One of the Nigeria’s outstanding journalists working for a respected media house in Nigeria, this morning via my Twitter handle requested that I tell him my sincerest position on the issue above. Talking to him later on phone, I understood why he commands that huge international reputation and I came to this conclusion because throughout our engagement he reminded me to put off my ideological inclination and political interest and speak from a position of a neutral political writer.
He almost rendered me neutralized. I asked him why that insistence that was where he surprised me with quotes from some my write-ups I posted on my Twitter handle and published by some of our news portals. Before I go off board, let me post here what I finally wrote to my friend which is going to be published in his paper.
The term vigilante from my research is Spanish origin and means “watchman” or “guard”. If we connect it to Latin, then it has something to do with “vigil,” “awake” or observant. The other interpretations we must also capture in our discussion are “stranglers” “mobs” etc. People continue to give different interpretations and descriptions to these groups depending on their modus operandi, so far no precise definition can readily capture the operations and character of these groups.
But if I may ask, is the name and description we’ve put on these groups rightly appropriate? Vigilantism became a model in America’s socio- political activities and at a point their activities created serious tension at places they operated they hanged people and the country’s bloodiest vigilante movement took control of Montanana from 1863 to 1865 and repeated in 1884.
The situation in KwaZulu Natal is another example to guide us. How vigilantism and political violence became a daily occurrence in KwaZulu Natal is another clear example of how uncontrolled vigilante groups could be deadly.
You cannot detach politics from this issue Nigeria has had its share and still going though challenges caused by emergence of these vigilante groups. Nigeria has seen many secession attempts and interest groups and politicians use these groups to advance their agenda.
The statement issued by the United Nations condemning and cautioning the Government of Ghana over this vigilante issue is enough a reason to support my assertion that politics and vigilantism at the scale we seeing now are intertwined.
The statement touched seriously on the likely effect of this phenomenon on our democracy and the fact that a teething democracy is likely to suffer challenges and possibly collapse if vigilantism is allowed to thrive. I am a politician and have my interest when it comes to our everyday political discourse and activities but my interest will remain genuinely protected if I stand up strongly against activities which could end this beautiful dispensation. My reasons for linking the current happening to politics are as follows
1.In all democracies, one core component all parties and citizens protect and do that judiciously and at times aggressively, is the right to vote and making sure that all eligible voters are offered the needed space and protection to elect their leaders via the ballot box without unnecessary interruptions and intimidation. Some members of the Delta Force who spoke after that unfortunate incident, said they offered special support to the NPP which contributed to the party’s victory and threatened were going to join the NDC and offer them same support. What support if I may ask.
The problem started mildly, these guys started attacking citizens at polling stations, stood shoulder to shoulder with our security operatives and exhibited impunity at the highest order. The Government at the time treated the issue with extreme care and tactfully to avoid escalation of the situation and branding of the administration as brutish. Whether that approach was the best and appropriate approach is another issue and will state my position in my subsequent article.
2.With the protection of the ballot box in mind, the NDC will not sit idle for its opponent to use unconventional methods to perpetuate violence on its members and voters in general. Van Den Haag in one of his thesis wrote, “In tyranny, civil disobedience is justifiable for a Democrat” Civil disobedience is a public protest against a law or policy regarded as morally wrong for all.
What we likely to see if the government doesn’t act assertively on this issue, is the formation of many of such groups by the opposition parties and when the situation becomes uncontrollable, the likely product we shall all painfully put into our basket would be intervention by the military something we all pray should never repeat itself in this great nation. I don’t think our clergy and others religious leaders are waiting for citizens to run to their churches and mosques for safety.
The phenomenon did not start today and it will interest you to know that some religious leaders use some of these thugs as their bodyguards and use them to intimidate their opponents during elections for leaders for our religious bodies. This is how deeply rooted this concept has permeated into our society. Traditional leaders use them in their land and stools litigations etc but we all treated the phenomenon with some kind of pretentious posturing.
As we speak, the security outfits of the nation which has been beefed up with the creation of more outlets have been overpowered by these vigilante groups, the President himself is caged, leadership of the ruling party in general is under the fit of these hoodlums which is gradually making the country a banana republic.