10th March, 2011
In spite of assurances by the President Goodluck Jonathan-led Federal GovernmentÂ that government would ensure a free and fair election this year, some incidents that have happened in the run-up to the polls suggest otherwise.
Opposition parties like the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and others have complained about intimidation, sabotage and harassment by the hench men in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,
Instances abound: Opposition parties are not allowed to use some venues for their campaign rallies while preference is given to PDP instead. It happened in Kebbi State when ACN was not allowed to use a venue for its rally because PDP was going to use the same venue.
Now ACN and PDP are on a collision course in Lagos over the use of Tafawa Balewa Square, TBS, which is the venue for a concert to rally support for Governor Babatunde Fasholaâ€™s re-election. Long after ACN paid for the venue for the concert slated for Saturday, 12 March, the party has been asked to come and take back its money because Patience, the wife of President Jonathan is going to have an event there on the same day.
TBS may be a Federal Government property but that not withstanding, ACN should be allowed to use the venue because it booked for the place first. What is happening now could only have happened during dictatorial regimes where the ruling military junta never brooked any opposition.
Harassment and intimidation of opposition parties will only attract more enemies to the PDP. This could cost the party election in some of these places where the partyâ€™s stalwarts are hostile to the opposition. The win-at-all-costs disposition or do-or-die mantra of the PDP and its leaders are now manifesting everywhere. This must stop.
The issue of sabotage reared its head on Tuesday when the aircraft conveying ACN stalwarts, among them , Fola Adeola, the running mate to the partyâ€™s presidential candidate, Nuhu Ribadu, for a rally crashlanded at the Bauchi airstrip because goats and rams were allowed to roam the runway. The question many people are asking is: if President Jonathan or any big wig of PDP was to land at that airport, would those animals have been allowed to take over the airport and endanger their lives? We doubt if the culprits involved in the dereliction of duty will be punished, since the victims are members of the opposition party. Though Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB, claimed it has begun investigation of the incident, nothing may come out of it, going by past experience.
Apart from being a presidential candidate, Jonathan should know that he is still the president of this country. His government owes everyone a duty of care, irrespective of the political party the other Nigerians belong. His government should stop using the resources of the country and security agencies to intimidate, harass or sabotage members of the opposition parties.
There should be no discrimination in the use of venues by political parties as this is already heating up the polity. A level playing field should be provided for all political parties so that they will all go to the polls and test their popularity. Creating an undue advantage for only one party will undermine the credibility of the polls.