The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has urged political leaders to guard their utterances.
While warning against hate speech, the body noted that if not checked, it could lead to violence, even genocide in the country.
In a statement Sunday, ACF Secretary General Murtala Aliyu lamented the alarming rate of tension and lawlessness as campaigns build up, saying “they could spread terror and fear across the country if unchecked. He however called on leaders at all levels to exercise restraint in their utterances to enable us have a peaceful election and transition to the next government.”
“Although Nigeria is already facing severe life threatening challenges arising from lack of security and the growing economic crises, it would seem that there are many 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 persons to attack their opponents, spreading terror and fear everywhere. Of much greater concern 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 danger to the unity and stability of a democratic society, protection of human rights and the rule of law. Unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale.
“We were relieved to hear Governor Samuel Ortom’s apology following his outburst in this regard. 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 Electoral Act as amended and for good reasons prescribed heavy punishment for infractions such as this. 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.
“This hasn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that the National Assembly has chosen so far not to enact the law that will see to the birth of the Electoral Offenses Tribunal.
“INEC has a responsibility to act and enforce the Electoral Act as amended. It should impose the harshest punishment possible on politicians who think achieving their personal ambitions is more important than national peace and harmony. Such persons are unfit for any form of leadership at whatever level.”
Tinubu on INEC statement
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has accused two leading opposition parties of masterminding the fake press statement credited to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) against him.
Tinubu said the forged statement purportedly issued by INEC was disseminated to deceive the gullible public that INEC was investigating allegations of drug trafficking in the United States of America (USA) against him that, they desperately hoped, will ultimately lead to his disqualification from the presidential race.
INEC had issued a counter statement denying an earlier one which went viral at the weekend.
But reacting to the development through a statement signed Sunday in Abuja by the Director, Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Bayo Onanuga, Tinubu called on the police to investigate the circulation of the forged INEC statement and serve justice to those responsible.
The statement said the two top parties “having realized they have no sure path to victory in the February 2023 presidential election upped their campaign of calumny, disinformation and misinformation on Saturday by sponsoring fake news against the All Progressive Congress Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu .
“They did it by forging the letterhead of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the signature of its national commissioner, Festus Okoye.
“We are not in any way surprised by the antics of the sinking opposition parties. What we found shocking was how quickly some compromised media organizations gulped the falsehood, hook, line and sinker, without attempting to verify.
“We understand why they did so: the forgery and its narrative fit their mindset of throwing overboard every known virtue of ethical journalism and professionalism, as they work in cahoots with the opposition to defame Asiwaju Tinubu.
“This inglorious path has been taken before since 2003 and in the run-up to the primaries of the ruling APC that produced Asiwaju Tinubu as the presidential torch bearer. Those who took this damned path of infamy lost their bet because Asiwaju Tinubu stands rock solid and indestructible.
“Our candidate has consistently said he will make this campaign about issues that affect the lives of Nigerians and how to proffer workable and enduring solutions that will improve quality of life of our people who are looking for leaders at all levels to improve their lives and sow the seeds of prosperity in our country.
“He has demonstrated this resolve by publishing an 80-page manifesto tagged Action Plan for a Better Nigeria, which he has been selling to strategic sectoral groups in the country.
“We had hoped anyone aspiring to lead our country at this time will be a natural subscriber to this noble and higher goal.
“It is clear the opposition parties and purveyors o3to make this election cycle more about muckraking and mudslinging.”
While warning those he called agents of disinformation, the statement said: “That our campaign organization stands ready to confront and fight all libelous and defamatory publications against Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“We shall no longer allow the prevailing recklessness and utter disregard for professional judgment to continue unchallenged.
“We also call on the police to investigate the circulation of the forged INEC statement and serve justice to those responsible.”
Okechukwu on PDP crisis
In a related development, Director-General of Voice of Nigeria Osita Okechukwu has said that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s move to reconcile with Governor Nyesom Wike’s group in the Peoples Democratic Party is concerned.
Okechukwu said this when he responded to a statement by Atiku that the ruling APC was a contraption of Bola Tinubu’s party, Action Congress of Nigeria, and President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change.
He claimed the ‘contraption’ would collapse after its defeat in the 2023 general election.
In a statement in Abuja titled, “Atiku’s attempt to reconcile with Wike-G-5 -Masquerade is related by headwinds”, the APC chieftain described Atiku’s statement as hallucination and medicine after death.
Replying the former VP on his claim that the APC would lose, he said: “Is it not an express loss of memory for His Excellency who was a member of the new PDP that joined in the formation of the APC, to attempt to rewrite history in pursuit of his presidential ambition?”
Okechukwu said it would be unfair and unpatriotic to the southern part of the country for any northerner to think of presiding over the country after the tenure of Buhari, a fellow northerner, in May 2023.
“This is one of the major headwinds that are blocking his puerile reconciliation with Wike-G-5-Masquerade. Atiku is a foremost beneficiary of the rotation convention in 2018, during the PDP’s presidential primary in Port Harcourt, which Wike hosted. It’s trite law that he who comes to equity will come with clean hands,” he said.
On PDP crisis, he said: “How can he wage a proxy political war against the Bauchi governor? News filtered that Atiku questioned his temerity not to step down like Governor Aminu Tambuwal. This is one of the headwinds which will make reconciliation impossible.
“Thus the movement of the Wike-G-5-Masquerade northwards is afloat, obviously sounding the death knell for Atiku’s ambition.
“Methinks Wike-G-5-Masquerade, which is frantically chasing Atiku because of his infidelity to the south and the PDP constitution, which is the breach of power rotation between north and south; is driving him into a state of delusion. For the other day, in Arewa Summit, he admonished the north not to vote for Yoruba or Igbo, an unpresidential goof and, in the present instance, distorting the genesis and capacity of the APC.”
“Ironically, whilst Atiku is de-marketing the APC as if he has no baggage, the Wike-G-5’s masquerade is extending its fangs northwards the unintended consequence is definitely erosion of Atiku’s victory.
“If Atiku cannot unite his party, curb Peter Obi’s widespread erosion of PDP’s support base nationwide and design how to pick the remaining votes from Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso’s dominance in Kano, how can he win?” the party chieftain further added.