Why we shouldn’t stop talking about Nigeria’s culture of electoral violence

The brutal murder of Acheju Abuh, the Kogi PDP women leader. Numerous cases of bribery and attack of INEC officials. Destruction and looting of ballot boxes. All these happened again last week, during the just concluded governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa state.

Government officials and even President Muhammadu Buhari has expressed concerned over the events and blamed “desperate” politicians. Yet, for all that has been said and will continue to be said, the undeniable fact that violence is viciously embroiled in our electoral structures remains a sad, deplorable fact.

The Presidential election early this year didn’t go by without its share of unrest, characterized by various forms of attacks on voters, looting of ballot boxes and a record of more than 11 deaths. Something more devastating than these acts of violence themselves, is the level with which it has been normalized. Wrapped into the most mundane social malfunctions, like bad roads with horrendous traffic, or the rising cases of police brutality. The possibility of a peace-free election in Nigeria seems almost far fetched and as inconceivable as the many government plans that never see the light of day.

Each day, our government officials present new reasons to doubt the validity of our democracy. From plans to stifle and censor free speech and criticism of government policies through the introduction of an anti-hate speech bill currently being considered by the Senate, the unheeded calls to curb police brutality, to the incessant incarceration of journalists. 

Fairness and freedom which embody the base of any truly democratic system, are non-existent in governmental institutions. It should not continue to make the news and die down after a couple of days. There ought to be accountability and adequate punishments, for anyone involved in disrupting necessary events like elections, events where the electorate are permitted by law to choose whoever they want without any form of coercion or violent compulsion.

The lives and properties lost in these elections will sadly not be fought for or the victims reimbursed in any way. But it is up to us to not forget the atrocious weight that recurrent violence carries. While it might be hard to deal with, it could be any of us trying to exercise our rights at any point in time.

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