As Nigerians prepare to elect leaders at the national and state levels, immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan has charged politicians to put national interest above political considerations.
The former President believes that politicians particularly those seeking elective offices must ensure that the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians is placed above their political ambition.
Speaking on Thursday at a peace conference organized by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation in Abuja, Jonathan noted that the world is watching Nigeria and all measures must be put in place to make the polls violent-free across the country.
He warned that there would be grave consequences for Nigeria and Africa should things go wrong with the polls.
In his speech at the conference with the theme ‘Peaceful elections and national development,’ Jonathan called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to be professional in the discharge of their responsibilities.
He said: “For democracy to endure and be productive on the continent, African politicians and other stakeholders must realize that true heroes of leadership are not those whose desperation to impose their will endangers society, but those who have the humility to subjugate their personal ambitions to the collective interest of their nations.
“Our political leaders must realize that the greatest and most enduring legacy to leave behind is that of peace and development.
“We are convinced that any one, either in government or outside government, who truly loves Nigeria, will not want to play the role of the villain by lending his support to any action that instigates crises,” he said, adding that “There is no gainsaying that when politicians resort to desperate measures in the bid to occupy important political positions, they run the risk of plunging their countries into serious crises that often lead to loss of lives, degradation of values as well as destruction of private and public assets.”
Jonathan advised that the successful conduct of the elections would promote growth.
“We know that good governance is the fertile ground upon which peace and sustainable economic growth are planted. In this regard, it is important to point out that in a democracy, periodic, credible and peaceful elections are the necessary gateways to improved governance and people-oriented development.
“It is on record that despite the marked improvement on the regularity and number of democratic nations, election-related violence has continued to be experienced in many African nations, often to the detriment of peaceful co-existence, economic growth and sustainable development.
“Although it is reassuring to note that democracy is being consolidated on the continent, with elections now conducted routinely by many African nations, it is however difficult to express such optimism on the peaceful nature of the electoral processes,” he added.
On his part, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) tasked the nation’s leaders to imbibe the lessons of 2015, stressing that while the enemies of Nigeria predicted doom; the nation disappointed them by conducting a transparent election that ushered in the incumbent government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We all recall the tension in Nigeria during the 2015 elections where the doomsayers were predicting the balkanization of Nigeria but thank God through the action of Nigerians and the then President, Goodluck Jonathan; they were proved wrong because the gentleman kept his word that his Presidency was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he graciously conceded defeat at that election,” he noted.
While adding that electoral violence has often characterized the nation’s political process, the Chairman, National Peace Commission, said effort must be made to make the 2019 polls the most peaceful in the history of the nation.
In veiled reference to Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s remark where he issued death threats to foreigners, Special Guest of Honour and former President of Liberia, Professor Amos Sawyer, said Nigerians must not see the presence of world leaders in the country as an intrusion.
According to him, elections in Africa’s most populous nation mean a whole lot to the West African sub-region.
He said: “Nigeria’s role in West Africa makes election in this country is very critical. So elections in Nigeria cannot be seen solely as a Nigeria’s affairs,” he said, adding that the trouble currently rattling the nation’s judiciary should be resolved in accordance with the provisions of the law.
“Nigerian judiciary has been in the news for quite sometimes now in a manner that is of deep concern. It is our hope that the issues involved are resolved in a manner that will leave the integrity of the judiciary intact.”
Lead speaker and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah who spoke on ‘Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Causes, Consequences and Options for Prevention,’ submitted that violence is nothing but a reflection of deep frustration in the society.
Condemning the cheap values accorded human lives in the country; the cleric said killings no longer make meanings to people so long as those killed were not from their ethnic nationalities. “We have refused to confront the realities of our time,” he said, even as he drew the attention of the nation’s leaders to Zimbabwe which recently declared a national tragedy over the killing of her six citizens.
OWEDE AGBAJILEKE, Abuja