BOLAJI AKINYEMI/EMEKA ANYAOKU/ABDULSALAMI ABUBAKAR 2015: Reminiscing the role of trouble shooters

How peace committee averted doomsday predictions

By Martins Uwakwe

THE role of some elders in dousing the tension that preceded and followed the 2015 presidential election is one that has remained remarkable till date.

THE role of some elders in dousing the tension that preceded and followed the 2015 presidential election is one that has remained remarkable till date.

Their intervention climaxed as the results of the 2015 presidential elections showed the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan   losing to his challenger, Muhammadu Buhari.   The men, alongside a few others, worked the clock to mellow the tension that had gripped the polity.

Interestingly, it was the formation of the National Peace Committee that provided the platform upon which the statesmanship role was played.

Buhari,Jonathan,Abubakar, Anyaoku, Akinyemi and Kukah
Buhari,Jonathan,Abubakar, Anyaoku, Akinyemi and Kukah

But before the Peace Committee, it was Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, former External Affairs Minister, who first wrote an open letter to both Jonathan and Buhari admonishing both men to be held down by an agreement to call their supporters to order and tone down the rhetoric of violence that rented the air at that time.

The membership of the then Gen Abdulsami Abubakar-headed committee included Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe(retd),   John Cardinal Onaiyakan, Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Justice Rose Ukeje, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Mr. Sam Amuka, Prof. Zainab Alkali

Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Bishop, Matthew   Kukah, Dame Priscilla Kuye, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Prof. Ameze Goubadia and Alhaji Muhammad Musdafa.

Others were Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, who was the Chairman of inter-party advisory Council, IPAC, and Sen. Ben Ndi Obi, who served as coordinator with Kukah.

Faced with rising tensions across Nigeria, Sen Obi had written a letter

to the leadership of the then opposition party concerning the All Political Parties Stakeholders Summit, which they adopted at their NEC meeting, and unanimously approved.

At the forum which was key to the formation of the peace committee, stakeholders engaged in critical discussion on how to achieve and ensure a violent-free election, run an issue driven campaign devoid of hate speech and on how to reduce the tensed political atmosphere.

The forum had the notable presence of the following: then President Goodluck Jonathan GCFR, candidate of the All Progressives Congress APC, Muhammadu Buhari,   former head of State Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme , former Chief of General Staff (Vice President) Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe and then chairman of INEC Prof. Attahiru Jega and chairmen of political parties among others.

However, the Abuja Accord was another concept aimed at preventing pre and post-election violence.

It resulted in the signing of a   peace agreement   by participating   presidential candidates and chairmen of political parties.

The success of the initiative was such that   the UN Secretary General, Mr. Banki Moon, sent a high powered delegation led by the UN representative in Africa, Mr.IBN Chambas, to the office of Sen Obi with a note of appreciation for convening such a landmark event that brought peace to the largest country in Africa contrary to the predictions of possible chaos.

Instructively, the facilitators at the signing of the accord at the instance of the organisers were men of proven professional and moral integrity.

The presence of the men was necessitated by the need to respect   the Abuja Peace Accord and make sure its resolutions were binding.

They include, Mr. Koro Anan Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who chaired the event, Gen Isaac Obiakor and Dr. Ibrahim Gambari.

The resolution of the forum as captured in its five cardinal points   read thus: ‘’To run issue-based campaigns at national states and local government levels. In this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious sentiment, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our name.

“To refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that of our parties any public statement, pronouncement, declaration or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the elections. To forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all act of electoral violence whether perpetuated by our supporters and or opponents.

‘’ To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence of this accord if necessary, by a national peace committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders. All the institutions of government including INEC and security agencies must act and be seen to act with impartiality.’’

Remarkably, the National Peace Committee was a follow up to the Abuja Accord.

Indeed, the committee was formed to continue in mediating peace among stakeholders and to ensure that the spirit and letters of the Abuja Peace Accord was obeyed to the latter.

In addition, the imperativeness of the body arose from fears from concerned stakeholders including some international organisations about the possibilities of uncontrollable violence during and after the elections.

Ahead of the 2015 elections two separate government bodies, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs and that of the National Security Adviser had worked separately on how to avoid a troubled situations.

While the nation was taken to the precipice by the brinkmanship of the political class, the group’s aim was to win the support of the institutional heads towards ensuring that the principles of the Abuja Accord were adhered to.

With their moral standing the members of the committee’s were able to guide the political actors out of the path of chaos.

In performing this noble task, logistics support for the committee was provided by the UNDP and a number of other international organisations including Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue which is based in Geneva, the same body which had earlier provided support for the dialogue that followed the post-election conflicts in Kenya and Liberia.

The committee members, however, did not demand or receive any financial rewards for their work from the UNDP as they saw their engagement as a call to national duty.

The committee members were found to have made personal sacrifices to ensure the success of their job. From Kukah, who provided his secretariat   to Abubakar, who provided inspirational leadership and Obi, who was the engine room, the members were selfless and exemplary in performing their task.

For instance, the job of the committee did not end there as after the elections they continued contacts with the two major candidates as the results came out. The landmark role of the committee was laid in history by the fact that Abubakar first disclosed news of the telephone call from the president to Gen. Buhari during one of the shuttles between the two candidates.   Even the media angle was tied up as stories likely to cause conflagration were shunned, while stories promoting peace and unity were given more prominence and pride of place.

However, it is important to highlight the essence and key achievements of the eminent persons.

Given how charged the polity was, bringing   the main stakeholders to a roundtable discussion, to chart the way forward and reach a resolution capable of dousing the already tensed political atmosphere was key to the peaceful atmosphere that trailed the election.

The summit served as a platform for wider deliberations on an action plan that will lead to free, fair, transparent and violence-free 2015 general elections.

It also curtailed the over politicization of the Boko Haram menace, bringing the gladiators together for the first time to chart the way forward towards taming the monster that could totally mar the 2015 general elections.

One of the outstanding achievements of the June 12 summit was that it doused the already tensed political atmosphere.

In addition, it laid the foundation for a peaceful, free and fair, acceptable and violence-free 2015 polls.

The forum helped to foster stakeholder’s collaboration in ensuring a smooth transition from one regime to another.

It heralded the 2015 election sensitization summit on non-violence, which gave birth to the

Abuja peace Accord, which metamorphosed into National Peace Committee.

 

*Uwakwe, a peace and conflict resolution expert, lives in Jos.

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.