Of body bags, incendiary statements and free, fair and credible elections

February 12th, 2019

By Malachy Uzendu

For people who have come close to the diminutive Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State, appreciates fully that controversy is his middle name. All the fuss on his statement alluding to ‘body bag’ for diplomats, do not bother him. He is someone who believes in himself alone. He does not seek anyone’s advise on issues he has made up his mind on. And he believes he is infallible; even if everybody goes against him.

El-Rufai knows it all; he is always on the side of the gods, he claims. He is not afraid of anything or anybody. He tells those who cares to listen that he has crossed the Rubicon; age of being afraid of what mere mortal can do. After all, as he said, his lineage do not live long and he has defied death and lived this long.

And so, when he made allusions to the deployment of body bags on diplomats and their so-called Nigerian collaborators, he meant every word of it and of course, he owes none any apology, which is why his media handlers and personal assistants have not offered any. They only provided justification on his body bag rhetoric.

When el-Rufai held sway in Abuja, the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), he operated like a Czar. He feared nobody; he demolished property he considered violated his template. FCDA is paying the price of his irascible actions, imbued with uncountable judgment debt. Even his controversial book: ‘The Accidental Public Servant’, has evoked tons of wild reactions, with some of his benefactors labeling him a liar and blackmailer, but he is not pulsed.

Even though several people were disturbed at his recent outbursts, which are capable of igniting a breach of public peace, el-Rufai is not disturbed. He is not bothered about what people may say or how they react. In as much as it satisfies his fancy, he is comfortable.

But, can incendiary statements promote free, fair and transparent election in the country? The answer is a capital NO! El-Rufai should understand that even though he is protected by Section 308, the Immunity Clause, he should not expose himself to public odium or ridicule, or engage in acts capable of igniting a breach of the law and order.

El-Rufai is not a baby any longer. At over 50 years, he should shape his thoughts and consider the far-reaching implications of his actions. He should realize that some of his actions as FCT minister took several people to the grave. At that time, he was under authority of the President. But as state governor, he is personally liable for his statements and actions, even if not now because of Section 308, then before God Almighty after now.

In a similar manner, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the Minister of Transport, should guard his utterances. His choice of language during campaigns in Rivers State is unfortunate. Amaechi is definitely one of the elder statesmen of Rivers State. Nobody can deny the fact that he was Speaker of the state Assembly and two-term governor of the state. So, by virtue of the portfolios, he is an elder in Rivers state. Incendiary statements from such a noble personality is to say the least, most unfortunate.

And security agencies must act in tandem with their establishment laws. They should hem in people with caustic auditory membrane. It is better to keep them off public space until after the election than allow them instigate mayhem.

Enthroning free, fair and transparent election is not a tea party. It is an assignment that should be borne by the ruling and opposition political party leaders. Nigeria is on the tinder box and nothing should be done to inflame the tornado. The consequences would be very catastrophic and we can’t afford such now.

It is expected that every lover or democracy, especially people who benefited much from our democratic governance, should be the bastion of democracy. They should not be purveyors of incendiary words. It is a huge paradox; it contradicts what they benefited from. Were it not for free, fair and transparent election would our politicians boast of the credentials they currently possess?

Free, fair and transparent election should be bereft of inciting statements. Free and fair election does not begin and stop at the polling station or the ballot box. If there is no peace, ballot boxes may remain an illusion. If law and order breaks down when the ballots are being cast, then the boxes and concomitant democracy will disappear.

Like Chinua Achebe said, ‘people whose palm kernels were cracked by benevolent spirits, should not fail to remain humble’. And so, people currently occupying public offices must remember that life continues after general elections.

If they instigate mayhem in attempt to garner presumed victory, who would be their subject if there is bloodbath? We need to appreciate that our actions and or utterances are capable of igniting violence; they can put paid to free, fair and credible election; they must not be spewed carelessly; they can make and unmake and it is up to us to ensure peace in our country.

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