The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has raised alarm over the rising tension and lawlessness as the election campaigns and contests gather pace, warning that if unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale.
In a statement tagged “Hate speech and violence will be our death,” signed by its Secretary General Muritala Aliyu, the ACF said that in spite of the life-threatening challenges arising from lack of security and the growing economic crises, there are desperate political leaders and other self-appointed community champions that will not hesitate to add more fuel to the fire.
“Shamefully, most are driven by blind ambition or plain hatred. No one can fail to notice the alarming rise of tension and lawlessness as the election campaigns and contests gather pace. There are reports that some politicians are engaging thugs and violent individuals to attack their opponents, spreading terror and fear everywhere.
“Of much greater concern, however, is the resort to hate speech, insults, and threats of violence being issued by the political leaders, including by state governors.” They seem to be pathetically unaware that the distance between hate speeches and violence, even genocide, is a very short one.
“Hate speech, for whatever reason, covers many forms of expression, but all incite, promote, or justify hatred, violence, and discrimination against an individual or group of people. It poses grave dangers to the unity and stability of a democratic society, the protection of human rights, and the rule of law. Unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale. ”
It pointed out that the apology offered by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State was a relief, adding that the governor’s hostile comments on Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, dominated discussion in the country for much of last week.
The Forum, which said the Electoral Act as amended, and for good reasons, prescribed heavy punishment for infractions such as this, said the fact that hate speeches and acts of violence and aggression are rife in this campaign season can only mean that the laws are not being enforced.
According to the Forum, this hasn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that the National Assembly has so far chosen not to enact the law that will see the birth of the Electoral Offenses Tribunal.
The Arewa Consultative Forum further stated that INEC has a responsibility to act and enforce the Electoral Act as amended and therefore advised the Commission to impose the harshest punishment possible on politicians who think achieving their personal ambitions is more important than national peace and harmony.
It therefore called on leaders at whatever level to exercise restraint in their utterances to enable the country to have a peaceful election and transition to the next government.