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2023Election Friction: Reflection on the Presidential Peace Accord

By Debo Oladimeji

In February the 18 presidential candidates of Nigeria’s general election signed a second peace accord in the capital, Abuja, in a bid to prevent unrest surrounding the February 25 polls.

The pact is to ensure “the conduct of free, fair, credible, transparent and verifiable elections cognisant of the need to maintain a peaceful environment before, during and after the 2023 general elections” and “to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns”.

An earlier agreement had been signed in September 2022, which former military head of state and retired general Abdusalam Abubakar said had been violated numerous times. Abubakar, the chairperson of the National Peace Committee, said 44 percent of the September accord’s violations “were carried out by the spokespersons for political parties, 26 percent by party members, 19 percent by the presidential candidates themselves, 11 percent by the hardcore supporters and four percent by the chairmen of the parties”.

The Tuesday evening signing, organised by the National Peace Committee and the Kukah Leadership Centre, an Abuja-based think tank, was in the presence of President Muhammadu Buhari and other African and international leaders and diplomats.

Committee officials said the accord was meant to bind political parties, candidates and their supporters to resort to constitutional means if they are dissatisfied with electoral outcomes.

Along with the presidential candidates, members of observer missions from the African Union, European Union and the Commonwealth, and other diplomats were present at the signing.

Also present were Thabo Mbeki, Joyce Banda, Uhuru Kenyatta, John Mahama and Ernest Bai Koroma, the former presidents of South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana and Sierra Leone respectively who are heading foreign observer missions.

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, another member of the committee also attended, as was Patricia Scott, secretary-general of the Commonwealth and a representative of the United Nations secretary-general. The election has come and gone.

 An election is seen to be free and fair when there are political freedoms and fair processes leading up to the vote, a fair count of eligible voters who cast a ballot, and acceptance of election results by all parties.

Reactions from across the world have followed the 25 February presidential election, which produced Asiwaju  Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Nigeria’s next leader.  He was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the platform on which outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari has governed Nigeria since 29 May, 2015.

While a number of world leaders have congratulated the president-elect, some Western media have echoed the views of the Nigerian opposition and a section of the local media, which have been very critical of the election.

Asiwaju Tinubu was announced winner of the hard-fought contest with 8,794,736 of the over 24 million votes cast in the election. His tally represents only 37 per cent of the votes. Yet, it is 8 per cent higher than that of his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) was further behind with a 25 per cent share of the ballots.

Not unusual in Nigerian elections, the opposition has refused to concede defeat, and the two closest contestants have launched a formal challenge of the results in court. They are lamenting the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to upload screenshots of polling station results to a web portal, IReV, created for the purpose. Even at that, though quite ironic, some of the election results at the national legislative levels favourable to these parties have been endorsed and celebrated.

Some media organisations, as well as a number of local and international observers, have corroborated the opposition’s claims of lapses in the conduct of the election. In its interim report, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), which deployed 1,000 members from its 128 branches to monitor the poll across the country, identified some of the challenges it observed. These include “late arrival of INEC officials and ballot materials at the polling stations, malfunctioning of the biometric voter accreditation system (BVAS) machines, limited or non-transmission of results from polling units to the INEC Result Viewing (iReV) portal, insecurity at some polling units, including violent attacks on voters and officials, voters’ intimidation, snatching and destruction of voting materials.”

Despite these observations, the NBA said about 92 per cent of the voters its Election Working Group interviewed said they were either “somewhat satisfied” or “excellently satisfied” with the conduct of the polls. What the report suggests is that respondents do not consider the observed lapses significant enough to damage the integrity of the election.

While the conduct of election is not that perfect, it is excessive and inaccurate to describe the exercise as totally ineffective or as the worst in Nigeria’s history, as some want the world to believe.

The results of the poll, is also something to go by. Although the ruling APC runs the federal government and 21 of 36 states, Asiwaju Tinubu won in only 12 states. He lost in some of the party’s historical strongholds, some with large voting populations. These include his home state, Lagos, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi, Yobe and Gombe, all of which have APC stronghold.

Aside from the President-elect who lost his home state, the National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu, and the Director-General of Asiwaju Tinubu’s campaign organisation, Governor Simon Lalong, were also trounced in their Nasarawa and Plateau States, respectively, by the Labour Party. President Buhari’s home state, Katsina, as well as Kaduna, Kano and Kebbi, which have governors fiercely loyal to Asiwaju, all fell to the opposition.

Prior to the election the Rotary Club of Lagos in collaboration with Rotary District 9110 marked the World Peace and Understanding Day 2023 at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs NIIA, Lagos. It was attended by dignitaries from the diplomatic community, Rotary District 911O, Nigeria, present and past District Governors, President and members of Rotary Club of Lagos, and special guests. The occasion presented an opportunity to give Rev. Sr. Henrietta Alokha, the principal of Bethlehem Girls College Abule-Ado a posthumous award. She died during the Abule Ado explosion three years ago while trying to save the lives of school children that were trapped in her school.

The keynote speaker, Nigerian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Ambassador Dr Mrs. Eniola Ajayi recalled that without peace there is no development. And without development there is no peace. That is to say that peace and development go hand in hand.

She noted that the United States of America is still trying to recover from the aftermath of the January 6 2021 insurrection on the US capitol. The time and resources that are being used investigating what happened that day could have been put to use on other positive venture for the good of all.

This is not even counting the cost of the replacement for the properties damaged during the uprising. The recent upheaval in Brazil post-election is not desirable as well. Right now, the upheaval and the instability occasioned by the naira swap is what we are all grabbling with resulting from the general election.

“These are things that we can and should try to avoid for the sake of our peaceful coexistence. Nigeria is a fledgling democracy with the improved standard of living and the building of strong democratic institution, civic reorientation and constant electoral reforms, internal party democracy and unbiased electoral umpire and impartial judiciary and improved security of life and property, peaceful conduct of election is possible, with all the attendant benefits for a developing countries like Nigeria to develop exponentially. One way to achieve peace among parties and nations is to ask the questions in the Rotary club four way tests.”

One, is it the truth, no fake news, verified it before you pass it on. Is it fair to all concerned? The crux of our problem in Nigeria is lack of consideration for our fellow men. No three, will it build good will and better friendship. Creating a healthy society for all should be our goal. No four, will it be beneficial to all concerned. Investing in our common wealth is the wise thing to do in the pursuit of peace.

Just as she suggested let us continue on the path of Rotary seven paths to peace, a path of patriotism, conciliation. The path to freedom, progress, justice, sacrifice and the path to loyalty. We thank God that the election was peaceful.

Just as Ambassador Ajayi said, we expect that all other upcoming election in Nigeria and other parts of Africa  and beyond will be hitch free and rancor free so that we can usher in a peaceful transition of power and invariably lead to sustainable development then we shall behold the Nigeria of our dream the coat of arms of Nigeria says it all. Unity and faith peace and progress, If we have unity and faith we would attain peace and progress. We already have the seed of greatness in us.

A greater Nigeria is possible I dare say that the Nigeria of our dream will happen in our life time. If you believe it say it with me that the Nigeria of our dream will happen in our life time.

Oladimeji is a Lagos based writer

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