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Tubonemi: Relevance of Okotie’s paradigm of peace

By Taire Tubonemi
22 February 2015   |   11:00 pm
POLITICAL intolerance has been the bane of Nigerian politics for ages, like a millstone around the neck of the entire political system; it projects the erroneous belief that politics is a dirty game, which should be avoided by decent individuals. But, that is a misnomer because man has also been called a political animal. Politics…

POLITICAL intolerance has been the bane of Nigerian politics for ages, like a millstone around the neck of the entire political system; it projects the erroneous belief that politics is a dirty game, which should be avoided by decent individuals. But, that is a misnomer because man has also been called a political animal. Politics cannot be so dirty; it is the players who have given an otherwise noble vocation a bad image. All over the world, men and women have distinguished themselves in public service, leaving enviable legacies to be cherished and emulated. 

   Three-time presidential candidate, Rev. Chris Okotie, who surprisingly is not in the 2015 race, due to the late re-certification of his previously de-registered party, Fresh Democratic Party, FRESH, is not sitting back to lick his wounds, as many of his opponents and supporters expect. 

    Instead, according to party officials: Ladi Ayodeji, Media Director and Kola Dopamu, Legal Adviser, the Pastor-Politician is preaching a gospel of peace and political tolerance to douse the present tension which has enveloped the polity, especially in the wake of the calls for the postponement of the elections due to the hiccups in the distribution of the PVC. Okotie has however, kept mum on the postponement issue, but wants peaceful, free and fair polls, nevertheless, some of his current syndicated articles are mainly urging all Nigerians to conduct themselves in a peaceful and orderly manner. 

     FRESH’s supporters and opponents in particular, would be shocked to learn that Rev. Okotie has forgiven the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for shutting him out of the current elections. “The Reverend doesn’t want to overheat the polity by engaging the electoral umpire in any more legal battles over the propriety or otherwise of the issues that culminated in the non-participation of FRESH in the 2015 general elections”, according to Ayodeji. 

     The gospel of peace he is preaching to politicians and their supporters is a much needed healing balm at this time, when the political environment is dense with the dark cloud of uncertainty, tension and unprecedented hate-filled campaigns. This is going to be the most closely fought election since 1999, according to observers. 

   Managing a conflict of interest in any situation is not an easy task, especially when making decisions or utterances that could put you at the receiving end of an injustice. That could prove your mettle or mar your reputation for a long time to come. The current retching up of circumstantial utterances, inferences and innuendoes, which have been the hallmark of the 2015 general election campaigns is a case-in-point, and a salutary pointer to this fact. 

     That is why Rev, Okotie’s call for peace and tranquillity in the pre and post-election season, rather than tie up the nation and electoral system in landmark litigation, is a true test of the Pastor-Politician’s character. Such a legal action, which has been advised by his lawyers as justifiable under the conditions which the party found itself disenfranchised, when the electoral agency re-certified it less than two weeks to the close of submission of nominations, inadvertently foreclosing the possibility of the party engaging in processes required for fulfillment of electoral requirements. 

   If one looks at issues like non-inclusion and disenfranchisement, that have led to electoral violence in the past, and put them side by side with events happening in Nigeria today, one is compelled to conclude that Rev. Okotie is gifted with foresight. However, for his call to be effectual, a more pragmatic thing to say is that abetting issues bordering on electoral fraud and disenfranchisement of some people should not be ignored by government. Signs of a possible escalation of the Boko Haram political insurgency are here in our midst, partly because of political alienation.         A major part of the insight Rev. Okotie got about the troubles in Nigerian politics which formed his latest peaceful overtures, came from the conversations and interactions he repeatedly had with Nigerians especially politicians and his ministry colleagues.

     His call for peaceful elections must now go beyond rhetoric, because violence and deaths have already been recorded despite the Peace Accord which was signed almost a month ago by the 14 presidential candidates in Abuja. After that, President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign convoy has been reportedly stoned and a bomb discovered around his campaign site. This is rather unfortunate. The APC candidate has likewise been attacked. Where do we go from here? The destination could only be a point of no return. 

Granted, there are laws in place which specifically detail the position of the constitution on matters relating to the breach of the peace; notwithstanding, there are always those who still believe that an environment where the breakdown of the law exists is germane to their personal agenda. The ‘win at all cost’ style of our political class is attrite, and security agencies must brace up themselves in enforcing the adherence to existing laws which instruments like the Peace Accord must rest on, especially at a time like this. 

    So, rather than swing from a reticent, nonchalant attitude, to the other end of the pendulum of over-politicising issues, the middle ground of peace which Rev. Okotie canvasses should be promoted by nationalists, to swiftly nip electoral intolerance in the bud before the consequence of the 2015 election begins to translate into mayhem. Just as evidenced in the fight against the Ebola scourge, the Federal and state governments, party leaders, tribal and religious leaders, law enforcement agencies and civil society groups must now, more than ever before, join hands in sending a very strong message that, there will be zero tolerance for violence, before, during and after the elections. This cadre of leaders should not abdicate their responsibilities by neglecting to put in place a coordinated response to pre-empting and taming acts of political terrorism.

   Simply put, Okotie’s paradigm of peace is worth pursuing. 

• Taire Tubonemi wrote from Bayelsa