• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

2015 elections and the imperative of peace

The political fever is back

It is heart-warming that the two leading candidates in the forthcoming presidential elections in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, as well as other candidates, have made public commitment to embrace peace before, during and after the elections. It is particularly noteworthy that President Jonathan and General Buhari openly embraced and shook hands at the event while also mutually denouncing violence in their respective speeches. This commitment to peace was made at a recent workshop on how to ensure violence-free elections which was held in Abuja. The event, which was chaired by former secretary-general of The Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, also had in attendance a former United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, and some representatives of the country’s registered political parties.

The resolution of political parties and their leaders to toe the line of peace is especially momentous in view of the several acts of violence, arson, thuggery and the ensuing tension that have pervaded the political landscape of recent. Now that the major gladiators in the political process have openly pledged to uphold peace, it is expected that their teeming supporters across the country would equally see the wisdom in toeing same line. It has been stated, over and over again, that elections should not be a do-or-die affair. If the overriding interest of all aspiring public officeholders, as they often make us believe, is to better the lives of Nigerians, it would be contradictory for them to turn the political scene into an orgy of violence. Doing this would only compound the woes of the people as violence could further complicate the economic and security troubles of the country.

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Going down memory lane, our previous attempts at democracy were hampered because of acts of violence that engulfed the electoral process. In the First Republic, the ‘wild wild west’ chaos and other such political violence that followed the 1965 general elections heralded the coming of the military. A series of events that followed eventually culminated in the civil war (1967-70), whose wounds are yet to completely heal. In the Second Republic, yet another attempt at entrenching democracy in the country was bungled, partly as a result of the tension and crisis that followed the 1983 general elections, which were widely believed to be heavily rigged in favour of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

It took us another 15 years, from 1984 to1999 to be precise, before we could have another go at democracy. At present, Nigeria has had an unprecedented 16 years of uninterrupted civil rule. This should be enough motivation for principal actors in the political process and all stakeholders to play according to the rules. Doing anything to the contrary would only make a mess of whatever gains we have made in the past years, in our bid to build a virile democratic culture. This is why it is vital that political parties and, indeed, all concerned Nigerians, must maintain decorum in all they do, with regard to the coming elections, so that the future of the nation’s democracy will not be jeopardised.

The coming elections, therefore, offer us another huge platform to get things right. We should no longer hide under the usual pretext of a ‘nascent democracy’ to do things crudely. This is the time to get it right. The only interest that should be paramount in the ensuing political contest should be that of the country. It is not in anyone’s interest for the country to be engulfed in crisis because of election; something that is a mere routine in other climes. We have had enough of bloodshed in the country. In the past four years, we have lost too many innocent souls to the criminal activities of insurgents. It is, therefore, irrational to adjoin political turmoil to the growing lists of our national troubles. In the 21st century, killing or maiming people in the name of an election portends backwardness and barbarism. If relatively smaller and less-endowed neighbouring countries could conduct peaceful and credible elections, it behoves the most

populous black nation in the world to demonstrate the needed political leadership worthy of emulation across the continent.

However, as is often said, there can be no peace when justice is compromised. It is thus very crucial for INEC and the various security agencies to be fair to all in the coming elections. From past experiences, the inability of the electoral umpire to conduct fair and credible elections had been largely responsible for the resultant chaos that trailed the outcome of previous elections. Hence, INEC officials, at all levels, must not compromise the electoral process. The vote of every Nigerian must be made to count. Same goes for the security agencies. It is unethical for security agencies to display partisan tendencies while overseeing the conduct of a national election. The police, in particular, should be civil and impartial in their conduct before, during and after the coming elections. Their allegiance should be solely to the country, and not any parochial political interest.

Universally, peace is a vital precondition for development as no meaningful development can take place in a chaotic atmosphere. As Martin Luther King once said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” It is, therefore, essential that the media, political parties, civil society organisations, the academia, faith-based organisations, electoral monitoring groups, NGOs and other related bodies come up with well-streamlined political education and enlightenment campaigns that would centre on the need to embrace peace in the political process. As it has been rightly highlighted, irrespective of our varying political leanings, we remain brothers and sisters living in the same house. Hence, it is incumbent on us to ensure that the house does not collapse. It will be foolhardy to do otherwise. Long live Nigeria!