Reflecting On The Abuja Non-Violence Accord
IT has been about one month when the major political leaders and presidential contestants assembled at the Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotels and Towers to deliberate and put pen on paper to give life to what has become known as “the Abuja Accord.”
The accord was signed by the presidential candidates and the national chairmen of the 14 political parties accredited by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest the presidential election.
As the national chairman of the African Democratic Congress, I was in attendance with our presidential candidate, Dr. Mani Ahmad, and his running mate, Dr. Obianuju Murphy-Uzohue.
President Goodluck Jonathan, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, national chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and that of All Progressives Congress (APC) and the presidential candidates and chairmen of the other parties were all physically present.
Major political players and government officials were either there in person or well represented.
The sensitisation workshop that culminated in the signing of this accord was jointly organised by the offices of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs and the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), in collaboration with some international development partners.
The event was chaired by the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and co-moderated by Dr. Kofi Anan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), who presented the keynote address.
In his presentation at the event, Jonathan raised the concern that politics in Nigeria seems to have become a game for everyone, irrespective of character, and called for some screening process to weed out people with questionable records.
He stressed the need to use election outcomes to build a more inclusive government, where parties are represented in governments according to their showing in the polls, suggesting that this would reduce the “winner takes all” syndrome and ensure that the different shades of political ideology contribute to governance and shaping the way forward for Nigeria.
Buhari gave a synopsis of how INEC and Judiciary’s perceived failures to be just and fair tended to frustrate some groups and leave them feeling disenfranchised.
Mani drew attention to the fact that the viciousness being shown by some political stakeholders was creating tension and divisiveness among Nigerians, especially the younger generation.
He admonished politicians to first become model citizens of the country they aim to build and carefully consider the implications of each of their actions.
Anyaoku and Anan brought their deep knowledge of national affairs and peace building to the discussions, emphasising the import of the accord and exhorting the presidential contestants and the political stakeholders to remember that Africa and the world are expecting much from Nigeria during these elections.
The 11 core elements of the accord extracted promises from the candidates to take proactive measures to prevent electoral violence before, during and after the elections.
Candidates also reaffirmed their commitment to the integrity of the Nigeria nation and sanctity of the constitution.
By signing the accord, the candidates accepted to take responsibility for their conduct and behaviour and that of all their supporters and party members.
They pledged to run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels and to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious sentiments, ethnic or tribal profiling, and other practices that could incite or spite their opponents.
The accord also called on all institutions of government, including INEC and security agencies, to “act and be seen to act with impartiality.”
After the event, the ADC presidential campaign team headed to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in Abuja for a campaign event.
What I witnessed at the camp is a story for another day. However, as I reflected on the event at the Ladi Kwali Hall, I felt ill at ease with our democratic journey in Nigeria and the legacy the present crop of leaders or politicians are bequeathing to the younger generation.
Anyaoku captured my fears in his frank talk. His skilfully chosen words continued to echo in my head. “Unfortunately, violence is already here,” he said.
Anyaoku lamented that even then, prior to the elections, violence was already evident. He continued: “If nothing is done, there would be more (violence) before the elections and after…
“Unfortunately, Nigeria has a history of election and post-election violence, and the signs are already there that the same would be repeated if nothing is done about it.”
He stated that the reason for the workshop was to arrest the situation before it spiralled out of control.
The sensitisation workshop that gave birth to the Abuja accord of January 14, but after all the razzmatazz of that day, the political terrain has continued to witness malicious and mudslinging campaign tactics.
The President has been pelted with stones and his convoy attacked on several occasions by persons alleged to be the supporters and hired agents.
Gunshots, kidnapping and loss of lives have been reported at political rallies across the country.
I wonder what Anyaoku has to say about the continued recruitment of young boys and girls by politicians as thugs today (and maybe terrorists after the elections).
It is perplexing that after those who aspire to lead our country had gathered to endorse such a high-profile non-violence accord, their supporters are still fomenting trouble across the nation.
Jonathan’s words at the event also continue to provide fodder for reflection. Among the political players, both within the opposition and ruling parties, we have numerous men and women whom the former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, documented as having embezzled billions of naira in state funds.
Among the candidates and their teams are established certificate forgers and persons who are known to have approximated public properties to themselves.
When persons, such as these, are allowed to participate in governance, what message does that pass to the rest of Nigeria? And what quality of governance can we expect? I still struggle with this.
I worry for our country. I fear that our democracy is losing meaning.
Since we formed ADC, I have always let our membership know that involvement in the political process is a nation-building service we owe the people and our country. Election is not and will never be a “do-or-die” affair.
I am disturbed and concerned by the current phenomenon in which many of our elites, both in the opposition and in government, have become cruel opportunistic sycophants.
Some of them have become intellectual mercenaries that use their knowledge to push inordinate and self-serving agenda and to violate others.
We see persons who have had the privilege of serving this country in respectable capacities in the past being engaged to carry out hatchet jobs in the name of politics.
The media are not left out. The indiscretions of the men and women of the pen and the keyboard have become more vicious. In the name of press freedom and freedom of speech, we demean our national offices and institutions and bring shame to our country. I am pained by the activities of these people.
Men and women who take pride in violating others have no place in building the true Nigeria we desire.
I would remind organisers of the Abuja Accord and leaders of political parties within the umbrella of IPAC that their job is not finished.
There is a critical element of the Accord that is yet to get attention- monitoring “the adherence of this Accord, if necessary, by a national peace committee, made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.”
It is indeed necessary to set up a body of non-partisan and eminent state-personalities to serve as ombudsman in the political process and ensure that politicians and all their supporters conform to the tenets of the accord and prescribe appropriate sanctions for those who violate its provisions.
The doctrines of the accord will also apply to persons who comment on the political process or players.
Finally, I must say that the accord seems challenged ab-initio. One of its essential elements is the call to INEC and security agencies to “act and be seen to act with impartiality.”
Emerging facts suggest that INEC may pose a stumbling block to the success of the accord.
If the election were held on February 14, as originally scheduled, INEC would have disenfranchised over 30 million Nigerians through its inability to tidy up the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) logistics.
Till date, as much as 15 million PVCs are yet to be collected and if this number of persons were to be prevented from voting through no fault of theirs, the consequences could be catastrophic.
INEC clearly has a lot to do between now and March 28.
-Nwosu is the National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC)
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