Of recent, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former military Head of State who ushered in the current civilian democratic governance, which is in its 20th year, has been in the news. His National Peace Committee got the 2019 Presidential candidates to sign a peace accord or rather an accord for peace. Wonderful gesture! This is actually not the first time this committee that seems to have no tenure limit has gone on its missionary assignment of preaching peace in the nation. They did so in the lead up to the 2015 elections and got Jonathan and Buhari to sign an accord for peace. I also noticed that at the heat of the cattle – Fulani/ farmers’ conflict that threatened to consume Nigeria, they were active in preaching peace and arranging some meetings.
Over many years, General Yakubu Gowon, the man who led the Nigerian civil war, who is also a member of this national peace committee, has been going round ‘praying’ for Nigeria. If the measure of the efficacy of his prayers is that Nigeria is still one sovereign country, then it can be concluded that the effort has been successful. But if the measure is the peace and unity of Nigeria, then it clear that a lot more work and prayers are needed, because, most Nigerians who are old enough will agree that Nigeria is more disunited today than she was in 1970, months after the gruelling Nigeria-Biafra war ended. As for peace, Nigeria’s peace is so fragile that at times, many Nigerians wonder if we are at war. Innocent Nigerians are murdered everyday by all kinds of state and non-state actors that it has become the new normal. There seems to be a lull now as many of the non- state actors have been engaged in political electioneering duties and indeed many are getting re-armed. I do not make mention of the economic deterioration. Isn’t it troubling that both poverty and unemployment rates today are worse than they were in 1975, despite all the “Nigeria Prays” across several stadia in Nigeria?
I have the highest regards for HE, General Gowon and as a Christian, I will never undermine or underestimate the power of prayers. But to me, much of these public prayers is sheer hypocrisy. The Bible says that” the soul that sinneth, it shall die” and that “he that covers his sin shall not prosper”. But that he who ever confesses his sin, repents and forsakes evil, God is faithful and just to forgive him and cleanse him from all unrighteousness. “Sin is a reproach to any nation” but “righteousness exalts a nation”. We cannot be praying for peace and unity when we have loads of sins which we are either so self-conceited or so self-deluded to accept, not to talk of confessing and then forsaking, before we can receive forgiveness. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is His delight”. If you ask me, what we must do is to declare a day of confession and repentance and may be have an annual national repentance day! General Gowon should lead Nigeria to confess its sins and acts of wickedness during the progrom of 1966, its acts of wickedness against pregnant women and children during the civil war, several acts of wickedness carried against Nigerians across the nation from the Niger Delta, to the middle belt, to the North East, and to the South East etc. There is no section of Nigeria that has not been subjected to manifest wickedness by the Nigerian establishment since Independence. Barrels of the blood of innocent Nigerians shed in this country is speaking against the nation and until we come down from our high horses, humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, the Lord may not hear us, nor forgive us, nor heal our land! The choice is ours- to have genuine repentance or continue with ‘political’ and hypocritical prayers.
This is why I am often amused when I see or hear the likes of General Abdulsalam Abubakar preaching peace in Nigeria without a mention of justice, equity and fair play. Such preachments sound shallow and indeed are a sham. Sustainable peace can only be built on those three pillars. How I wish, these revered gentlemen and women, will mount a campaign for the enthronement of justice, equity and fair play in the conduct of national affairs. If they do, then the chances of having true peace will be greatly enhanced. They keep mute as evil is being committed and only to come out once in a while to dramatize peace accords. Let’s take the present accord for peace for example and ask a few pertinent questions: How can the presidential candidates maintain peace if the election is rigged? How can peace be assured if INEC decides not to allow the votes of Nigerians to count? How can peace be achieved if the security forces determine to intimidate some voters and prevent or frighten them from casting their votes? How can peace be achieved if EFCC is used by the party in power to harass, arrest and discomfiture opposition party leaders/ contestants? Why is the peace committee silent on the controversy over the 2018 electoral bill? Are they not aware that this could be a major disruption of the peace they are trying to guarantee? It would be a much more worthwhile effort if this committee can intervene now and use their goodwill to resolve or detonate this potential bomb that could fully destabilize the peace which we desire.
Have we considered what will happen if the National Assem bly overrides the President’s veto and goes ahead to pass the bill into law? What will happen, if the Executive and INEC ignore the new law? Have we considered what will happen if INEC goes ahead to conduct the election with the old law or even if it does so with the new law? We have a potentially major crisis brewing and if we are serious about peace, this is what we should be focusing on, not just the drama of signing accords which may fail with the minimum test. 2015 elections ended peacefully, not because an accord for peace was signed but because Jonathan is a man of peace who repeatedly said that no man’s ambition was worth the blood of any Nigerian. And he allowed INEC to conduct the elections to the best of its abilities with no official intervention. There was no reported intimidation of the opposition parties and when the test came, Jonathan lived up to his word. That is what must happen in 2019 if we truly desire a peaceful election. But above all, all votes must count, no one should be disenfranchised and let the vote be counted for whom it was cast for. The moment we can guarantee these, there will be peace. Unfortunately these are not in the hands of all the presidential candidates. They are essentially in the hands of the government of the day. May God help them to do justice to all.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR, FPSN