Centre for Child Care and Youth Development, Uromi
‘There is no art to read the mind’s construction in the face’….Shakespeare
‘Many are crying for peace…none is crying for justice’ Peter Tosh
‘When power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace’ Jim Hendrix
‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’ M Ghandi,
‘Harmony makes small things grow, lack of it makes great decay’ Sallust.
‘If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other’. Mother Teresa.
On Wednesday January 2015 an important event happened in Abuja in the interest of peace and harmony in the country. At the instance of the office of the national security Adviser all the presidential candidates and leading members of their parties were gathered to deliberate and assent to a non-violence pact in respect of the 2015 general elections. Under a friendly atmosphere, an anti –violence agreement was signed by all the political parties.
Named the ‘Abuja accord’ all parties and presidential candidates agreed to work towards the prevention of electoral violence before, during and after elections, maintain peace, show respect and commitment to the constitution, promote the unity and corporate existence of the country, discourage any act that will endanger the political stability and national security, put national interest above personal and partisan concern and to respect and observe the electoral rules and regulations.
Towards this end leaders agreed to run issues –based campaigns, refrain from making inciting and provocative statements, speak against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence, monitor the adherence to the accord say by a national peace committee, ensure honesty and impartiality of institutions of government including INEC and security agencies. It was a convivial show in a cozy hall of a five star hotel-Sheraton and was characterized by cordiality, courtesy, warm handshakes hearty embrace and laden with brotherly words of patriotism, love and a shared feeling of oneness and strong desire for the unity of the country.
It was a beautiful moment for the country and great assurance that all hope has not been lost for redemption. The media report showing President Jonathan and General Buhari on the one hand and Chief Oyegun, chairman APC and Muazu chairman PDP on the other in hearty embrace conveyed the mood better. Those pictures should be displayed in all the villages as part of on-going political education of the citizens. In this seeming moments of self discovery for self-actualization was self- doubt about sincerity of purpose, trust, respect for and compliance with the Accord because ‘there is no art to read the minds construction in the face’ and love and greed for power can relegate justice to the background and make politicians ‘forget that we belong to each other’.
Otherwise as a ‘sensitization workshop on Non –violence’ during the 2015 General Elections it was apt and soothing with good messages. From the office of the National Security Adviser which urged for national interest to be placed above all other interests through Buhari who harped on respect for the rules of the game to Mr. President who canvassed for love it was all appeal for patriotism, peace and unity. There has been a collective desire for peace as basis of meaningful development. To Ben obi ,the meeting was a product of extensive and inclusive consultations designed for all stakeholders to come together and commit themselves to violent- free elections in 2015.
Anyaoku spoke of a ‘history of violence occurring before, during and after elections’ and called for the avoidance of provocative words and respect for the rules of the game reminding us that ‘Nigeria and its general elections are in the eyes of the international community’. To Annan, Nigeria is the big brother of Africa and thus she should lead by good example. He advised contestants ‘to focus on party policies and not on individuals, and avoid the use of inflammatory languages, ethnicity, Religion to gain sympathies’. He averred that ‘Nigeria has the future of Africa in her hands and so should make the continent ‘proud by staging a free , fair and credible election’ to confirm her ‘big brotherly role and progress in the eyes of the world’. He warned the country not to repeat the experience of Kenya where electoral violence took the country ‘back several years’.
Jega identified some causes of electoral violence. These include ‘you must win at all cost’ syndrome, low level of institutional development, wrong use of resources by contestants and supporter in which the wealthy people bribe, the students riot, the workers strike, the mob demonstrates, and the military do coup (Huntington), poor attitude and negative disposition of parties and contestants, low performance of electoral body, unprofessional role of security agencies. Thus the promotion of internal democracy, effective intra-party conflict resolution, accountability, willingness to accept outcome, moderation of electioneering, trust in institutional redress, promotion of inclusiveness, well-trained staff’ would check violence.
To Gambari the technical competence of INEC, impartial role of security agencies-just to facilitate , not support any party or candidate, the positive behavior of the contestants to play by the rules of the game and to educate their supporters to shun violence will lead to free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
General Buhari recalled past experience and expressed worry about the ability of INEC and other institutions to do the needful to have a clean election. Noting that that there were laws but not obeyed he urged the relevant agencies to be impartial and competent for credible elections. President Jonathan harped on the need to refrain from inciting comments, threats of opponents and idea of conquest. He stressed the need for love and decorum and the desirability for institutions such as INEC to do their work as it should be done and for everybody to do things right and make laws that would ensure more inclusiveness and moderate the present winner- takes- all politics which he said made electioneering a do or die affair in Nigeria.
It was indeed a fruitful effort- more real than fiction, too beautiful to be true. But if this body of knowledge could emanate from the bowel of the country and available to the elites, what is really the problem? The fear is that history is dotted with many dishonored Accords. Then I remember Hitler not for the avoidable world war 11 he caused, but for his breaking of treaties without qualms that led to the war. I remember Shakespeare’s words about the dark and cunny nature of the human mind, and Tosh’s crying for justice and many others about the distrustfulness, hatred and greed for power which had made violence inevitable during elections. Can the Nigerian political elite live up to the expectation of due compliance? Are the elites ready to give peace a trial? This is the challenge beyond the Abuja Accord. With sincere determination it is possible. As Thomas Merton observed ‘peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means. It demands the most heroic, most difficult sacrifice… and a greater fidelity to truth…’ Justice, fair-play and trust are the effective weapons against violence. With transparent, well conducted elections by INEC will be no violence.
GROWING INANITY-Much Ado About paper qualification
Some-how we like to dwell on inanity. The recent saga over education qualification of a presidential candidate belongs here. It was uncalled because the time for verification, vetting and question of candidates’ credential was long over thereby smacking of attempt to black-mail in order to edge out a hot contestant for the coveted throne. The referee- INEC spoke and its judgment ought to be respected as part of the ABUJA ACCORD.
There has been too much emphasis on paper qualification which may explain the millions of unemployed graduates today. Education may help uplift the soul, advance a career especially in teaching but we do not need much of it to know that there is hunger in the air, corruption is a serious bane, poverty is pervasive, unemployment is high, infrastructural decay, rural neglect are predominant etc. These are some of the leading issues of the day which should prick the moral conscience of the candidates to address and convince citizens that each one is better than the other or has the greatest ability to fix country.
Some fallacy exists too. There was a time when it was thought that education solely holds the key to development until over-production of graduates led to the Diploma disease of today but without corresponding improvement in the quality of life. What is perhaps most disturbing is that the certificate deficiency argument is championed by morally bankrupt people who are known to jump from one party to another for selfish reason. It really makes no sense raising issues of qualification after the period for such matter had expired. Besides the man involved had been a General in the Nigerian Army, a Governor of a very large state, Minister and even a Head of state. Fortunately he is known to have passed through primary school to level secondary education and even beyond.
Beyond The Abuja Accord…The Justice & Peace Factors
Centre for Child Care and Youth Development, Uromi