- Category: Society
- Published on Saturday, 12 March 2011 07:33
- Written by Weekly Trust
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Ahead of the April elections, supporters of various political parties in the impending contest are destroying opponents’ billboards and posters, while also engaging each other in bloody clashes. What is the cause of the disturbing trend?
The nation’s political space had been heated up right from the time the whistle blew for the 2011 elections. The tension that has built up before the party primaries has not shimmered. As the contest date draws closer, the resentment and anger among opponents and supporters seems to be growing. Ahead of the April date, it is expressed in clashes that often leave blood and wanton destruction of property in their wake. The new strategy by supporters of aspirants and political parties appear to now include destruction of billboards and posters of opponents.
Across the states, crisis over the removal and destruction of billboards and posters of contestants are common occurrences, with aspirants and parties officials at the receiving end.
The problem seems to have a geographic slant. In the South-South and the South-East, where President Goodluck Jonthan enjoys support, there is an outcry by supporters of other presidential aspirants that the billboards and posters of their principals are being removed and replace by that of the president. In Action Congress of Nigeria-controlled states of Lagos, Ekiti, Osun and Edo, there are protests by members of other political parties that authorities are frustrating the campaign efforts of their aspirants by removing their posters in favour of ACN contestants.
In PDP-controlled North-Central zone, the crisis over billboards is not so entrenched and where it exists, it will be within aspirants jostling for positions within a state. At the presidential level, the Jonathan/Sambo billboards and posters dominate highways, or principal arterials, especially in Plateau, Niger and Kogi State. In Nasarawa and Benue states, the billboard war is between Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)’s governorship aspirant, Alhaji Tanko/General Muhammadu Buhari on the one hand and Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma/Jonathan/Sambo supporters, while Senator George Akume’s camp is bent on frustrating Governor Gabriel Suswam’s campaign efforts.
In the PDP-controlled North-West and North-East, where the popularity of opposition parties and candidates are rising, efforts by the state governments to introduce legislation banning the erection of billboards and enforcing same are met with resistance. Opposition political parties had blamed such resistance on the selective enforcement of such laws by the state governments. “There was a directive banning the display of posters and mounting of billboards so as to ensure sanity and protect the environment, but you can see the governor’s billboards and that of Jonathan/Sambo everywhere in the state,” a respondent lamented in Bauchi.
One of the casualties of the ongoing billboard wars is a Sokoto-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Abubakar Jibril, who was arrested by police and flown to Abuja over what police said was the defacing of some campaign posters of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Sheikh, who is the Chief Imam of the Farfaru Juma’at Mosque in Sokoto, was arrested with his two sons, his driver and a domestic aide.
In Zamfara State, crisis over the removal of opposition parties’ billboards and posters by the state Urban and Regional Planning Board did not lead to any arrest. ANPP’s spokesman in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Magaji said the action was orchestrated to silence the opposition. Magaji said the crack down on their bill boards and posters had even extended to localities, citing examples with Kiyawa and Nasarawa Mailayi in Birnin Magaji local government where traditional rulers were alleged to be going house-to-house ordering for removal of ANPP posters and bill boards.
Like in Zamfara, the ban on billboards in Bauch State exclude those of the governor, Isa Yuguda and President Goodluck Jonathan. The state government had, through the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on media, Sanusi Mohammed, attributed the ban on abuse and indiscriminate display of posters, which according to him is posing security problems in the state. But the ban did not go down well with opposition political parties. Director of Publicity of the ANPP gubernatorial candidate, Comrade Sabo Mohammed, had described the ban as restrictive.
Unlike in Bauchi, the Kaduna State government did not order the demolition of billboards and other campaign materials of the opposition. The onslaught against the ruling PDP started days after President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan defeated the northern consensus candidate former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the presidential primaries. Youth on motorcycles went to the Kaduna secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) where they set ablaze PDP flags and symbols in protest of the outcome of the primaries. According to Yakowa’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Reuben Buhari, the windscreens of vehicles of two serving commissioners in the state were smashed by the CPC supporters in addition to the numerous billboards and posters the CPC supporters destroyed in Murtala Mohammed Square, Kawo and other parts of the state. When contacted, Kaduna chairman of CPC, Alhaji Ahmadu Yaro did not deny the fact that the governors’ billboard and posters were destroyed during the CPC campaign in the state. “Yes, but it was the supporters of PDP that carried out the destruction, camouflaging as ours,” he said.
In Benue State, the billboard wars between the PDP and the ACN has continued unabated, causing panic among residents of the state. In Gboko Local Government, Governor Gabriel Suswam’s billboards, located at Yandev round about and Buruku Junction were destroyed by perceived ACN supporters in the wake of their clash when ACN guber candidate, Prof. Steve Ugba was alleged to have been prevented from entry into the town for a political rally. Similarly, a Jonathan/Sambo billboard at Akpehe, Abu King Shuluwa Road was defaced while another of Suswam was not spared.
In Borno State, thugs of various political parties clash over the billboards and posters of their candidates, a development which prompted the state police commissioner, Mohammed Abubakar and the commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps, John James to ban the hoisting of flags and party campaign instruments along major streets. “It is illegal for the politicians and their parties to hoist and paste flags and posters on roads and roundabouts because they make the city clumsy and dirty. We have directed them to remove them.” Though the police commissioner had issued the warning more than three weeks ago, the war has continued unabated and most of the politicians interviewed shrugged, saying this is the season for elections.
In Jigawa, the ruling party, PDP, and the opposition political parties in the state have been pointing accusing fingers at each other over the unfortunate trend. The chairman of the CPC, Alhaji Muhammad Dan-Azumi Gwagwarmaya told Weekly Trust that their billboards and flags are being pulling down by PDP supporters. Gwagwarmaya explained that, “the only problem the CPC has with the PDP in Jigawa is that of destruction of our billboards and flags across the state. Wherever we went for campaigns, we discovered that our billboards and flags were destroyed by PDP followers.” He added that the CPC will not fold its arms watching the supporters of the ruling party pulling down its facilities, saying all necessary measures would be taken by the party to bring the ugly trend to an end.
In Nasarawa State, one area the incumbent governor has taken most advantage of the opposition, is the erection of billboards. No contender has suffered this more than Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of the CPC. Hajiya Rakiya Kassim Idris, who had contested under the same platform as Al-Makura and Governor Aliyu Akwe Doma, also suffered. Rakiya’s billboards in Lafia, the state capital were damaged by a group of youths she alleged to be supporters of Doma. She made the case to police authorities in the state, but says she has not received any positive response yet. The governor’s campaigner, Senator Walid Jibrin had denied his candidate’s involvement in the defacing of Rakiya’s billboards.
Al-Makura first had an encounter with coercive state power when he erected a billboard among those of Doma, in front of Government House. The Nasarawa State Urban Development Board (NUDB) quickly wrote him, asking him to remove it because it altered the metropolis’ master plan. Al-Makura ignored the warning, forcing the urban development agency to seek the police commissioner’s action. Ephraim Amakulor, the then police commissioner, invited Al-Makura for a talk, asking him to remove his billboard for the sake of peace. Al-Makura obliged the police request, but gave a condition: That every other billboard at that point is removed. On the eve of President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit to the state, Al-Makura’s billboard in front of Government House was destroyed by a dozen youths who had the protection of armed policemen. This act snowballed into a season of destruction of billboards across the state, affecting all. Since then, the destruction of billboards has known no limits, with clashes following the development.
Of all the clashes over billboards and posters across the states, that of Kebbi State has assumed a more dangerous dimension. In the past three months, there have been series of clashes between supporters, particularly thugs loyal to the PDP and those that are sympathetic to the CPC. The latest occurred as supporters of the PDP and that of the CPC clashed in Yauri and Zagga both in Bagudo and Yauri Local government areas. In that attack, the house of Arewa local government sole administrator was set ablaze, while several vehicles and motorcycles belonging to their opponents were torched. Last week, thugs of PDP and CPC engaged each other in a free-for-all at Sambawa town. Just before that clash, a major face-off between their supporters in Zuru led to the destruction of many houses over an alleged removal of CPC posters by PDP thugs.
As the wars rage on, all the political parties in contest have been blaming one another for the acts. National Secretary of the ANPP, Hon. Lawan Shettima Ali, said the trend is unfortunate.
The National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Mohammed, told Weekly Trust: “We are affected in almost every state where we are not in charge. As a matter of fact our party is the victim of all manner of persecution.
As the opposition trade blame over their political ambition, environmentalists, Advertisers Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and security experts have continued to raise concern over the indiscriminate erection of political billboards and posters on the highways and other strategic locations across the country. An environmentalist, Chukwuma Madu, told Weekly Trust that the whole landscape has been abused, turning electoral campaign that ought to be of aesthetic value into a nuisance. Zonal Head of APCON in Kano, Ahmed Yalwa, blamed the existence of unregistered adverting agencies that operate illegally. But as things stand, there is no end in sight for the raging wars over billboards and posters.