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2019: Peace initiative, a timely move

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2019: Peace initiative, a timely move

 

The Sultan of Sokoko, Sa’ad Abubakar III, and President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Ayokunle, recently signed a pact aimed at ensuring a peaceful atmosphere before, during and after the 2019 general elections.

The peace accord was signed at a Peace Declaration Summit organised by the Nigerian Interfaith Action Association (NIFAA) in collaboration with local and international partners.

Both the Sultan and Ayokunle urged Muslims and Christians to work together, shun violence, embrace dialogue and be committed to building communities that are resilient and free from fear.

“We join together to affirm that Nigeria is and shall remain a country committed to peace and harmony among all of its members, Christian or Muslims, from the North or from South.

“And that democracy must bring us closer together as a people and not separate us.

“We join together in patriotic love for our country and our fellow Nigerians to declare for peace as key stakeholders representing various religious and ethnic groups in Nigeria,” they said after the peace declaration.

The importance of this peace initiative by the foremost religious leaders in the country cannot be overemphasised. The point need to be made very strongly that next year’s elections must not be approached by politicians with a do-or-die mentality. It is in this regard that the message of both leaders is vital.

The timing too could not have been better. The various political parties have just finished conducting their primaries, and in many instances internal crisis and violence characterised the exercises. Although some of internal wrangling have been largely resolved in some states, others are still enmeshed in some level of crisis. We do hope that these issues will be resolved quickly.

But the real challenge will be the conduct of the political parties as the general elections early next year draw ever so close. We want to state categorically that the contests must be issues-based. Politicians must eschew a situation of mudslinging, character assassination, calumny and the likes. All the candidates must be prepared to tell Nigerians what they have in store for them; they must be able to run on the strength of their ideas, policies and achievements as the case may be.

 

The politicians belong, in the main, to the two major religions in the country, so it won’t be too much expecting them to listen to the admonition of their religious leaders to shun violence and eschew any actions that are capable of triggering crisis. By the very nature of elections winners and losers are bound to emerge. So, wherever politicians find themselves in this spectrum they should accept it in the knowledge that there will always be opportunities for elections in the future. Winners should also be magnanimous in victory with the overriding principle being the need to ensure that peace reigns at all times because without peace very little can be achieved in terms of progress.

 

In this respect, politicians must guard against inflammatory remarks that are capable of heating up the system. The utterances and actions of some politicians give the lie to their self-confessed claim that they are driven by desire to serve. If that is really the motivation, then there should not be a recourse to desperation and willingness to pull down the entire system.

Party leaders must caution their party men to be more circumspect and restrained in their utterances. Indeed, we note that some of the party leaders themselves need to rise above mundane party politics. They must become statesmen who are more concerned about the overall interest of the country rather than being just party champions.

We recall that prior to the 2015 general elections there was a similar peace initiative led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar with Rev. Matthew Hassan Kukah and others as members of the committee. That move helped in so small measure to define the conduct of that election especially due to their commitment. We also do hope that this particular move by the Sultan and the CAN leader will be pursued with equal zeal and commitment by the promoters of the initiative. Undoubtedly, these leaders know the enormity of the task ahead and pointing it out is just a matter of emphasis. But the bulk of the work lies with the politicians. As has been alluded to already the recent primaries were characterised by violence and intimidation. So we use this opportunity to call on these politicians not to plunge the country into chaos. They must be guided by the larger good in their words and actions.

Finally, working with Gen Abdulsalami’s committee is a move we will recommend to both the Sultan and Ayokunle. The more people working for peace in this regard the better for the country. This is one area where the expression ‘the more the merrier’ certainly holds true.

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