Tinubu can halt this disappointing Lagos violence

decba azuka
decba azuka

As Nigeria’s former capital, its most populous city and commercial nerve centre, Lagos has always been the bastion of Nigeria’s democracy and human rights struggle. Even decades after it lost its status as the capital of Nigeria, it has continued to be the centre of resistance to bad governance and dictatorship.

However, recent acts of violence against those with different political leanings in Lagos have cast Lagos in a bad light. The government of Lagos State, led by Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress, whose party is also the ruling party at the federal level, has been accused of intolerance to opposition parties in the state. It has been alleged that the state has denied opposition parties the use of state facilities and even advertising opportunities, even when the APC in the state is allowed the use of such. The Lagos State Government has denied such accusations.

However, beyond denial, there is something the presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has not done throughout this campaign period to ensure that there is no violence in Lagos. He has not clearly and repeatedly spoken against violence. Definitely, Tinubu has never publicly directed any of his supporters to attack the opposition. But it is a known fact that all over the world, supporters of politicians read their body language and react accordingly. There are many examples.

The only reason Nigeria’s 2015 election result did not result in massive bloodshed was because it was Dr. Goodluck Jonathan that lost. Long before the election, Jonathan had repeatedly and unequivocally made it clear that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. He unambiguously asked that nobody should rig or fight on his behalf. He repeated that if he lost the election, he would accept the result. His words aligned with his actions. That sank into his supporters. His supporters did not attack his opponents in places where Jonathan had a stronghold.

Unlike the practice among Nigerian politicians, Jonathan conceded defeat even before the complete results were released. The fact that he was the incumbent president even made it more unusual in Nigeria and Africa. Reports had it that many of his kinsmen in the South-South were ready to fight against the result of the election, but the way Jonathan comported himself disarmed them and gave them no room to start any fight. How can you fight for someone who has been warning you not to fight for him?

Compare that to his challenger, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who was the candidate of the APC. In 2011 when Buhari ran against Jonathan under the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change, his words were dotted with motifs of belligerence. For example, he wielded a spear at a campaign and urged his supporters to vote and guard their votes until results were announced, and if any people stopped them, they should destroy them.

Because he spoke in Hausa, there were arguments over whether his words meant “destroy them” or “kill them.” However, such messages register fast. Furthermore, throughout the campaign, there was the narrative from Buhari that the election would be rigged. Jonathan’s convoy was attacked in parts of the North, Buhari’s stronghold.

Eventually, when results began to trickle in showing that Buhari was losing to Jonathan, violence broke out in parts of the North. The natural conclusion of his supporters was that their hero had been rigged out, even though Buhari was not popular in any state in the South and much of the North Central zone. Members of the National Youth Service Corps, who were used to conduct the election, as well as non-northerners, seen as supporters of Jonathan, were attacked and killed in parts of the North.

During the buildup to the 2015 election, the atmosphere was even worse. Buhari had earlier in 2012 warned that if the 2015 election was rigged (as the 2011 election was purportedly rigged), “by the grace of Allah, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.” Jonathan’s convoy was attacked again in the North. His campaign vehicles were burnt, his campaign offices were destroyed and his billboards were destroyed. Conversely, Buhari campaigned all through the South, including Jonathan’s home state and zone, with no attack.


Because of the fear in the land before the election, many Nigerians fled the country, while many non-northerners fled the North for fear of being attacked if Buhari lost. The fact that it was Buhari that won made the election to end without violence.

A similar scenario played out in the 2020 election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in the United States. Even though Trump was the incumbent president, he continued to say that the election would be rigged against him by the opposition. This sank into his supporters. One wonders how the opposition would have more powers to thwart an election than the incumbent. Eventually when he lost that election and votes were recounted in many areas without any evidence of fraud emerging, Trump still continued to urge his supporters not to allow the fraud to stand. They eventually mobilised and staged the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to prevent the counting of the Electoral College votes which would formalise the victory of Biden.

Something similar played out last month in Brazil following the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro by former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, better known simply as Lula. Before the 2022 election, Bolsonaro pushed the narrative that the only way he would lose was if the opposition rigged the election. After the runoff, Lula was declared the winner. Bolsonaro did not concede defeat. On January 8, his supporters unleashed mayhem on key government buildings.

The only reason the attacks on opposition has continued in Lagos is because Tinubu has not shown that he abhors it. He keeps quiet whenever it happens. Those who carry it out believe they are doing him a favour by attacking his opponents in his homestead. Those who created the saying that silence means consent had a reason for that. If the attacks were against the ideology of Tinubu, he would have been condemning them. But since the 2015 election, he has not been condemning such attacks.

Nigeria has already been divided terribly by ethnicity, religion and partisan politics. Any attempt that can be made to reduce violence in Nigeria should be explored. The recent recurring political intolerance in Lagos demeans Lagos. Lagos is called the Centre for Excellence because it tries to stand out among Nigerian states. Even though it is just a few days to the election, an honest announcement by Tinubu to his supporters to shun violence against opponents can still do the magic.

Election is not a do-or-die affair. It is the decision of the people. And those who submit themselves for elections should understand that it is service. The people choose the person they want to serve them.

Leadership is everything. Followers study the body language of their leader to know what they will do or not. Tinubu was once a victim of federal might, but the masses of Lagos stood by him all through that period. His party eventually took over at the centre while still controlling Lagos. He should not turn around to condone any attempt to harass or intimidate opposing views. A firm word and directive from Tinubu will turn things around in Lagos.