APC’s Presidential Campaign Spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, Dragged Before ICC Over Inciting Ethnic Hate

By Damilare Adeleye
Bayo Onanuga
Bayo Onanuga

The Chief Spokesman for Tinubu-Shettima Campaign Council, Mr. Bayo Onanuga, have been dragged before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague over ethnically motivated attacks and inciting ethnic hate during the country’s general elections.

A Professor of Law, Gideon Christian, who filed the petition at the ICC, urged the court to investigate and prosecute Mr Onanuga for his alleged inciting utterances.

Mr Christian held that the the investigation and prosecution of the senior journalist became necessary and urgent in order to prevent a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and Burundi in the 90s.

He also asked the court to conduct an investigation into series of ethnically motivated violence resulting in injuries and death during the just concluded Presidential and Governorship elections in Nigeria and inciting ethnic hate by Bayo Onanuga.

The Professor of law called for Onanuga’s arrest and prosecution in a petition sent to ICC titled: “Request to Investigate the Election and Post-Election Violence in Nigeria as Well as Incitement to Ethnic Hate by Mr Bayo Onanuga,” addressed to Mr Khan, the Information and Evidence Unit Office of the Prosecutor, Netherlands.

He cited the European Union Election Observer Mission in Nigeria interim report on 20 March 2023 that noted multiple incidents of “organised violent attacks” resulted in “many casualties and fatalities”, insisting that these incidents where the results of incitement to ethnic hatred by Nigerian politicians and their agents who actively (directly and indirectly) incited groups of individuals to inflict harm on other individuals from a targeted ethnics group (the Igbos) as well as individuals who “look like” people from that ethnic group.

“It is on record that prior to the elections, very influential individuals and politicians especially in Lagos, had publicly warned members of the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria not to show up to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

“While this complaint is not strictly about the deprivation of that right, which admittedly this Court has no jurisdiction, it is evident that in an effort to deprive members of this ethnic group of their right to vote, these politicians and influential individuals incited ethnic hate that resulted in “many casualties and fatalities” to individual from the Igbo ethnic group including those who “looked like them”. Mr Bayo Onanuga was clearly one of such persons.

“Following the completion of the governorship election Nigeria in which individuals from the Igbo ethnic group and others who “looked like them” suffered “many casualties and fatalities” especially in Lagos, Mr Bayo Onanuga, a very influential journalist-turned politician and now Director of Media and Publicity in ruling political party’s presidential campaign organisation issued a threat on Twitter warning individuals from the Igbo ethnic group that 2023 should be the last time they will be interfering in Lagos politics.

“Mr Onanuga’s concept of interference arose from the legitimate act by individuals from the Igbo ethnic group in Lagos in exercising their constitutional right to vote anywhere in Nigeria. This statement was issued after individuals from this ethnic group have been attacked and killed in Lagos during the governorship election.

“The attacks continued after Mr Onanuga’s tweet. What is more disturbing about Mr Onanuga’s tweet is the threat of future harm to individuals from the Igbo ethnic group in future elections in 2027. Mr Onanuga’s tweet has been viewed over 5.5 million times.”

“Mr Onanuga is a well-educated journalist and a prominent member of the ruling political party, His conduct in inciting ethnic hate which fuelled election and post-election violence against individuals from the specific ethnic group who were the target of his incitement needs to be investigated to prevent a repeat of what happened in Rwanda and Burundi in the 90s,” the petitioner said.

Christian added: “Promoting attacks against individuals from a particular ethnic group residing in a particular area is a clear violation of international law.

“That violation falls within the jurisdiction of this Court, and the international community must not only take action to prevent such acts from reoccurring but should also hold to account individuals involved in such international wrongdoing.

“I therefore request this Court to investigate the conduct of Mr. Onanuga and other individuals in Nigeria who directly and indirectly organised, incited, aided and abated the ethnically motivated election and post-election violence in Nigeria and take appropriate action to hold them responsible for their actions.

“This will prevent future conducts that will breach rules of international law.”