By Adebayo Abubakar
The history of Political violence in Nigeria can never be complete, without, at least, a mention being made of PDP.
In the first republic, you would recall the infamous “Operation Wetie” in the western region, which government was controlled by the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action GROUP, was a strain of political violence that still maintain its relevance, whenever the issue of political thuggery is being discussed in Nigeria.
The same thing also happened in the second republic, when chief Akin Ọmọboriowo of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, who contested against the incumbent, Chief Adekunle Ajasin of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, was declared winner of the 1983 Governorship election in Ondo State.
The whole State, especially the capital city of Akure went up in conflagration, as a result.
The story is not much different in neighbouring Ọ̀yọ́ State, when Ọmọlolu Olunloyo of the NPN, was declared winner against Bola Ige of the UPN.
There were also, pockets of political violence in other regions of the country, but those in the South West were the ones that made global headlines.
Perhaps, it was because, no party was national enough, except maybe, NPN, in terms of spread; that was the reason why none engender nationwide uniformity in the pattern of violence.
Fast forward to 1999, when the military decided to restore democratic order by handing over power to a civilian government.
The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, emerged the ruling party at the centre, and in majority of the 36 States of the Federation, except South West, which had all its Governors from the Alliance for Democracy, AD.
In the run up to the 2003 General election, the party at centre, PDP, decided, it must, by crook or hook, penetrate the region, as it is (according to those who think they own Nigeria) unthinkable for the President, Obasanjo, to have come from the region, yet none of the State was being controlled by the party.
Then, we witnessed the most violent political dispensation in the history of Nigeria as a sovereign nation. Many high profile political assassinations, from Harry Marshal, to Bola Ige, to Ayo Daramola, Funsho William, among others were recorded.
PDP, and other parties then, elevated political thuggery to a status of officialdom.
The then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, said, the 2003 general election would be a “Do-or-Die Affair”. Meaning, nothing would stand between him and winning the election.
Obasanjo, being a first student of Machiavelli, ensured that, all the instrument of state violence was deployed for his electoral advantages. After all, the end justifies the means.
In the run up to Pakistan’s general election in 1977, the then prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, made a similar statement – Election being a “Do-or-Die affair”, after which he was on 5 July that same year, deposed in a military coup by his appointed army chief Zia-ul-Haq, before being tried and executed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1979 for the incendiary statement and authorising the murder of a political opponent.
Obasanjo went scot-free because, Nigeria is a country of “Actions-without-consequences”.
So, when it became obvious to many politicians that, allocating State security apparatus to each and every politicians, won’t go round, some resort to self-help, by hiring private security services.
Kwara State was no exception. Being a political thug became so rewarding that, even, cultists in our higher institutions of learning, enjoyed a great measure of patronage from the political class. Whoever witnessed events from 2003 till 2019 can testify to this.
They even go with the moniker; “The Good Boys”. It was that bad.
Remember, the patrons of these so-called “Good Boys” have, at one time or the other, been members of both The All Progressives Congress, APC, and The People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as defection becomes a sport among a group political elites that are afflicted with ideological bankruptcy.
Just last Friday, November 13, 2020, the immediate president of the Nigerian senate and one time Governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Sáraki, came into town, for an event to celebrate the 8th year anniversary of his late father’s, Alhaji Abubakar Olusola Saraki’s death.
Dr. Olusola Sàràkí was a man, whose influence on Kwara and national politics, even in death, remains a factor in the political permutation of any ambitious politician in Kwara State and beyond.
Dr. Bukola might have fallen out with his late father, politically, but he does inherit much of the Saraki senior’s political followership, and they still believe in his leadership, due to how much he’d impacted their lives in the not-too-distant past.
The above, explains the mammoth crowd that turned out to welcome him at the airport, and also graced the occasion he came to celebrate.
That of course would send jitters down the spines of his political opponents, as his prolonged self-imposed exile, since after his defeat at the poll last year, came to an end, following his grand entry into his former political stomping ground, to celebrate his late father.
There was a report of a clash between thugs who are believed to be loyal to Saraki and those believed to be loyal to APC, which reportedly led to loss of life.
The Public Relation Officer to the ruling-APC in the State, Alhaji Tajudeen, Folaranmi-Aro, wasted no time in issuing a strongly-worded Press Statement, titled;
“APC Warn Saraki against Re-intruduction of Thuggery into Kwara Politics”.
The statement went further to highlight the fact that, since May 29 last year, when the new government in the State was sworn-in, there has been no record of political violence/thuggery.
At that point, I became very curious to know what APC’s definition of political thuggery is.
In case I need to remind Alhaji Folaranmi-Aro, how does he explain the incident that occurred in Kwara Hotel, where the party gathered to hold a stakeholders’ meeting to resolve the lingering crises within the party in the State.
The meeting ended with the State Governor having to be ferried to safety by his security details, while some party members still went home with bruises on their faces.
Let me put the record straight; while PDP cannot be exonerated from political violence in the State or anywhere across the country, APC is no Saint.
Why we have experienced relative peace, since the coming on board of the Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq-led administration of APC is that, the opposition had gone comatose, following their electoral defeat last year.
Meanwhile, to operate a pair of scissors, you need two good blades.
It takes two to tango.
The absence of PDP thugs is the only plausible explanation of why those APC are redundant, until last Saturday; and for the relative peace, we’ve enjoyed, from May 29, last year, to date.
Therefore, there is no significant difference between PDP and APC, in terms of their disposition towards political thuggery.
They are two sides of a coin.