Celebration of Intolerance

This article’s caption may appear at first sight to be a misnomer. However, a deeper look shows its validity in today’s world. Intolerance is not just accepted by many individuals. It has gone beyond mere acceptance to the point where it is celebrated. Taking a cue from the TV show, “Orange is the new black”, intolerance is the new political virtue.

On Tuesday, 17 February 2015, there was pandemonium at APC’s campaign rally at Okrika in Rivers State. There has been sufficient media coverage of the incident, so no need to go into details of the explosions, gunshots, and destruction of vehicles and other properties. Before continuing, a look at the political scene in Rivers State would be helpful.

Rivers State, the “Treasure Base of the Nation”, has been a beehive of political activity since the state governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, decamped to APC from PDP. He took along with him 27 out of 32 legislators in the state house of assembly. The Nigerian president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is from Bayelsa State, which was carved out of Rivers State. Jonathan’s influential wife, Patience, is a native of Okrika in Rivers State. It is easy to see why there is so much interest in who governs the state.

Before Amaechi’s party-switch, he was involved in an altercation with the people of Okrika over his plan to demolish the waterfronts in Port Harcourt (the bulk of the waterfronts are in the “Okrika part of Port Harcourt”). A number of persons saw him as a belligerent person with a draconian plan. The first lady, Patience, stepped into the fray as an Okrika woman, and the bad blood got worse.

The 2015 gubernatorial elections in Rivers State is basically a contest between APC’s Dakuku Peterside, backed by Amaechi, and PDP’s Nyesom Wike, backed by Patience. The bad blood that has been festering in the state has now entered the campaigns.

Back to the violence in Okrika. A radio station aired a statement by a PDP member claiming that the violence was caused by “cultists from tertiary institutions…” Even a dumb person would promptly recognise the stupidity of such a statement. How can cultists in a Port Harcourt institution, move their fight to Okrika, coincidentally, on the same day as the APC rally, and choose the rally venue as their battleground. It defies logic.

As Patrick Obahiagbon would say, “It is audible to the deaf, and visible to the blind”, that the violence in Okrika was purely political. What else would be expected from pungent bad blood? APC had earlier scheduled a rally in Okrika. That rally (January 24, 2015) was botched because of gunshots and destruction of equipment very early in the morning of that day. The handwriting appeared to be clear from some people in Okrika, “We don’t want your rally here”.

That is intolerance in its most sadistic form. No matter what Amaechi may have done to offend the Okrika people, or that it is Patience’s hometown, intolerance should have been disposed of, as it has no place in the murky waters of politics. If the majority of Okrikans really support PDP (as is repeatedly asserted); a nobler approach would have been to allow APC to hold its rally, and then “disgrace” APC at the polls.

The most alarming thing about the violence is that a number of persons actually support it. I have met some persons who even wish that certain APC leaders were killed in the fracas in order to send a bloody message to the others, people who wish that more cars and houses belonging to APC members should have been destroyed. These ones have turned a sad affair into a celebration.

The huge clashing egos are not ready for a ceasefire. On the day of the incident, I posted this on Facebook:

“Once again my community boils! I wonder when these people would realise that political violence does not help anyone. Killing and destroying in the name of PDP or APC would only create more bad blood that would fester for years. This evening many families would weep when details of the dead and injured become public, not counting the burnt vehicles and houses. All to what end? Just so some persons would say they kept one party from holding a rally, or the others would say they wanted to forcefully hold the rally to prove a needless point.”

Now, I am hearing that APC still plan to hold a rally in Okrika. It is as if that rally must hold or the world would end. I wonder what assurances may have been given by the security agencies.

Please no one should get me wrong. I am not saying it is right to give in to violent persons who seek to limit your moves. I am just saying that, “Wisdom is profitable to direct”. Is a campaign rally worth the blood of any APC (or PDP) supporter? While the PDP and APC continue their weird dance, the people suffer.

This is a pitiful mess — bedlam involving a clash of egos spiced with intolerance. What a deadly recipe!

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