…As Abdulsalami wants leaders to learn from history
By Dirisu Yakubu
As Nigerians prepare to cast their votes in the general election next week, former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan has spoken of the need for political leaders particularly those seeking elective offices not to let their ambitions set the nation on fire, saying without peace, no meaningful development can be achieved.
Jonathan stated this in Abuja on Thursday at one day peace conference organized by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation. According to him, the world is watching Nigeria and all effort must be mustered to make the polls violent-free across the nation.
He warned of dire implications for the Africa sub-region should the elections go wrong, stating that as part of his commitment to deepening democracy in Nigeria and the African continent; the foundation would continue to explore avenues to encourage African leaders on the virtues of service and sacrifice.
Giving his remarks at the conference which has “Peaceful elections and national development,” as its theme, Jonathan also called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security personnel to be professional in the discharge of their responsibilities before, during and after the elections.
“For democracy to endure and be productive on the continent, African politicians and other stakeholders must realize that true heroes of leadership are not those whose desperation to impose their will endangers society, but those who have the humility to subjugate their personal ambitions to the collective interest of their nations.
“Our political leaders must realize that the greatest and most enduring legacy to leave behind is that of peace and development.
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“We are convinced that any one, either in government or outside government, who truly loves Nigeria, will not want to play the role of the villain by lending his support to any action that instigates crises,” he said, adding that “There is no gainsaying that when politicians resort to desperate measures in the bid to occupy important political positions, they run the risk of plunging their countries into serious crises that often lead to loss of lives, degradation of values as well as destruction of private and public assets.”
Although democracy is taking firm root in the continent, Jonathan counselled leaders to remember that failure to make the democratic process peaceful always make growth difficult to attain. “We know that good governance is the fertile ground upon which peace and sustainable economic growth are planted. In this regard, it is important to point out that in a democracy, periodic, credible and peaceful elections are the necessary gateways to improved governance and people-oriented development.
“It is on record that despite the marked improvement on the regularity and number of democratic nations, election-related violence has continued to be experienced in many African nations, often to the detriment of peaceful co-existence, economic growth and sustainable development.
“Although it is reassuring to note that democracy is being consolidated on the continent, with elections now conducted routinely by many African nations, it is however difficult to express such optimism on the peaceful nature of the electoral processes,” he added.
Adding his voice to the call, former Military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) tasked the nation’s leaders to imbibe the lessons of 2015, stressing that while the enemies of Nigeria predicted doom; the nation disappointed them by conducting a transparent election that ushered in the incumbent government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“We all recall the tension in Nigeria during the 2015 elections where the doomsayers were predicting the balkanization of Nigeria but thank God through the action of Nigerians and the then President, Goodluck Jonathan; they were proved wrong because the gentleman kept his word that his Presidency was not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he graciously conceded defeat at that election,” he noted.
While adding that electoral violence has often characterized the nation’s political process, the Chairman, National Peace Commission, said effort must be made to make the 2019 polls the most peaceful in the history of the nation.
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Special Guest of Honour and former President of Liberia, Professor Amos Sawyer in what appeared a veiled reference to Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s remark earlier in the week, said Nigerians must not see the presence of world leaders in the country as an intrusion, saying elections in Africa’s most populous nation mean a whole lot to the West African sub region.
“Nigeria’s role in West Africa makes election in this country is very critical. So elections in Nigeria cannot be seen solely as a Nigeria’s affairs,” he said, adding that the trouble currently rattling the nation’s judiciary should be resolved in accordance with the provisions of the law.
He continued, “Nigerian judiciary has been in the news for quite sometimes now in a manner that is of deep concern. It is our hope that the issues involved are resolved in a manner that will leave the integrity of the judiciary intact.”
Lead speaker and Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah who spoke on “Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Causes, Consequences and Options for Prevention,” harped on the need to provide services, arguing that violence is nothing but a reflection of deep frustration in the society.
Condemning the cheap values accorded human lives in the country; the clergy said killings no longer make meanings to people so long as those killed were not from their ethnic nationalities. “We have refused to confront the realities of our time,” he said, even as he drew the attention of the nation’s leaders to Zimbabwe which recently declared a national tragedy over the killing of her six citizens.
Dignitaries present at the event included the Special Representatives of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Professor Al-Hassan Conteh, former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, erstwhile Adamawa state governor, Boni Haruna and former Defence Minister, Bello Haliru.
Others included wife of President Jonathan, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, ex-Chief of Staff to President Jonathan and former Edo State Deputy Governor, Mike Oghiadomhe, a one-time Minister of state (Finance), Bashir Yuguda, popular entertainer cum activist, Charles Oputa (Charly Boy) among others.