November 18, 2015

Bayelsa election peace deal

FOLLOWING on the heels of the successful peace pact between the presidential candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Goodluck Jonathan, and the All Progressives Congress (APC), General Muhammadu Buhari in the run-up to the 2015 general elections, a similar deal for peaceful polls has been brokered for the candidates of the eighteen contending political parties in the Bayelsa governorship poll, which comes up on December 5, 2015.

The deal, packaged and signed under the watchful eyes of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman’s representative, Mrs Amina Zakari, representatives of the United Nations Development Programme and heads of federal security agencies in Yenagoa, the state capital on November 10, 2015, saw the two main candidates, Governor Seriake Dickson of the PDP and former Governor Timipre Sylva of the APC committing themselves to the terms of the agreement to ensure peaceful conduct before, during and after the election.

It will be recalled that the National Peace Committee, made up of former presidents of Nigeria and respected, eminent citizens, along with international stakeholders, had forged a deal for a violence-free general election on two occasions. This went a long way in minimising conflict, though it could not be altogether eliminated. It helped in ensuring one of the most successful elections and transfers of power in the history of the country, whereby a sitting president conceded victory to the opposition and handed over power peacefully, an act that brought Nigerian democracy lots of accolades and esteem from all over the world.

We expect the contenders, especially Dickson and Sylva, who have governed the state, to exercise utmost statesmanship and high sense of responsibility, emulating the noble conduct of former president, Jonathan, who incidentally, is from the state. The Bayelsa election should be used as a platform to show the world that the state is the home of genuine democrats that the whole nation should look up to.

We expect that a similar pact should be signed, not just in Kogi State where a governorship election is coming up on November 18, 2015, but everywhere there is a major election in the country. We hope that these peace pacts and total adherence to them by political actors will form part of our unfolding democratic and electoral culture in the same way that election debates appear to have taken root.

The days of elections being openly declared by otherwise respected political actors as “do-or-die” affairs should be a thing of the past. Politicians must conduct their campaigns in a civilised and lawful manner and thereafter submit themselves to the wishes of the electorate, bearing in mind that those who lose elections today can always come back tomorrow more fortified, to try their luck.