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Stakeholders call for collective understanding on 2015 election outcome

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Growing sensitive pronouncements by political party leaders on the outcome of the February general elections has prompted the question: can the two main political parties, the PDP and APC, sign on to an agreement of non-violence despite the outcome of the general election?

There is no doubting the strength of the concern among political watchers and Nigerians as general consensus point to hemorrhaging leaning towards violent challenge by both parties if the result doesn’t favour their candidate.

Gbenga Taiwo, a Port Harcourt-based political commentator, who said he was extremely worried over the current  politically tensed atmosphere in the country following the emergence of Buhari as APC’s presidential flag bearer and President Goodluck Jonathan as PDP’s candidate in this year’s election.

Taiwo told BDSUNDAY that he was encouraged when late last year Bolaji Akinyemi, who was the deputy chairman of the last National Conference,  recommended that the two major gladiators in the 2015 presidential election should sign an undertaken that they will not incite violence if any of them loses in the election.

He opined that the likely resultant effect of the 2015 presidential election result was bleak considering the regional and or ethnic affiliations of both Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonthan and the violent antecedents of their cult of followers who may want to use the opportunity of their candidate’s loss to unleash violence.

“If Buhari loses the 2015 elections, I am afraid that our police and military may have their hands full in curtailing the widespread violence in the core northern region of Nigeria, especially in the North West geopolitical zone.

“On the other hand, we cannot rule out the possibilities of President Jonathan losing the next election and the resultant effect of such news can be better imagined. The verbal and body language of some of the ex-militants like Asari Dokubo should not be taken as empty threats even though I share the belief that an individual threat should not bring a nation to its kneel. But the truth is that, if this results into violence in the Niger Delta, every single person in Nigeria will feel the pang of the hardship that will ensue.

“Whichever way the result goes in 2015 for presidential election, we can only hope that INEC will ensure that the election is free, fair and credible enough to convince any ‘doubting Thomas’ that it is the will of the people. Then whoever wants to foment trouble afterwards will be seen by the whole world as enemy of Nigeria and should be treated as such. The unity of Nigeria from 2015 is resting mainly on Professor Atahiru Jega and his team. If he fails, then, we may be sorry for long,” he lamented.

The publisher of Mail Express, a Lagos based national weekly, Osa Director, told BD SUNDAY that Nigerians must find a way to compel both President Jonathan and General Buhari to take the part of statesmanship and peace irrespective of the outcome of the presidential election.

“Both are Nigerians and their supporters are Nigerians as well. They must do the right thing because none of them is greater than the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.

Also speaking to BDSUNDAY, Jonathan Ikiebe, senior partner, Ikiebe and Co, said the candidates and their supporters currently engaged in inciting comments are individuals who are not above the law of the land, saying a lot of Nigerians are labouring in prayers ahead February 2015 in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed by ill-advised supporters of politicians.

He said: “We cannot deny the fact that northerners like power; and South-South on the other hand, would want to insist on second term like other tribes who were there before. But then, ‘bloodbath’ should not be our watch word. If the electorates decide that it is Buhari they want, why should former militants insist otherwise? If the same electorates decide that Jonathan deserves a second term, why should northern supporters of Buhari shed the blood of innocent Nigerians?” He asked.

According to him, compelling President Jonathan and General Buhari to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) before the 2015 presidential election that they will caution their respective supporters might not help resolve the issue because the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was very clear on who can take over power in the country.

The report of the 22-member panel led by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu that investigated the post-election violence that erupted when President Goodluck Jonathan took unassailable lead in the presidential election of April 2011 showed a much better understanding of the factors that caused the violent unrest that destroyed the impression that Nigeria is a tolerant, multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation.

In its report, the panel noted with sadness that the inflammatory comments made by Buhari prior to the presidential election contributed to the violence. There were other politicians who sang dangerous lyrics to the admiration of their supporters before the election.

Although Buhari has promptly denied ever making inciting comments before, during or after the presidential election. In an interview he granted to the Daily Sun (Sunday, 8 August 2010), Buhari predicted the outbreak of violence if the 2011 general elections were perceived to be far from free and fair.

“God willing, by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood,” Buhari reportedly told the party members who paid him a courtesy visit in Kaduna in July 2012.

When asked in the same interview whether he fear for the country if it fails to get it right at the time,  Buhari had answered that “there may be no Nigeria because I draw parallel with Somalia so many times. Somalia-station of Nigeria; I am scared about that.”

NATHANIEL AKHIGBE