By Tonnie Iredia
Mahamat Gandhi – the legendary Indian leader is forever remembered for his great achievement of attaining independence for his country from Britain without violence. Today, we recall Gandhi’s great quote: “happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
In other words, people should ensure that what they think, say or do is governed by peace. Events have since confirmed that great leaders of the world who preach peace have always been applauded.
The famous Martin Luther King Jnr was awarded the1964 Nobel Peace Prize for promoting non-violent means in his campaigns for civil-rights reforms. In 1993, the same honour was accorded Nelson Mandela for his virtue of perseverance in the pursuit of freedom for South Africa.
In Nigeria however, the resort to violence by politicians who claim they want to serve the people remains inexplicable. At each election cycle, some citizens must die for leaders to be elected.
This no doubt has been a source of concern to many patriots propelling some to organize peace accords between the major contesting gladiators. For the 2015 general elections, a group led by former Head of state, General Abdulsalam Abubakar and Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto put up a peace accord signed by political leaders to ensure a violence-free exercise.
It was repeated for the 2019 elections. Those who felt peace was achieved were probably impressed with the glamour of the signing ceremony and perhaps the letters of the agreement, but the spirit of the accord was breached before, during and after the televised ceremony. So, will the coming Edo elections be peaceful?
Last Tuesday, the revered Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba, N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, Ewuare II, summoned leaders of the two giant political parties to his palace to make firm promises that they would eschew violence in their electoral conduct.
On national television, their two leading candidates embraced each other in the spirit of peace. But, will the Edo peace accord be different from others in the past which were more breached than obeyed?
Hopefully, all should be well considering the personality of the convener, but many of the trappings which turned previous accords into futile exercises glaringly subsist. First, unlike India’s Gandhi, what Nigerian and indeed African politicians think is always different from what they say just as what they say is usually miles apart from what they do.
In Ivory Coast the previous week, at least eight people reportedly died following clashes between party supporters arising from the decision of President Alassane Ouattara to renege on his alleged promise to shun reelection.
The frustrations caused by his ambivalence notwithstanding, all Ouattara could do, was to admonish Ivorians to “make their choice in peace, without violence.” Did they understand him?
Each time people talk about peace, they forget that the concept is premised on other variables, the most important being justice. There can be no peace without justice; and the aspect of justice that is most relevant here is what history records.
Was it those that maintained peace in previous elections that ended up as winners? If not, how do we persuade those who hitherto believed in peace to remain so, only to be outsmarted by those who employed violence?
While it is entirely correct that election is a game and not war, how come those who play the game as warriors are often victorious? This is a major factor which underscores the futility of peace accords as Nigerian politicians habitually adopt the, ‘all is well that ends well’ approach.
Politicians frequently boast aloud that they would win at all cost and leave the losers dry in the increasing technicalities of our election tribunals and courts. Certainly, this exacerbates the refusal of some politicians to believe in peace that is separated from justice.
While looking forward to peace in the coming Edo election, the background of unjust posture remains transparent. Indeed, the trend whereby some people plan to use federal power to subvert the wishes of a state is unacceptable because the only power in a democracy is the votes of the people.
Both those who said months ago that they will give Obaseki the Ambode treatment and Obaseki’s supporters who in anticipation of federal power had organized a formidable local army are not democrats but warriors.
Yet, they are an integral part of those expected to eschew violence in politics and elections. Many of them are well known to believe that the only way to prove their relevance is to ensure victory for their party at all cost in their respective constituencies.
Such people were neither at Omo N’Oba’s peace accord to hear directly from the convener, nor would they appreciate the ‘train-the-trainer’ messages on the essence of peace. A sermon to them in our opinion almost amounts to the communication of the deaf.
Many politicians who are victims of selective hearing are propelled by perhaps the most intractable factor inhibiting peace in Nigerian elections which is the commercialization of the process.
Hard-working, honest citizens wake up daily to see how the uneducated and hitherto miscreants of society find their way into politics to become exceedingly rich in the twinkle of an eye.
Why will everyone not fight with whatever it takes to get in there and why will such fighters learn the language of peace? Maybe they might become temperate if INEC can increase the use of technology to render nugatory, all the gains that usually accrued to violent candidates and their supporters in our elections.
Otherwise, they would become hardened riggers if INEC officials are partial as in the past by aiding some politicians to get away with their plethora of electoral misdemeanour. For example, using violence to influence the cancellation of elections in some areas may become unattractive if INEC can organize a repeat election the next day in such areas.
Stories of how other election administrators such as the Police and the Judiciary in entrenching violence instead of peace into the political culture of our people are not fairy tales.
The two leading parties in Edo have for long been raising alarms of attacks on them. Are the alarms false? If not, who are the perpetrators? Are they invincible?
If not, why have the culprits not been properly sanctioned to deter others? Many people believe the law enforcement framework is either weak or compromised. If those who attack others are not apprehended, there certainly would be retaliatory attacks.
What type of peace can society achieve under such circumstances? As for the settlement of election disputes, unjust judicial pronouncements have become part of election chicanery in Nigeria making it hard to pacify those that are declared losers. In truth, not all of them are bad losers; many often react to injustice and go underground to plan for violence the next time around.
While commending our Revered Monarch for his peace initiatives we remind the two leading candidates who are Benins of the full implications of toying with the pronouncements of Omo N’Oba. Party leaders, as well as godfathers and sponsors also stand the risk of vicarious liability if their followers remain intransigent and disallow peace in Edo.