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Bombing our politics

Jideofor Adibe

If the truth must be told, violence has always been one of the negative aspects of our political culture.  And few, if any, of the perpetrators of such violence have ever been prosecuted. The introduction of bombs into the arsenal of political violence is only a recent phenomenon. In the past few weeks alone, several explosions have rocked the nation, with MEND recently reportedly threatening to carry out a simultaneous bombing of oil installations in the Niger Delta, Lagos and Abuja.  Before the March 3, 2011 bomb blast in Suleja which claimed 10 lives and injured many people, the police averted an explosion during one of Governor Sullivan Chime’s campaigns at the Michael Okpara Square, Enugu State in February. A few weeks before, another bomb was discovered inside a culvert along Udi/Ozalla newly constructed road in the same Enugu state. There have also been a series of bomb blasts that left many people dead or maimed in Ogbia, Bayelsa State, Jos in Plateau State and Abuja, the nation’s capital. So after bombs what weapons of mass destruction will be introduced next into the matrix?  More importantly how did things get to this sorry state? And what should be done to save the citizens and the state from the ire of these purveyors of mass death?
A starting point will be to pose the question of why violence is embedded in our political culture. My personal opinion is that at the root of it all is the central and domineering role of the state in our type of societies. The centrality of the state in turn leads to an exceptionally high return from political power. In Nigeria – as in most other African countries – state power is an unparalleled tool to make and unmake, including empowering or emasculating enemies and friends. The stakes are simply too high, and when this interfaces with the ‘winner-takes-all’ type of our politics, then the struggle for state power truly becomes a ‘do- or- die’ affair. And a ‘do-or-die’ mentality is usually a precursor of violence.  In Nigeria, violence or threat of violence has become a common tool of intimidation or a continuation of political bargaining by other means.
Godfatherism could be another predisposing factor as this often turns politics into proxy wars between two or more contending godfathers. Abuse of the power of incumbency (through for instance denial of the opposition access to state-owned media and skewing the rules of the game to favour the incumbents) could also lead to generalised frustration, which could trigger violence. And as violence often begets violence, with time, there also arises a competition on who will deploy the most lethal violence.


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