YOur Life is imoortant be careful and vigilant wherever you go to exercise your civic responsibility.People are going to die from Election violence . You shall not be one of them .
MUDIAGA AFFE writes that though Nig.e.rians, more than before, are committed to free and fair elections, security still remains a source of concern for them.
With barely five days to the long-awaited April general elections, security challenges from various groups, including the Boko Haram and the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, still remain major obstacles to the peaceful conduct of the 2011 poll.
In the last count, about 100 persons might have lost their lives and so many others injured as a result of either bomb explosions, politically influenced killings or even stampede like the case of Port Harcourt, all in the build up to the conduct of the April elections.
Prior to the October 1, 2010 bomb blast at the Eagles Square in Abuja, for which MEND claimed responsibility, the killings in Jos , Maiduguri and other parts of the North by the Boko Haram had shown that the police and other security agencies had a lot of challenges to ensure that the Aril poll was peaceful.
Following the last threat by MEND warning Nigerians to steer clear of political gatherings in Lagos, Abuja and Niger Delta, officials of the State Security Service had noted that there were three major danger signs on the road to successful general elections next month.
Specifically, the SSS narrowed the threats to include the leader of MEND, Mr. Henry Okah, who is facing trial in South Africa over the October 1, 2010 bomb blasts in Abuja; extremist Islamic sects, like the Boko Haram; illegal and importation of arms.
Just as the SSS raised some issues over security threat, the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Hafiz Ringim, also called on Nigerians to be more vigilant in their daily activities.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr. Olusola Amore, said though Nigerians should not buy the threat, they should be more security conscious in their day-to-day activities.
The threat, he said, could cause panic among the populace, adding that security agencies were already collaborating in order to make sure that Nigerians were safe wherever they were.
But the SSS Director-General, Mr. Ita Ekpenyong, has said illegal arms shipments into the country also posed great threats to the success of the polls.
Ekpenyong, who spoke who at a National Summit on Free and Fair Elections in Abuja last week, however, noted that despite the flawed nature of past elections, Nigerians had high expectations for the coming elections and want it to be free, fair and credible.
He said the SSS had a clear and compelling duty to ensure that the elections were held in a peaceful and secure environment not only in the interest of the nation, but that of the service since, credible elections and democracy ultimately result in good security outcomes.
The SSS boss identified ethnicity, the media, religion, political parties and political violence as some factors militating against free, fair and credible elections.
Speaking on other worrisome developments Ekpenyong said, "Other trends in the polity with potentials to adversely impact on the hitchfree conduct of the April 2011 general elections include: Threat posed by extremist Islamic sects, particularly the Boko Haram, which has resumed hostilities and is poised to disrupt the April polls.
"Threat by militant groups, particularly the one led by Henry Okah, mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bomb blasts in Abuja, who has declared intentions to make the country ungovernable; and
"Illegal arms shipment and smuggling, especially the recent shipment from Iran, the foregoing developments coming just before the April poll, call for security concern with practical steps taken or measures emplaced to forestall, contain and neutralise anticipated, emerging and prevailing threats to the electoral process."
Assessing public perception towards the ongoing electoral process, the SSS boss said, "A gauge of the political environment in the build-up to the 2011 general elections reveals as follows: That Nigerians hold steady in their commitment to democratic system, though they are quite discouraged about the performances of democracy, particularly since 1999.
"That most Nigerians view the past elections of 1999, 2003 and 2007 as seriously flawed, but they hold higher expectations for the 2011 general elections; and that the conduct and credibility of the 2011 elections will have a significant impact on popular views of the Nigerian political system, especially citizens' willingness to look at elections as a vehicle of policy change."
Ekpenyong went further, "In light of the foregoing, it is clear that elections and democracy remain the core of nation building. Nations are stable, secure and successful only to the extent of the depth and vitality of their democratic institutions and practice, which is evidenced in the regular conduct of credible elections.
"Notwithstanding Nigeria's famous electoral past, current indicators are positive. Aside the across board acceptance of the new Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, there is an overwhelming national consensus on the imperative of conducting credible elections in 2011.
"If this critical national goal is achieved, then it is assessed that the new set of elected leaders will be connected with the electorate and are thus envisaged to be more accountable and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people."
However, the Coordinator of the Ijaw Media Forum, Mr. Asu Beks, disagreed; saying the Police, SSS and other security agencies had not worked together as one to address the security challenges in the country.
He also said what is referred to as MEND today might be the handiwork of some politicians in order to create the impression that President Goodluck Jonathan is not capable of addressing the security challenges in the country.
He said, "The MEND that we all know which has been part of the struggle in the Niger Delta will not be talking about causing disaffection by frightening the electorate a few days to the conduct of the April elections when the first ever President from the Niger Delta is contesting. This definitely is not MEND because I have a feeling that some politicians from a particular section of the country are using the name of the group to create the impression that President Goodluck Jonathan cannot be in charge and is not in charge.
"However, we cannot dismiss the threat as security agencies are advised to be on top of it to make sure that people will be free to exercise their civic rights.
"Again, we will still need to restructure the country because there is so much injustice in the system. This is so because some people from a particular part of the country believe that it is their birth-right to produce the President of Nigeria and to them, if the President is not from their part of the country, there will be no peace. That is why you see some groups being used under the name of MEND. There has not really been MEND since the amnesty deal was embraced.
"Unfortunately too, we have security agencies who have not worked in synergy. The SSS, Police and Directorate of Military Intelligence want to take individual credit for whatever breakthrough they have. So, when they attend their normal National Security meeting with the National Security Adviser, they do not put on the table all the information that they have because they want to take credit individually.
"It is also bad that we do not invest in information management which is a vibrant panacea for security management. The police and all other agencies should development new ways of gathering information and processing it to achieve what they want. They are not proactive. "
Also reacting to the latest threat, the Congress for Progressive Change said it was a shame that an organisation like MEND would take Nigeria up and tear it to shreds, declaring that the threat would not in any way stop its candidates from continuing with the ongoing electioneering in the country.
Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Fashakin, the party said, "We will continue with our campaigns, and security will be the number one item on our agenda. The Peoples Democratic Party has failed the nation. It has made us prostrate and a laughing stock among nations of the world."
The party alleged that while the Department of State Security Service was hounding innocent politicians in pursuit of the agenda of the Peoples Democratic Party, MEND had carried on with impunity.
It said, "In Suleja, after the explosions, one of our candidates has been held by the SSS, but they cannot stop MEND. It shows the level of incompetence of the SSS. We don't even know if our candidate is alive or dead. The whole game plan is to keep him from circulation so that he will not reach out to the people to campaign."
The CPC said the SSS had not been able to penetrate and disband MEND that gave warnings about its attacks, but it went after ordinary Nigerians.
The National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said the Federal Government had adopted a wrong approach in dealing with MEND.
Mohammed said the threat had made everyone in the country a 'sitting duck,' adding that even though MEND should not be glorified; the Federal Government should be more proactive about the issue.
The ANPP spokesman, Mr. Emma Enukwu, expressed fears that MEND if not checked could scuttle the April elections.
He explained, "What can ANPP do if PDP that is running the government cannot stop MEND? It shows that the government cannot guarantee safe elections. If they can blow up pipelines, nothing is impossible. I, however, appeal that MEND should shun violence. What the members of the group need to do is vote in credible leaders that will solve all the challenges we have."Much as stakeholders have expressed concerns over the conduct of the April poll, the ability of the security agencies to be proactive would help ameliorate the panic that already exists in the polity.
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