Sunday, 4th June 2023

A reflection on the presidential peace accord

By Debo Oladimeji
26 March 2023   |   4:14 am
In February this year, 18 presidential candidates of Nigeria’s general elections signed a second peace accord in the capital, Abuja, in a bid to prevent unrest surrounding the February 25, 2023 polls.


In February this year, 18 presidential candidates of Nigeria’s general elections signed a second peace accord in the capital, Abuja, in a bid to prevent unrest surrounding the February 25, 2023 polls. The pact is to ensure “the conduct of free, fair, credible, transparent and verifiable elections cognisant of the need to maintain a peaceful environment before, during and after the 2023 general elections” and “to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns.”

An earlier agreement had been signed in September 2022, which former military head of state and retired General Abdusalam Abubakar said had been violated numerous times. Abubakar, the chairperson of the National Peace Committee, said 44 per cent of the September accord’s violations “were carried out by the spokespersons for political parties, 26 per cent by party members, 19 per cent by the presidential candidates themselves, 11 per cent by the hardcore supporters and four per cent by the chairmen of the parties.”
The Tuesday evening signing, organised by the National Peace Committee and the Kukah Leadership Centre, an Abuja-based think tank, was in the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari and other African and international leaders and diplomats. Committee officials said the accord was meant to bind political parties, candidates and their supporters to resort to constitutional means if they are dissatisfied with electoral outcomes.
Reactions from across the world have followed the 25 February presidential election, which produced Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Nigeria’s next leader. While a number of world leaders have congratulated the president-elect, some Western media have echoed the views of the Nigerian opposition and a section of the local media, which have been very critical of the election.

Asiwaju Tinubu was announced winner of the hard-fought contest with 8,794,736 of the over 24 million votes cast in the election. His tally represents only 37 per cent of the votes. Yet, it is 8 per cent higher than that of his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) was further behind with a 25 per cent share of the ballots.

Not unusual in Nigerian elections, the opposition has refused to concede defeat, and the two closest contestants have launched a formal challenge of the results in court. They are lamenting the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to upload screenshots of polling station results to a web portal, IReV, created for the purpose. Even at that, though quite ironic, some of the election results at the national legislative levels favourable to these parties have been endorsed and celebrated.

Some media organisations, as well as a number of local and international observers, have corroborated the opposition’s claims of lapses in the conduct of the election. In its interim report, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which deployed 1,000 members from its 128 branches to monitor the poll across the country, identified some of those challenges it observed. These include “late arrival of INEC officials and ballot materials at the polling stations, malfunctioning of the biometric voter accreditation system (BVAS) machines, limited or non-transmission of results from polling units to the INEC Result Viewing (iReV) portal, insecurity at some polling units, including violent attacks on voters and officials, voters’ intimidation, snatching and destruction of voting materials.”

Despite these observations, the NBA said about 92 per cent of the voters its Election Working Group interviewed said they were either “somewhat satisfied” or “excellently satisfied” with the conduct of the polls. What the report suggests is that respondents do not consider the observed lapses significant enough to damage the integrity of the election. President Mohammadu Buhari himself has clarified rightly that the election would not be cancelled.
While the conduct of election is not that perfect, it is excessive and inaccurate to describe the exercise as totally ineffective or as the worst in Nigeria’s history, as some want the world to believe. There is no gainsaying that if anything, the election demonstrated appreciable progress in the nation’s electoral process, in comparison to past ones. One can notice on election day a reduction in violence, reported cases of ballot box snatching and vote buying, compared to previous elections.

Also, the results of the poll reflect some unique outcomes. Although the ruling APC runs the federal government and 21 of 36 states, Asiwaju Tinubu won in only 12 states. He lost in some of the party’s historical strongholds, some with large voting populations. These include his home state, Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Yobe and Gombe, all of which have APC stronghold.
Aside from the President-elect who lost his home state, the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, and the Director-General of Asiwaju Tinubu’s campaign organisation, Governor Simon Lalong, were also trounced in their Nasarawa and Plateau states, respectively, by the Labour Party. President Buhari’s home state, Katsina, as well as Kaduna, Kano and Kebbi, which have governors fiercely loyal to Asiwaju, all fell to the opposition.

Nigeria is a fledgling democracy with the improved standard of living and the building of strong democratic institution, civic reorientation and constant electoral reforms, internal party democracy and unbiased electoral umpire and impartial judiciary and improved security of life and property, peaceful conduct of election is possible, with all the attendant benefits for a developing countries like Nigeria to develop exponentially. One way to achieve peace among parties and nations is to ask the questions in the Rotary club four way tests.”

One, is it the truth? No fake news, verified it before you pass it on. Is it fair to all concerned? The crux of our problem in Nigeria is lack of consideration for our fellow men. Three, will it build good will and better friendship? Creating a healthy society for all should be our goal. Four: will it be beneficial to all concerned? Investing in our common wealth is the wise thing to do in the pursuit of peace.
A greater Nigeria is possible I dare say that the Nigeria of our dream will happen in our life time. If you believe it say it with me that the Nigeria of our dream will happen in our life time.
• Oladimeji is a Lagos-based writer