essential responsibilities to citizens, such as job creation, provision of infrastructure and poverty alleviation, to pursue self-enrichment. This leads to desperation of political aspirants for public office, and frustration of the electorate that has been denied benefits of democracy. Both fuel aggression.
All in all, government should investigate, identify and prosecute persons responsible for political violence to serve as a lesson during future elections. All issues related to political violence during the general elections should be addressed as quickly as possible.