Editors' Take

Peace In Defence Of Democracy Alpheaus Paul-Worika

The presidential candidates of the contesting political parties have pledged their commitment to peace in defence of democracy and nation building, as they signed the long expected accord for a peaceful 2019 general election.

The world still thinks very highly of Nigeria and we should take advantage of it and not let ourselves down. Even with the mudsling in the political arena, with party supporters throwing stones at chieftains and propagandists spewing hate speeches, Nigeria is still a great country.

This is what it means to be elected to head a special committee of the United Nations. In demonstration of global confidence, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Prof. Tijjani Muhammed-Bande was re-elected to chair the UN Special Committee on peacekeeping.

The special committee which has a total of 147 countries in peacekeeping mission includes countries such as Canada, Argentina, Poland, Egypt and Japan. Its mandate, to review the entire United Nations Peacekeeping operation is a very ardours and gigantic task, and consideration for the job goes beyond competence.

Nigeria can no longer be a pariah nation in the global political community. It suffered that fate under late General Sani Abacha and the effect was not palatable. The prompt return to democratic rule by Abdulsalam Abubakar made him one of the most respectful Nigerian leaders at home and abroad.

Nigeria’s presidential elections have been rather testy with tinges of desperation that inflame the passion of voters to cast their ballot in fear. In the 2015 election, the tension was palpable and required the intervention of very eminent and respectable personalities and institutions to restore voter-confidence for public safety.

In a very significant event whose importance can only grow further, incumbent president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, his foremost challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, and a motley of other presidential candidates signed a peace accord that was facilitated by former United Nations Secretary General, Late Kofi Annan, representatives of the United Nations Security Council, traditional and religions leaders among others.

In a rare show of commitment to prevent electoral violence, before, during and after the elections, the candidates reaffirmed their loyalty to the Nigerian Constitution and to avoid acts that would endanger political stability and national security; and also place national interest above personal and partisan concern.

It was a peace parley that bolstered public confidence and every Nigerian; including the candidates themselves were satisfied.The maxim,“my ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian” reverberated and the echo defined several perceptions.

It manifested in the quick acceptance of the election result by Dr. Jonathan even before the formal declaration of the victor by INEC. With hindsight, that act of sportsmanship by the former president was an uncommon leadership trait by African leaders and Nigeria is a proud beneficiary of that legacy.

Former United States president, Bill Clinton who was billed to deliver a key note speech and witness the signing of the peace accord this year declined because he didn’t want the exercise to be politicized. Too bad for the time. Bill Clinton is a huge value to the peace process. The organizers understand the impetus he would bring to the event.

We should build on the 2015 peace deal and not play games with the relevance of mutuality and concord to orderly conduct.

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir, El-Rufai ruffled not a few feathers when he alluded to foreign interference in the elections and threatened body bags as a repercussion. Quickly, the PDP threatened to withdraw from the accord it had signed for a peaceful election in Kaduna state.

El-Rufai did not withdraw his threat to foreigners (who interfere). He explained away what was said on a public television. The Federal Government also said the governor speech was in the country’s interest. The sensitivity of the words at a time like this matter.

And at the PDP rally in Port Harcourt, the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s allegation about Buhari’s statement in Zamfara state added to the apprehension. According to Atiku, Buhari had called on voters to enjoy a good harvest, eat well and fight. Festus Kayamu, spokeman of the Buhari campaign defended the president’s comment as a usual joke that did not mean a call to arms.

And at the APC rally also in Port Harcourt, Rivers State former Governor and Director-General of the Buhari campaign, Rt Hon. Chibuike Amaechi’s statements have provoked several comments by the state government and stakeholders.

Peace sustains hope. In a free and fair election. Election should not be a time of war; to sing and remind us of death. Ensuring non-violent polls begins with the leaders of the political parties accepting to be honourable, to play by the principles of the constitution and the electoral act and guidelines.

We can surpass the legacy of 2015 by being honest and keeping our security agents and INEC officials from harm’s way not by sloganeering but by insisting on probity rather than show of force.

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