By ELVIS-WURA TOWOLAWI
Election is an indispensable factor that validates democracy and when considered free and fair – confers legitimacy on elected leaders in democracies. Yet, elections tend to be tense and violent in politically volatile societies such as Nigeria. This, of course can be attributed to the way the political gamers play the game. Most of them bent on power view the whole transition process as a ‘win or die’ affair which invariably fans the flame of irregularities, violence, and all what not in a blooming democracy as ours; especially in a sharply polarized nation.
Hence, in a timeous move to avert a disastrous electioneering outing come February 2015, a Peace Pact was signed by 14 presidential candidates at a 2015 General Elections Sensitization workshop on Non-violence in Abuja organized by the offices of the National Security Adviser and the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, on Wednesday, 14 January, 2015. The heart of this piece is to examine the peace pact and its potential on quelling simmering election motivated violence; as well as the way out of the mire of electoral violence. 2015 is indeed a milestone for Nigeria’s democracy!
Fundamentally, the peace bond christened Abuja Declaration Accord was read by Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary-General, who chaired the occasion. It was adopted first through acclamation and then signed by all candidates present. For purpose of clarity, the Accord binds the candidates to the following covenants:
i) To run issue-based campaigns at all level, shorn and devoid of religious incitement and ethnic or tribal profiting.
ii) To avoid making inflammatory or inciting statements and declarations capable of stoking the fire of violence and unrest before, during or after the election.
iii) To denounce publicly provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetrated by supporters and/or opponents.
iv) To commit themselves and their parties to the monitoring of the adherence to the accord if necessary, by a national peace committee composed of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.
v) All the institutions of the government including INEC and security agencies must act and been seen to act with impartiality…
However, we all know that men; nay, politicians are loath to keep agreement which may impinge on their perceived interest of grabbing power. Thus, it is supreme that we wield a “big stick” to keep these politicians in line in order to guarantee a peaceful transition. It’s vital that our electoral laws be strengthened to deal with electoral violence as a strictly criminal issue deserving the full weight of the law.
More so, nothing fuels electoral violence as base, sentimental campaign dimensioned on primitive and primordial inclinations with no bearing on agenda, ideology, peoples’ welfare, governance, and development. Our politicians must shun puerile mudslinging and needless character assassination to further political agenda.
Also, there is the need to emphasize the neutrality of INEC and security agencies to avoid an imputation of partiality which may lead to violence. And yes, rigging induces electoral violence; for the people will feel cheated, deceived, and robbed of their power – so they may erupt in violent retaliation.
Further, let our foot soldiers: youth purposefully escape from being pawns in the chessboard of the game. Can’t they see the politicians hugging themselves? Why should you die for someone who may not even return your calls when it’s over? I say no more.