By Chukwudi Nweje Acting Features Editor
Finally, presidential candidates of all the political parties in Nigeria have signed an accord to prevent violence before, during and after the February 14 presidential election. The pact signed in Abuja during a sensitisation workshop on non-violence polls had in attendance President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), General Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressives Congress (APC), Tunde Anifowose Kelani of Action Alliance (AA), Dr. Rafiu Salau of Alliance for Democracy (AD), Ganiyu Galadima of Alliance Congress (AC), Alhaji Mani Ibrahim Ahmad of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Sam Eke of Citizens Popular Party (CPP), Ambrose Albert Oworu of Hope Party, Prof. Oluremi Sonaiya of KOWA Party and Chief Chekwas Okorie of Unity Progressive Party (UPP).
In the undertaking signed in the presence of former Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr. Kofi Anan; former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku; former United Nations representatives, Ibrahim Gambari; and Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, the presidential candidates pledged to refrain from campaigns that could involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling and to get their agents to toe similar line.
Beyond signing the accord which is coming as a fulfillment of the political parties’ earlier promise to eschew violence before, during and after the general elections, how realisable is the pact? The major thrust of the no- violence accord is that all the candidates of the various parties agree “to refrain from making or causing to make our names or that of our party, any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence, before, during and after the elections.” But can they assure this? The political parties and their candidates may to some level try to abide by their accord. But can they guarantee that their ardent followers will?
As it is, the signing of the accord is coming at a time when pockets of violence, which neither the candidates nor the political parties directly initiated, are already noticeable in some states of the country. Only on January 10 some angry youths had attacked and burnt a campaign bus branded with President Jonathan’s campaign posters at Zololo junction, Bauchi road in Jos, Jos North Local Government area of Plateau state. The attack was said to have occurred as PDP supporters in the state converged at the Hiapang Airport to receive the gubernatorial candidate of the party, Gyang Pwajok, who was returning from Lagos after receiving his flag. Also on January 12 in Abuja, armed men reportedly invaded the home of the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun. Although the police was said to have ruled the incident, which occurred when Oyegun was away on an unscheduled assignment, as a case of robbery, the APC thinks there is more to it than meets the eyes. The PDP and APC are already trading accusations over both incidents.
Again, the battle for 2015 presidency is currently ragging very furiously on the social media and various degrees of aspersion are being cast and provocative statements made there. No political party or candidate has control over what their admirers or critics post on the social media.
The signing of the pact represents a good step towards curbing electoral violence but the security agencies and the electoral umpire and the citizenry also have a major role to play in its workability. The security agencies must strive to discharge their duties impartially, while the electorate must avoid being used to perpetrate violence.
Recall that the political parties and their candidates did not directly participate in the orgy of violence during the post election violence of 2011 that left hundreds of Nigerians including members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) serving their fatherland in the northern parts of the country dead. Nigerian cannot afford to witness such carnage again. The violence-free poll accord is therefore a good initiative that all the presidential candidates, the political parties and every Nigerian should strive hard to actualise.
The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) said that “the import of the programme didn’t sink well into the politicians,” arguing that “the accord does not have legal backing such that it would hold the candidates down to it except the moral suasion that is being appealed to.”
Debo Adeniran, the Coalition’s Executive Chairman said that the Peace Pact further demonstrated the hypocrisy that governs the mind of Nigerian Politicians as it provided opportunities for them to engage in further campaign. He said: “They were forced to make statement that they would not make any conscious attempt to incite their followers against each other. The truth is that it is not parties or leadership of a political or a candidate that incites violence, it is the conduct and outcome of the election that cause violence. And it is not the anger of the candidates themselves that is vent on the streets when people engage one another in bloodletting, it is the attempt by some powerful forces to sabotage the interest of the majority of people, especially when majority of the people voted for one candidate and the process is manipulated to give the mandate to another person. That is the way to forment trouble.”
SOURCE: Daily Independent.