Anonyai: Nigerian elections and peace accord
I MUST give kudos to the progenitors of the peace accord between President Jonathan and General Buhari for this 2015 general election into the office of the president, and now being emulated and adopted at other levels of government across the federal republic.
Initiated by erudite professor and seasoned diplomat of all times Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and executed by well respected and high profile persons like Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Mr. Kofi Annan, diplomats of global acclaim and others whom their interest in the peace and unity of Nigeria is not in doubt including a statesman of no mean standing, General Abudulsalami Abubakar (rtd). Like most Nigerians, I had no doubt in my mind that the best step had been taken to protect our ‘nascent democracy’, not just the 2015 electioneering process but indeed the country at large.
This conviction was further consolidated by the fact that at the other tiers of government, peace accords are also being embraced to ensure that things do not go awry before, during and after the 2015 elections. However, events in the country since after the first peace accord was signed signals to me that the intentions and purpose of the peace pacts are probably not appreciated and therefore may ultimately not be achieved because the entire idea appears to be turning to a huge joke of simple showmanship and gains of media blitz by the actors concerned.
Obviously, signing of the peace accord will not in itself achieve peace for us, certain points and steps need be respected if the agreements will achieve any result. In concrete terms, the basic ingredients of peace, must be outlined and respected for the all the parties involved; some of which are truth, respect for one another, respect for the Nigerian constitution and effective sanction for defaulting parties.
An all important ingredient for peace is sincerity of purpose, which is truth. It is the first and most important element in any accord, are the parties truly agreed and desirous of peace? To attain peace before, during and post the elections, this must be respected in its details. The letters of the peace accord are not quite clear, it looks to me that it is simply encouraging party leaders to tell their members to be peaceful, and not engage in acts that could lead a restive electioneering and finally compelling the parties concerned to accept the outcome of the elections whichever way it goes.
Unclear as the first peace element is today, we cannot determine the degree of honesty or truthfulness of the actors other than their signatures that have been extracted without conditions. I imagine that this pre election stage is as critical as any other stage because this is the stage where the end or results of the elections are orchestrated. It is important that the means justifies the end in these elections; not otherwise.
It is important that at this stage, the peace accord initiators should have a busy monitoring team watching and evaluating the actions and comments of those who have signed on to the accord and bringing appropriate sanctions on defaulting parties. I advocate mutual respect, in absolute terms for all concerned actors to avoid and/or stop the present situation where parties and /or their associates heap insult, falsehood, propaganda, hate speeches and comments that are capable of provoking people into violence.
Bulk of the tools needed at this stage could easily be culled from the sovereign law of Nigerian and the electoral act. It is sad that the numerous regulators connected to this process, some of which are the electoral umpire INEC, are weak or being weakened, distracted, busied with so many other issues to be bothered with the quality of communication and information being shunned out by political parties in the name of election campaign. Unfortunately, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) and other agencies like the Advertising Standard Panel (ASP) and Outdoor Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (OAAN) National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) appear not to be bothered. Whether political parties submit their campaign materials to them or report raging issues to them or not is another matter.
However, they have their own level of control and could well have reviewed or stopped most of the campaigns currently being exposed by political parties. Again, it is surprising that they have not intervened in the raging and controversial issues surrounding outdoor campaigns in Lagos State. Their intervention will help a better understanding of what the issues are in outdoor advertising and calm nerves that are frayed over this matter.
Peace accords are good but they should make serious demands of those entering into such agreements. The denial of American visa means nothing to these political actors and frankly to our democracy. If that is the only deterring factor then one can conveniently say that it will be violence galore. Albeit conscious of the fact that those who perpetuate violence are ‘near faceless’ and do not need American visa. The point being made is that there should be serious punitive measures against anyone found culpable in anyway, for example such persons could be barred from politics in our political space for a decade or for life.
The fear, threats and tension in Nigeria are so immense and intense that the initiators of these peace accords should have a strong enforcement arm that is neutral and impartial. I do not know how this could be achieved in Nigeria. Therefore, I recommend that they should subject themselves and the accord to the International Court of Justice at The Hague and other truly independent groups that can enforce appropriate sanctions on erring persons/parties. These accords should cover the actors and those working for them whether authorised by them or not.
Considering the dimension things are taking now, it is not enough to condemn the comments and actions of those who make inciting comments and cause outright violence, their men and associates, they should all be made to pay dearly for every action they take that could lead to violence, organised or otherwise. This is very important in the life of our country and democracy in order to ensure that we do not degenerate to experiencing a coup, revolution or some persons becoming too powerful, above the law and untouchables.
Consider a country where the response to a request for security cover and protection is, we cannot guarantee your safety; where bombing, shootings and assaults are part of our daily lives without any arrests, where you have indiscriminate movement of the military personnel, military surveillance on private homes and state governments, officers of the law threatening to arrest serving governors and where the stature, immunity and sovereignty of powerful persons undermine the rights of other citizens and nothing is being said or done. These are antidotes for violence; they are inciting and provoking and could bring to naught the intents of any peace accord, especially when the actors behind most of these situations are not part of the so many peace accords being signed.
This calls for a critical assessment of the situation in Nigeria, and this cannot be done solely from within the country. Thankfully, the Nigeria citizens appear to be taking the bull by the horn with the level of consciousness and interest being shown regarding the forthcoming elections. It has become obvious that the citizens now know that they hold the stick and the carrot and can decide the fate of their leaders. In my estimation, the greatest beauty of democracy has arrived here in Nigeria and is looking for a sitting space. I hope it finally finds a seat or it is offered one. However, if nothing is done to strengthen and protect the resolve and rights of Nigerian citizens and this beauty of democracy that has arrived Nigeria, we certainly may be planning for a wedding banquet with something greater than violence.
• Anonyai is of Truth, Peace and Development Network Initiative, Ikeja, Lagos
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