2015 presidential election: A contest between brothers
A famous German dramatist and critic, Gotthold Ephraim, once made an axiomatic statement still being quoted today for its relevance: “There are good men in every land. The tree of life has many branches and roots. Let not the topmost twig presume to think that it alone has sprung from the mother earth…we did not choose our races by ourselves. Jews, Muslims, Christians alike are MEN. Let me hope I have found in you a MAN”
The forthcoming presidential election no doubt has two major contenders, the incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress (APC). The campaign organisations of both political parties have made and still making rigorous campaigns across the length and breadth of this country, trying to “sell” their presidential candidates across religious, ethnic and geographic boundaries. We have witnessed one of the most “heated” and kin electioneering with utterances that can be described as not too palatable. The main actors and gladiators in the March 28th presidential election have all shown their commitment to democracy and a free, fair and credible election.
In 1962, Nigeria`s Governor General, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Who later became Nigeria’s first President), paid a three-day official courtesy visit to the Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, in Kaduna. He was accompanied by his wife Flora. The host Premier mobilised all the paraphernalia of office in honour of his guest whom he gave an unprecedentedly flamboyant hospitality. The visit enabled their wives to become so familiar with each other that Flora also invited the Bellos to the East on a similar visit. By the end of the visit, Azikiwe had become so much impressed that at the point of departure he held Bello’s hands and gently told him “please, let us forget our differences.”
In response to that emotional but infatuating gesture, Bello said in an equally gentle but emotional baritone voice “No sir, rather than forgetting our differences, let us understand them. You are a Christian and a southerner and I am a Muslim and a northerner. It is only by identifying and understanding these differences that our friendliness can truly endure.” There and then, Azikiwe nodded in approval to his host’s logic and accepted the fact that one could not forget what has not been identified.
As the 2015 presidential election approaches, we need to learn from the above. There is need for the Abuja Peace Accord to be taken a step further. A meeting should be facilitated between the families of the Buharis and the Jonathans as this would send a signal to the electorates and indeed their supporters that this coming presidential election is not war but a contest between brothers. All stakeholders should go into these elections with a high sense of mutual understanding and mutual respect without arrogantly claiming any non-existing superiority. That is the spirit upon which the marriage of political strange fellows who find themselves in the same political party is often based in Nigeria. It is also the spirit upon which the partnership of many Nigeria business men and women is based despite their cultural, religious and ethnic incompatibilities. It is with this same spirit that we should all go into the forthcoming elections, bearing in mind that whether PDP, APC or any other political party, we are all Nigerians, we are all brothers and sisters. Whoever wins this presidential election is not going to invent his/her own constitution but will be guided ultimately by the Nigeria constitution. This means we shall all emerge winners after all. After the elections, we should all embrace each other in the spirit of brotherhood, friendship and unity and rally round the elected president, as we prepare and wait patiently towards the 2019 general elections.
Beyond the provocative utterances, political threats and gimmicks from the PDP, APC and the rest of the political parties, all the participants in this forthcoming presidential election have all exhibited a sense of patriotism and their belief in democracy. The truth is that a winner will eventually emerge if the March 28th presidential election eventually holds. Whether the presidential candidate of the PDP with his mantra “continuity of the transformation agenda” wins or the candidate of the APC with his mantra “change” wins in the forthcoming general election, the most important thing in a competition is in the participation and not who wins or loses. All stakeholders have in one way or the other strengthened democracy in Nigeria.
After the Nigerian Independence of October 1, 1960, the country has found itself enmeshed in clashes, violent clashes and civil war like the civil war of 1960’s popularly called the “Biafran war.” During this Epic battle of our time which occurred between 1967 and 1970, the country nearly split into two and would have marked a new beginning for the Southeastern part of the country. It would have created a new chapter in their lives –“independence” to become a nation on their own supported then by countries that believed in their course like USA, Canada and a host of others.
The Nigerian Biafran war created a great colossal loss of lives and property that the nation has not fully recovered from. The conflict was largely due to the result of economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions mainly between the Hausas of the North and the Igbos of the southeast of the country for over two and half years. The attendant result was that more than two million civilians died from famine, fighting and starvation. Women and children were the hardest hit most of them dying from starvation and malnutrition.
Presently, we are enmeshed in violence like armed robberies, kidnappings, armed militancy and assassinations. The most vicious being that of the dreaded sect Boko Haram. This group is unleashing terror and mayhem in the North especially in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. We are regaled with reports and tales of mounting violence and insecurity on a daily basis splashed across the headlines of newspapers and on those of televisions and radio stations depicting a society under siege. The frequency and scale of this violence is growing at an alarming rate and urgent attention should be given to this national issue to find lasting solution to it before these violent attacks become battles and permanent fixtures of our lives. Thank God! The Nigerian military now fighting side by side the United Nations coalition forces seems to be making some progress after all.
These frequent and coordinated attacks especially on unsuspecting members of the public, peaceful and law abiding citizens of the North show intelligence at work. The loss of lives and properties cannot be quantified and most people have lost count while others just gave up the count as the numbers continued climbing in these attacks creating a vacuum in an already endangered species of the North.
Since the beginning of political campaigns, a couple of months ago, the political scene have being awashed with unguided utterances which cannot be described as too good and healthy for a peaceful society. From the former militants of the south-south threatening to set the rest of Nigeria ablaze if the incumbent president who also comes from that region loses in the forthcoming polls, to the purported threat letter to DAAR Communications, owners of AIT by some faceless northern groups, stating that they would destroy the establishments assets in northern Nigeria should Buhari loses at the polls. These are indications that Nigerians have not learnt anything from the past. The Abuja Peace Accord which brought presidential candidates of major political parties together to sign and commit themselves to a peaceful campaigns and subsequent elections under the watchful eyes of the former Secretary Generals of the United Nations and the Common Wealth Nations should be respected and abide by in the interest of posterity.
Peace is achievable by anyone and everyone. All that is needed is the resolve for peace. Our leaders should take concrete steps to ensure peace and stability by recognising all tribes and religions as equals. There is always a reason for any form of anger; behind every person’s anger is a deep seated pain that makes the angry man lash out at anyone and everyone within reach. Yet all it takes is love, empathy and understanding to calm frayed nerves, cool and douse anger and tension and finally bring about peace and love to troubled waters again.
Obaro wrote from Ilorin, Kwara State. email@example.com, 08065396694.