THE exquisite Kakanfo Inn and conference centre on Nihinlola street, Ibadan teemed with guests as the tourist centre hosted a two –day mega event convened by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), Abuja, with support from   the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which ended on Thursday March 13.
With the theme ‘strategic stakeholders Dialogue on Peaceful Elections in 2015 in its kitty, the IPCR mobilised stakeholders from eight states of   the federation comprising Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Ogun, Oyo, Kwara and Lagos states, people drawn from various interst groups which included traditional institutions, security  agencies, Judiciary, religious, media, youth groups, road transport workers, political parties and related agencies, including INEC and other international partners.
Welcoming participants to the event, a director in IPCR, Mr. Emmanuel Mamman stated that the event became imperative due to the prevailing political atmosphere in Nigeria which he said, poses a threat to Nigeria’s fledging democracy.
In his welcome address, the DG of the Institute for peace and conflict Resolution (IPCR), Oshita O. Oshita represented by the Director, Democracy And Development of IPCR, Gabriel B. Jiya, noted that understanding the magnitude of the events that would shape any nation’s history going by the political landscape of that nation would help that nation  that surmount such challenges when they arise. He therefore stated that the whole essence of the strategic stakeholders Dialogue is for participants to brainstorm on peaceful elections, identify the clear threats to peaceful elections one and nationhood and proffer solutions that could broker peace among individuals and communities, groups, political and other interest groups and impact on nation at large.
In her fist paper presentation on Day one, Miss Voke Akpoigbe  identified and critically xrayed the role of stakeholders in the 2015 General Elections. Miss Akpoigbe took participants on an incursion into elections in developing nations which she noted are characterised by tension, insecurity, violence and other forms of disturbance, unrests and aggression. She enumerated the various stakeholders to  include INEC, the Judiciary security  Agencies, political parties and their candidates, among others.
Elements which could also reflect on the outcome of the elections were highlighted to include incisive comments across religious, regions and sections, and allusion in these very salient areas. She stated that civil society organizations should ensure they maintain neutrality which is key to effective collaboration, constant interaction and subsequent peace-building.
The second paper presentation, done by His Royal Majesty, Oba A.O. Adegoke, the Arala of Ara was on violence prevention strategies towards the 2015 General Elections: The Role of Traditional Rulers.
The monarch gave a historical rundown of violence with regard to how it has stalled the development and progress of  the nation and other nations of the world at large. He stated the violence is an act which could result in physical and emotional injury and enjoined participants to spread the message of the organizers which is geared towards attaining peace in the nation even as the 2015 Elections give a divergent impression and politicians sing discordant tunes.
He noted that the position of traditional rulers has as never before been so compromised as it has in the build up to the 2015 Elections in Nigeria, but cautioned  that traditional rulers  should always ensure they do not because of greed, engage in activities that would further demean the status and integrity of the traditional institution and make it an instrument in the hands of politicians to use in perpetrating mischief and causing the breakdown of peace and order in the communities, states and nation at large.
The traditional leader stated that no matter their influence, traditional heads or obas of a people should remember their sovereignty derives from the people and therefore, their acceptance also borders on the collective will of the people who have the right to escort them out of the throne room’ when they err. He also enumerated the duties of traditional leaders to include influencing opinions, working without injustice, neutrality and the right application of sanctions.
He said their roles should include working hand in hand with the police, being constantly in touch with political leaders and ‘bringing light into their dark hearts but not allowing such relations to compromise the standard of integrity and impartiality of the traditional institution as the mouthpiece of the people.
He advised traditional leaders to be a veritable bridge between the people and government and continue to openly discuss with the government on the interest of the people, develop a culture of hatred for violence, initiate internal community policing or vigilante and above all, adhere strictly to the golden rule of non-partisanship at all times.
On day two of the dialogue, Mr. Christopher Afolabi, a media relations consultant and public Affairs commentator took participates on the third paper presentation which was ceutred on violence prevention strategies towards the 2015 General Elections: The role of the media /civil society. He ascribed Nigeria’s political and economic debacle to the culture of long military rule and maladministration that characterized Nigeria’s leadership system even with the onset  of democracy, unequal distribution of wealth, high rate of unemployment, attractive nature of public office and the culture of the people themselves which tilt towards ‘the pull them down syndrome and mentality’.
He noted that the country’s experience of a long period of military rule in her history, having grained  independence 55 years ago while the military had ruled for 33 years, even handing down the present constitution with which democracy operates, was not a good development for the nation.
“With unemployment rate at 70%, marginalition of the poor, lack of infrastructure, attractive public office where the do-or-die philosophy still holds sway, where would this country be in another 55 years?” He demanded.
He advised that in the forth coming elections, winners must be magnanimous in victory, while losers must learn to accept defeat.
Mr. Afolabi bemoaned the hydra-headed nature of poverty which he said has further worsened the propensity of individual, to engage in violence  acts, even for token “with mere N200, youths are ready to be recruited for violence and voter apathy appears unending unless gifts have exchanged hands.
On the prevention strategies, he said that prevention is still far better and cheaper than cure and that it begins with, “you and I, the whole of us. Our families, our schools, our religions, traditional institutions, media, civil society, heads of organizations, and it behoves us to preach peace”
He advised traditional rulers to have a change of heart in their involvement in politics at the detriment of the people and remember the vows they made before being given the mantle to led. Heads of organizations were also cultured peace building in their respectives organisations while professional associations like the road transport workers should check the activities of their members. The public Affairs Analyst also reminded INEC of its role as the umpire while he advised politicians to play by the rules.
The judiciary was not left out as it was advised to dismiss and admit election petitions within the framework allowed by the law and administer justice justiceably and fairly.
Professor Obodinma Oha of the University of Ibadan, also a guest speaker made a presentation on Ensuring the sustainability or-the Abuja peace Accord and the role of stakeholders. He noted that the Accord is legally binding on the political parties and their candidates, even on the government as witnessed by the signatories to the Accord.
He stated that the absence of violence that disrupts social order and creates or intensities insecurity is the best form of living. He advised that there is need for people to consider how individuals think about themselves, others, goals and relationships.
“While we as humans could be referred to as homo sapiens, that is, rational humans, we are also homohostilis, enemy-making humans.
He quoted Sam keen, a social psychologist and noted that the UNESCO recognizes the crucial role of the human mind  and the need to build peace on the mind. He mentioned some myths of “the imagined war” as including anyone who oppose one’s political affiliation, views as being one’s enemy; those as one’s friends /well wishers; one has the freedom to be lawless or recognizes the authority of existing structures of power; one could say or publish what one likes and go scot free.
The practices that undermine the peace Accord, according to the professor, were hate rhetoric, overflow of emotions, direct insults, blaming, threatening, fabrication of wrongdoing, provocative campaign adverts, social media posts, lying with photo shop and so forth.
Strategies for ensuring the sustainability of the peace Accord included enlightenment, translation and transmission of  the text of  the Accord-how this facilitates identification with the Accord,  Orientation toward understanding and taking responsibility.
The dialogue followed interactive sessions and presentations by the various states, questions and answers segment and commendations.
A communinique was drawn out at the end of the event, and its wordings were explicit on the need for the forthcoming general elections to be peaceful, fair and credible; for all stakeholders to play their roles according to the tenets of the constitution, for the media as Agenda setters to be fair to all sides and imbibe the ethics of the profession in their reportage, for security agencies, the judiciary to be fair and just to all and have in their minds the duty they owe to the people and in the sustenance of nationhood and democracy, and for parties and candidates to avoid hate speech and engage in issues based campaigns, also remembering the Peace Accord in their conduct, and for the Electoral Umpire, INEC, to be open, and deal fairly with all parties and work towards the conduct of a free, fair and peaceful election.