Elections 2015: The worth of Peace Accord
Following the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), and President Goodluck Jonathan as the presidential candidates of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming polls, many Nigerians became apprehensive that the poll or its outcome may be marred by violence.
It was as a result of this that the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi had early in the year wrote to the presidential candidates of the two leading political parties (PDP and APC), urging them to unequivocally express their commitment to peaceful campaigns and elections, as well as proper management of reactions to the results of the polls to achieve peaceful outcome.
Akinyemi’s argument was premised on the fact that if the leaders of the two parties could publicly come together to profess peace and urge their supporters to do the same, the political temperature of the country will be normalised and the prevalent tensions reduced drastically.
Many Nigerians shared Akinyemi’s fear and joined in the clarion call for a peace accord to be signed by the major political parties ahead of the polls.
Initially, the Presidency dismissed Akinyemi’s suggestion with a wave of hand, but later made a u-turn to embrace it. The presidency further championed the idea through the offices of the National Security Adviser to the president, and special adviser to the president on inter-party affairs that organised the general election sensitisation workshop in Abuja.
The workshop was attended by President Jonathan and General Muhammed Buhari (rtd.) alongside their supporters and party leaders. Before the workshop, their supporters had been engaging each other in verbal attacks, name-calling, mudslinging and others.
At the end of the workshop, all the presidential candidates signed a ‘peace accord.’ The accord states: “We presidential candidates and political parties contesting in the general election 2015 desirous of taking proactive measures to prevent electoral violence before, during and after the elections, anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment for the 2015 general election, reaffirming our commitment to the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, desirous of promoting and sustaining the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity, determined to avoid any conduct or behaviour that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria, determined to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns, reaffirming our commitment to truly abide by all rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria, hereby commit ourselves and our parties to the following:
“To run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels. In this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and by all agents acting in our names.” “To refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that of our party any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence, before, during and after the elections.
“Thirdly, to forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetrated by our supporters and/or opponents.
“To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence to this Accord, if necessary by a national peace committee made of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders, this is what is proposed to be the Abuja Accord.”
Another clause in the accord is that all institutions of government including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the police must act and be seen to act with fairness and without partisanship.
Having set the ball rolling at the national level with the signing of the peace accord, political party candidates and their supporters across the country embarked on signing similar peace accord in their states. From Rivers, Abia, Benue to Kano and others, peace accords have been signed.
Many had expected that the peace accord, which has now become a political norm in the country, would reduce or probably tame all sorts of pre-election violence, be it physical or verbal, ahead of the polls.
But less 24 hours to the rescheduled presidential poll, the political atmosphere is still tension-soaked especially as the two major political parties in the race APC and PDP go for each other’s jugular.
Saying that both parties and their supporters have undermined and rubbished the peace accord they earlier signed is an understatement; as the members of the two major political parties fight dirty on pages of newspaper in support and protection of their presidential candidates, the same trend has trickled down to the various states.
That is why Nigerians have been witnessing high level of political violence across the country orchestrated by die-hard supporters of some political parties.
Instead of issue-based campaign, the political atmosphere has so far been dominated by campaigns of calumny, deceit, blame-game, distraction, false alarm, allegation, mudslinging, divisive and damning documentaries, insinuations, innuendoes, false promises, rhetorics, and other frivolities that are not of any solution to the myriad of challenges confronting the country.
Across the country today, party members and supporters mount podiums, but instead of telling the people about their plans for them, they dwell much on denigrating and castigating political opponents at will.
Recently, some chieftains of a political party threatened to sue some members of the opposition for sponsoring and making libelous documentaries, and speeches against them. Some have also written to government regulatory agencies, complaining of how some broadcast media are being used unethically and illegally to rubbish their integrity.
The frequency and level of such hate campaigns has become so high that government’s regulatory and supervisory agencies appear to be in a fix on how to handle the situation.
The development has left the political atmosphere and activities unchecked and charged as party candidates, supporters can do, say or allege anything against their opponents and go scot-free.
The ugly situation has become a source of worry and concern to many Nigerians and the international community. There have been several calls and plea for the politicians and their supporters to exercise some restraints on verbal and physical attacks ahead of the rescheduled polls.
Looking at the situation, it seems such calls have fallen on deaf ears as the act has continued unabated. Many are also expressing fear that as the day passes by, the situation may take a dangerous dimension.
Already engrossed in the diversionary campaigns by the political parties and their supporters are majority of Nigerian voters who profess support for them based on financial benefit, tribal or religious sentiment. Depending on where they stand on the divide, most voters do not see anything wrong or fearful about the situation. Some have made themselves handy to be used by the political class to perpetrate the act verbally, physically and otherwise. As a result of this, several lives and property worth millions of Naira have been lost in different political violence across the country.
Not even spared in the violent attacks are the candidates of the parties and their supporters. Just like other government regulatory agencies, the security agencies seem not be living up to the expectation in dealing with the situation adequately. A development many believe has divided the country along religious and tribal lines like never before ahead of this month’s poll, thereby raising posers on the essence of the peace accord being signed by the political parties. Now that election is tomorrow, will there be peace in the land after the polls?
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