The 2023 general elections, which were conducted in two phases – the presidency and national assembly on February 25, and the governors and state houses of assembly on March 18 – by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, were, to a large extent, free, fair and peaceful, notwithstanding legal disputes and pockets of violence in some places.
However, the upsets arising from the elections, particularly, in Lagos state, which had been the stronghold of the President-elect Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, for decades, led to ethnic slurs and hate speech. Tinubu’s loss of the presidential election in Lagos state to Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, set the stage for a seeming war between the Yoruba and Igbo, seen as the masterminds of Tinubu’s defeat in the state.
Instructively, Chairman of the Council of Elders, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, described as “malicious, wicked and fake”, report circulating in the social media, that he purportedly said Yoruba are “political rascals”.
Iwuanyanwu, in recent statement warned all purveyors of this news that it is a criminal offence to circulate fake news against a peace-loving Nigerian. “For the avoidance of doubt, I am a senior citizen who has meritoriously served Nigeria,” he said.
The statement titled: “Refuttal of malicious and fake news in the social media”, enjoined all Nigerians of goodwill who care to get the true transcript of his statement at Awka from any of Arise Television, Channels and many other electronic and print media houses.
“What I did at the ceremony was to admonish Igbo who felt threatened by various attacks in Lagos that they have no cause to worry because there are no problems between Igbo and Yoruba.
“I therefore told them to stay in Lagos and go about their normal businesses. I did however mention to them that the attackers are political rascals and their action does not reflect the good relationship between Yoruba and Igbo,” he said.
“Over the years many Yoruba and Igbo families have intermarried. It is therefore very important to all men of goodwill to arrest the present situation which if not arrested may cause social unrest.
It is noteworthy that the United Kingdom, which had threatened to sanction Nigeria’s Electoral Act violators and those stoking electoral violence in the country, disclosed that there are about 10 persons already on the UK watchlist.
In a recent media interview, the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria, Ben Llewellyn-Jones, faulted a former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the ruling APC, Femi Fani-Kayode, over derogatory remarks made during the electioneering.
Last month, Fani-Kayode was invited for questioning by the Department of State Services (DSS), for claiming that the presidential flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, had a meeting with army generals before the elections.
“Yes, let’s be specific, there were some people, like Femi Fani-Kayode, what is he saying and why is he saying it? I don’t understand. It is wrong from my perspective that he will speak on behalf of a party and that party does not distance itself from him and say stop doing that. It is wrong to say that,” Llewellyn-Jones said.
Llewellyn-Jones reiterated the fact that the UK government will issue visa bans to people undermining democracy. “We have a list, we are working through our list but we don’t publish those names. I know people say we should, but we have laws, and the law prevents us from doing that. At the moment the list is between 5 and 10 and it is growing,” he added.
However, Fani-Kayode, Director, New Media sub-committee of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, in his reaction, advised the British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria to “keep his dirty nose out of our internal affairs.”
“I would advise this Ben, who I am told is the Deputy High Commissioner of the UK to Nigeria, to keep his dirty nose out of our internal affairs. Nigeria stopped being a British colony 63 years ago and we need no lessons from him on how to run our affairs or conduct our politics. And unlike most I do not need any validation or endorsement from him or his ilk and neither can I be intimidated by his veiled threat of a visa ban. Frankly I could not care less,” he said.
It is expedient to draw the attention of those stoking violence and ethnic slur to the sanctity of peace accord freely and willfully signed by the various candidates of and their political parties, which in effect compels them to keep the peace before, during, and after the elections; they are also committed to accept the results of the elections.
Blueprint, therefore, frowns on those promoting hate speech and ethnic slurs, which is a breach of the peace accord and the Electoral Act 2022, as amended. We reiterate the fact that the best democratic window open to aggrieved candidates and their political is to seek legal redress. Anything other than this is self-help and the resultant anarchy, which must be by all-meaning and patriotic Nigerians.