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Column: Guns Have No Place For Elections In Southern Taraba

Last week several media platforms including this paper reported that two vehicles laden with arms and ammunition were apprehended at the Ibi River crossing by alert and vigilant military personnel.  

The military authorities who purportedly carried out the arrest have neither confirmed nor denied the veracity of the report. There have also been denials about ownership of the vehicles and indeed the arms allegedly found. 

In the midst of the uncertainties surrounding the report what should concern us most is the issue of guns and other lethal weapons in the 2023 elections.  

Guns have no place in elections. Elections are a civic exercise which is one of the pillars of democracy. It is an exercise in which people freely and fairly chose their leaders based on their understanding and preference for such leaders. As such, elections should be allowed to be conducted peacefully and without intimidation of any kind.  

Leaders who put themselves out for elections and who believe they are popular do not have to use guns to coerce people to vote for them. The people are the sovereign and that is why democracy places high premium on free choice by the people which underscores the legitimacy of the process.  

If the people are allowed to exercise their freedom to choose their leaders then the result is a genuine democratic outcome where such leaders are subjected to the sovereignty of the people who elected them. Where leaders however emerge through intimidation and coercive means, what we have then is an outcome that does not reflect the wishes of the people and such cannot stand the test of democracy.  

As the election season is in full swing now we can see the tempo of political activities heightening in Taraba state and indeed the country at large. This is the stage in which candidates vying for various offices are making their pitch to woo the voters. It is to be expected that in this process aspirants may want to employ strategies and tactics to get the upper hand over their opponents. This is normal and should be expected as longas it stays within the bounds of law and order.  

But to seek to introduce ways and means that are outside the bounds permitted by law in order to get over an opponent is undemocratic and immoral to say the least. 

It is against this background that the reported importation of guns purportedly to be used for the elections should alarm us all and be condemned.  

For the past decade southern Taraba has been convulsed in sectarian crises which have claimed hundreds of lives and destruction of properties and livelihoods. We have all suffered from these unfortunate developments which have traumatised the psyche of our people. Apart from the physical scars which are visible, the psychological scars which are embedded in our hearts and spirits will take long to heal if at all.  

The wounds of the crises are yet to heal and although normalcy has returned, we still need to sustain this and not stoke it up once again. 

The coming elections should not be seen as an avenue to threaten the peace we are now enjoying. It should be about aspirants, candidates and political parties telling the electorate what they have done if they have records of such or what they intend to do. It should be all about issue based campaigns to sell ideas and programmes.  

And that is what our people want to hear from the aspirants and their political parties. And there are many issues that require attention in this regard.  

There is the issue of unifying our people and building peace through constructive engagements. Our zone needs healing from the wounds of the sectarian crises that have occurred in the immediate past. We need to build the confidence of our people to see that the future can be bright for all of us if we do the necessary things that bring sustained peace in our communities. 

We also need to place emphasis on Educating our teeming youths to enable them acquire skills that will make them useful to themselves and society. This will help them develop the confidence necessary to face the future and contribute their quotato the development of our zone. 

We all know that southern Taraba is the bedrock of education in Taraba state and it is the foundation laid by our long gone elders that has given us this edge. We cannot afford to let their labours go in vain. The key to the continued development of our area certainly lies in sustaining that legacy. 

There is also need to reviving the lost glory of our agriculture. Our area used to be one of the prominent agricultural produce area of northern Nigeria if not Nigeria as a whole. That is one of the reasons why Ibbi and Donga became prominent interior river ports carrying the rich agricultural harvest and produce of this area for export.  

We need to also harness the resources that our rivers have; fishes, irrigation etc. Properly harnessed this not just a gold mine in terms of the revenue to be earned but has the potential to provide energy and employment opportunities to many.  

These are some of the major areas that should engage the attention of our aspirants and political parties. Our aspirants should spend their time and resources providing answers to these areas of need by our people and dialoguing with them on how these can be achieved.  

These are the issues begging for attention, not guns. As we can see, guns have no place in these. Guns can only exacerbate our problems and leave us with more scars which will take us backwards,  

Rather than dialogue with the voters using guns, it is better and more productive to engage them constructively in tackling our issues collectively as a people. 

A leader who believes that the only way he can get the people to vote for him is by using guns to intimidate them is only admitting that he is not a leader and does not deserve their votes. And in this regard, he cannot be called a democrat.  

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