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Nigeria’s macabre museum of political assassinations

It indicts Nigeria’s democracy and crime-fighting capabilities that every election year, Nigerians are killed with little or no consequences.

The discovery of the lifeless body of Dons Udeh, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance(APGA) in the just concluded governorship in Enugu State is yet another cadaver in Nigeria’s macabre museum of political assassinations.

As the 2023 general elections approached in Nigeria, tension gripped Enugu, particularly the Ebeano political confraternity. The source of the tension was Peter Obi. His Labour Party (LP) and the boisterous Obidient movement derided as structure-less suddenly threatened the power structures of the ‘coal city’.

By the time the 25 February presidential and National Assembly elections neared, Oyibo Chukwu, the Senatorial Candidate of the Labour Party for the Enugu East Senatorial District and the major challenger to the stranglehold of Chimaraoke Nnamani, in the Enugu East Senatorial District had been shot dead and burnt to ashes. His death continued Enugu’s politics of death, one played on pyres, instead of podiums on which the interests of the Enugu people are dissected and deliberated.

It is doubtful that anything would come from the police investigation into Oyibo’s death. But whether Nigeria’s notoriously dilatory police investigations unearth Oyibo’s killers or not, some measure of justice has already been served to the dead and the living. On 18 March 2023, Kevin Oyibo, who replaced his deceased brother, crushed Nnamani to dust to win the election.

It indicts Nigeria’s democracy and crime-fighting capabilities that every election year, Nigerians are killed with little or no consequences. A key reason for this is the impunity and even levity with which instances of political assassinations are treated. It is scandalous that Nigeria has only given scant attention to what is a recurrent problem.

In 2001, Bola Ige, a serving Attorney-General of the Federation and Nigeria’s Minister of Justice was felled by the bullets of assassins in Ibadan the Oyo State Capital. Until this day, his killers are yet to be brought to book.

In the build-up to the 2007 governorship election in Lagos State, Funso Williams who was favourite to clinch the seat, was strangled to death in his house in an exclusive area of Lagos where such a heinous crime should have been near impossible. His killers remain free until this day.

The list goes on to lament what Nigeria has become as political differences have become deadly, spilling more blood in what is already a blood-drenched country. The long list of Nigeria’s unaccounted dead is a feeder for the insecure universe that Nigeria has become under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari. But the restless ghosts rising from political graveyards to relentlessly haunt Nigeria make a far more damaging dent in the political landscape of the country.

It is common knowledge that many Nigerians believe that politics is a dirty game. This belief, flawed as it may be has driven the do-or-die approach and the corrosive culture of apathy many Nigerians adopt when the subject is politics. This has led to a situation where politics in Nigeria has become synonymous with vice and violence.

This situation has damaged the Nigerian political experience, sharpening in the process the knives that are used to chastise Nigerians whenever elections come around. The many unsolved riddles of death which endlessly embarrass Nigeria reinforce a culture of election-related deaths that stalk Nigeria sapping the country of life expectancy and adding to mounting distress. This simply cannot be allowed to continue.

The same impunity that pervades Nigeria cannot escape blame in this case. It is one, the authorities in Nigeria have tried in vain to fix, even if the political will is questionable. Unfailingly, Dons Udeh’s killers must be uncovered. His death, tragic as it is, cannot be allowed to become another unsolved murder in Nigeria’s long list of unsolved political murders.

But beyond fishing out his killers and solving the crime, which will be a little more than bolting the barn door after the horse has bolted given that a party chieftain and family man has been brutally killed, measures must be put in place to secure lives and property in Nigeria.

As Buhari prepares to leave Aso Rock for the last time, it remains painfully shameful that Nigeria would remember his eight years in power as a time when insecurity ate away at what was left of a thoroughly tormented country. ◆

Kene Obiezu is an Alor, Anambra-state-born lawyer and writer. He believes in the power of words to instruct as well as construct.

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