THE signing of two peace accords within three months underlines imperative for peace before, during and after the elections. President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, signed the first accord in Abuja on 14 January. Among witnesses were former United Nations Secretary-General, Dr. Kofi Annan and former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku.
Just before the presidential and National Assembly elections, on March 28, the National Peace Committee on the 2015 Elections invited Jonathan and Buhari for the second accord. The timing was important. Many Nigerians saw the contestants hugging themselves, days to the elections. In view of the over-heated campaigns, and pockets of violence in some places, a second accord was apposite. It was obvious that though the candidates conducted themselves responsibly, during the campaigns, the same could not be said for their political parties and supporters.
In total disregard of the first accord, PDP and APC freely engaged in politics of calumny. Violence around the country, included the President severally targeted and hampered from campaigning freely in parts of the North, while gunfire and explosives hit APC members and rallies, especially in Rivers State. Both sides sponsored “hate” documentaries and campaign advertisements rather than investing their energies in selling their programmes to the electorate.
The atmosphere of grave apprehension over post-election violence was rife, and the Peace Committee considered it necessary to commit the major contenders to another accord to douse the tension. It seemed to have worked with the few reports of violent incidents.
General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the Chairman of the Peace Committee and the convener, Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, deserve commendations. Their work would resume on higher notes, with the announcement of the results. Committee members would have to draw from personal relationships to rein in many leaders, whose fragmented view of peace accounts for post-election violence. They are not necessarily the candidates.
The Committee also needs to identify investors – other stakeholders – in the expensive electoral campaigns. They expect to benefit from their candidates’ victory. If their candidates lose, they are most likely to engage their frustrations in sponsoring violence, in the vain hope that disruption of the polity could work in their favour. The governorship elections are no less prone to violence, but could benefit from peaceful acceptance of the presidential election result. Candidates should tune down their messages, which are mainly personal attacks on opponents.
Nigerians should realise that a peaceful atmosphere is important for the elected to implement programmes they canvassed before the polls. Without peace, our country is endangered. We need a country to engage in elections and democracy.