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POLITICAL VIOLENCE AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN AKWA IBOM STATE
1.1 Background of the Study
The history of Nigeria has been characterized by a variety of political violence, socio economic development problems in Nigeria could be attributed to the coercions, imposition and tradition brought together by colonial era (Udokang 2006).
However, apart from these traditional, leadership problem, ethnic crisis as well as living standard of the people have been identified as the causes of political violence. Development thrives enabling environment devoid of violence of any form, as no nation has ever sustained development in an atmosphere of political tension.
Consequently, violence is usually accompanied with wanton loss of lives, public instability, infrastructural destruction among others, while socio-economic development contributed to the advancement an improvement in the standard of living, increase in the life expectancy of the people, perhaps no nation can survive a test of time when it’s drown in the menace of violence and no nation can actually develop under the prevalence of crisis, violence and upheavals.
Therefore, in order for a nation to have a bit of development, it should do away with a violent like attitudes. However, political violence is a form of violent relations which has incompatibility of interest goals and ambitions between individual groups as political structures, in the process of attaining power and keeping it. To put differently, political violence emanate when elections are conducted. This action is usually accompanied with various act of violence in Nigeria which is not usually the same in advanced countries of the world.
Election violence refers to the use of threat or force against an opponent within the context of electoral competition for state power. It is inhibitive of democratic transition and consolidation. Acts of electoral violence include murder, arson, abduction, assault, rioting, seizing and destruction of electoral materials and psychological intimidation (Ademika 2011).
The Nigeria politics runs deep on the fault line of ethnicity, region and religion, virtually every part of the country has memories of injuries or feeling of injustice, which they often feel will be best addressed if one of their own wield power at the center preferably as the president. This perception raises fear among other geo-political zones as the feeling that the president will abuse the power of his office to the advantage and privilege of his region, ethnic groups and regions at the detriment of others, all these sentiments are always whipped up making the electoral process in Nigeria acrimony as violent (Adibe 2015).
Political scientists, as development theorists linked free, fair and credible elections to democratic governance, peace and development. In brief they opined that free, fair and credible election provide the basis for the emergence of domestic, accountable and legitimate government with the capacity to initiate and implement clearly articulated development programs (Ofii and Uzodi 2012). Before the attainment of Independence in 1960, Nigeria had recorded myriads of violence chiefly among them is political violence. The problem however could be traced to 1922 when the first election was conducted. Violence has done no nation any good as earlier observed rather its marks remain inextricable.
In the pre-colonial time, many of the traditional village democracy that was practiced in socio geo-political environment has the needed popular support of the electorate and the citizens at large. consequently the history of modern democracy in Nigeria is chequered with one form of violence and another. This according to Nweke (2006) the emergence of political violence is source through the nature of party formation which was ethno regionally based.
This was followed by the regionalization of Nigeria as created by Richard constitution of 1946 Anu and Uwanaju (2011) wrote that at Independence, political conflict over the center state of nation building. In Nigeria and it’s multiplication effect gave birth to the factor that led to Nigeria civil war of 1967-1970. Human right watch revealed that the recent post presidential election violence claimed lives. Since no nation can survive under sanction of continuing violence and socio-economic development in Nigeria using Akwa Ibom as a case study.
The impact of election violence on the sustainable development of a society will be better understood if situated within the context of the nature of the political economy of the Nigeria society. The state in Nigeria plays a dominant role in the socio-economic and infrastructural development of the society. Going by this expanded oil revenue of early 1970s, the state effectively dominated all aspects of the economy (Jega 2000:30). This made the state not only the biggest spender of resources but also the largest employer of labour. As a facilitator and financer of the socio-economic development, any attempt bythe state to divert attention, resources and energy into something else such as resettlement of those displaced by such violence as the unending legal proceedings at the election petition tribunal will supposedly distract the state from pursuing meaningful projects that will benefit the people, in the same vein sustainable development will be thwarted if the infrastructural facilities on ground increasingly become targets by mobs protecting the outcome of election result as when the state channels most of its resources towards maintaining peace and order after election. The incidence of political related violence in Nigeria is so high that if it is not curbed would lead to Nigeria being classified as a “fill state”. One of the major setbacks to development in Nigeria is insecurity occasioned by political violence. A country suffering from political violence lacks peace and without peace development cannot be sustained even if it is achieved.
Internal threat to national security is therefore a serious threat to national development. In the past few years, Nigeria has witnessed intense political challenges which have crippled economic, political, social, technological and cultural progress in the country as well as Architecture. Nigeria is not however the only country in the world that faces political violence. Other countries both developing and developed also faces security threats, the nations of the world only differs in the strategies employed to contain political violence and security threat.
A combination of factors are responsible for the growing security threats brought about by political violence in Nigeria, principally, injustice in high places fuel the fire of political violence in Nigeria and with insecurity the crime rate and other social vice keeps increasing. This explain why Albinum (2012) argued that within the last few years, heightened political in Nigeria has arguably fuelled the crime rate leading to unpalatable consequences for the nation economic growth. The crawling pace of development in Nigeria since 1999 when the country returned to civil rule is attributable to sustained political tensions and security threats, the abysmal failure of successive administration to address these threats leads to their multiplication as the years go by.
Okechukwu (2013) rightly captures the painful security situation triggered by political violence in Nigeria.when he asserts that “The specter of insecurity prevalent in the country hunts and taunt the distraught Nigeria populace”. He argued that healthcare has continue to fall short of the public expectation which brazen corruption remains a hydra headed monster which stall the Nigeria system.
The roles of hate speech, ethnicity and region was central to the 2019 general election in Nigeria, essentially the elections created “mobilization gaps” built around religion and ethnicity. These factors shaped the pre and post-election periods and divisions between ethnic groups associated with incumbent regime (in group) and other ethnic group (out groups). This triggered widespread inter group mistrust and insecurity which have conduced into post-election appointments along primordial lines like regime regions and ethnicity.
Consequently, political inclusion and national integration have become elusive despite the emphasis of goal N10.2 of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development on political inclusion of everyone irrespective of race and ethnicity post-election appointments have been divisible democratization of politics in the panacea for political tension in Nigeria.
Adamu (2015) also described the post-election scenario in Nigeria as being dominated by allegations of rigging, incidents of criminality, and litigations over eection results in an increasing charged atmosphere, the preponderance of political criminality and violence in general, give and impression that “Nigeria can never run a successful democracy” (This day, April 7, 2003 cited in Adebanwu 2004:336), Orfi and Uzodi, (2012) captures this better when they assert that “results in Nigeria elections comes in two separate columns one records the votes cast at polling stations the other the number of people killed around the time of the election”.
For the Nigerian ruling class, development is synonymous with personal enrichment as the use of state power for this process has been theoretically and practically accepted by them. Once state power is achieved it and for their supporters, friends, members of their families, concubines, cronies, countries, government praise singers. The emergence of corruption and political manipulation is due to the absence of an independent and creative ruling class of the type that brought the industrial revolution to the western world and Japan or even this self-disciplined and sacrificial type that engineered self-sustained growth in Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore (Nnoil 1993).
The present malady of Nigeria is fiscal federalism, cannot categorically be expected from the structural defects inherent in the economy after independence in 1960, and the subsequent development in the political economy (Onwiodiukit 2019).