Democracy accords the people the freedom to associate and choose anybody they like freely. Intimidation and blackmail is not the language of politics. In fact, in democracy, you convert people with love and wisdom and not violence and intimidation. Emotional blackmail is another enemy of democracy. Nobody should be harassed, threatened or subjected to abuses because he expresses his political choice. Democracy cannot thrive where politicians use thugs and hatchet men to either attack you physically or attack your reputation because you choose to exercise your democratic freedom. Unless we imbibe the culture of tolerance and respect for the rights of others, our democracy may be endangered.
One is prompted to write this opinion against the background of personal abuses, vilifications and intimidations directed against former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State and others that have defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). If people were free to defect from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) without fear of harassment, why should Shekarau and others be anathematized for doing so? The PDP governors that defected to APC did so because they felt legitimately aggrieved. Therefore, if Shekarau and others that felt unfairly treated by the APC decided to leave, why should anybody incite hatred towards them?
In the First and Second Republics, were all northerners for NPC and NPN, respectively? During the Shagari administration (1979 – 1983), we had UPN, NPN, NPP, GNPP, and PRP in the north and, despite ShehuShagari being a member of the NPN, northerners were not harassed or threatened with death for not supporting the ruling party. Then why must northerners now be forced to support APC at all costs? Must anybody be forced to support a party or candidate against his freedom to express his choice?
It is not decent politics abusing people and harassing them for supporting different parties or candidates. If Shekarau and other northern leaders decide to support President Goodluck Jonathan, so be it. It is their constitutional right to do so.
The constitution does not say that every northerner must be APC supporter. There is no law that says that any northerner who doesn’t support Buhari should be emotionally blackmailed and exposed to ridicule. If no such law exists, then why must anybody defend the current situation where northern leaders who are supporting President Jonathan are subjected to harassment and personal abuses?
It is sickening to read the kind of incivilities and personal abuses being poured on Shekarau. He is being accused of “betrayal” and making a “mistake.” If former PDP governors like Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano state who used the party platform to get elected into office were not accused of “betrayal” of the north, why must Shekaraube abused for defecting to PDP after being treated shabbily? The hostility towards Shekarau is totally unjustified and oppressive.
His harassment is giving northerners a bad name. Do our people really understand the concept of multi-party system?
APC was registered as a Nigerian political party by INEC and it is, therefore, wrong for anybody to think that the opposition party is for northerners. Political parties are for all Nigerians and for that reason, every northerner is free to support any party or any candidate from any party or from any part of Nigeria. Northerners should borrow a leaf from the politicians of the South-east and South-south. Chief Ben Obi was not harassed and emotionally blackmailed by his people for supporting former Vice President AtikuAbubakar and serving as Director General of his presidential campaign in 2010.
Governor RochasOkorocha of Imo state was not harassed by the Igbos for leaving APGA for APC; Senator Chris Ngige was not harassed either for joining the APC. In the South-south, Governor RotimiAmaechi of Rivers state and former Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa state were not harassed for moving to APC and for not supporting President Jonathan’s ambition. Then why must northern Nigeria be different? APC leaders in the north must call their supporters to order before the situation gets out of hand. If mobs are allowed to harm Shekarau or any APC defector, APC leaders cannot escape criminal liability.
Soba wrote from No. 71, Panama Street, Maitama, Abuja.
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