One unique activity in the political landscape of Nigeria that is really evolving since 2015 is the signing of peace accord by political parties and their candidates. The signing of peace accord has become a standard unavoidable practice since it was introduced as part of the build up to the 2015 general elections when palpable tension was very high in the polity.
Of course, this novel and commendable initiative was introduced to reduce or stop the spate of violence during electioneering campaign and elections and to commit the major political gladiators and their parties to accept election outcomes that are usually rejected by people and parties that lost elections in the country.
The latest in the series of peace accord agreement in the current political dispensation was held last Thursday September 29, 2022 in Abuja. Consequently, the issue of concern to discerning minds and this writer is why the need for signing of peace accord any time major elections are to be conducted in Nigeria? Is it a case of immaturity or inability to conduct ourselves like in the more prosperous countries from which democracy was copied? Are we saying the political leaders and their followers cannot conduct themselves in a civilized peaceful manner? And how long will the country be subjected to signing peace accord before we can conduct credible acceptable election?
I should stress it that many people detest the obnoxious practice that seems to take the country and her people back to the pre-colonial period dominated by intra tribal wars and killings. The accord was instituted to forestall thuggery and other violent crimes associated with elections and to commit political parties and candidates to accept outcomes of elections. This was hinged on the reality that election results are always disputed and sometimes violent with attendant loss of lives and property. No part of Nigeria is immune to the malady associated with outcome of elections. Peace accord was also instituted and implemented faithfully since 2015 because of the usual tendencies of Nigerian politicians to win elections at all costs, because whether they are popular or not and whether they are acceptable or not, what matters to them is to win. And to accomplish this they deploy all arsenal at their disposal including using thugs to unleash violence on the people.
This unwholesome debilitating and retrogressive practice started in the 1960s especially during the 1964 general elections that witnessed massive rigging and crisis leading to loss of lives and properties of notable politicians in the country. The ensuing disorder that followed election crisis ultimately culminated in the military take-over of government in 1966 in the country. This dangerous practice continued when the country was returned to civilian rule in 1983. The 1983 general elections generated a lot of crises especially in the Southwest in which again a number of politicians and their followers were killed.
Since the emergence of the Fourth Republic in 1999, thuggery and violence also returned to the political arena in the country. Most politicians go around with armed security agents and thugs recruited and trained to protect them as well as visit violence on their opponents. The proliferation of small to medium arms and ammunition in the country has been traced to the engagement of thugs by politicians that arm their thugs with sophisticated weapons and are usually unable to retrieve them from the hooligans after election. Thus politicians in their quest to win elections recruit and train thugs that are used to intimidate, harass often attack political oppoenents as well as rig elections.
This evil act reached its peak in 2015 when politicians were alleged to recruit fighters from neighouring countries to fight during the election of that year. This development heightened tension and created palpable fears and anticipation of serious crisis of great magnitude. Therefore, to forestall breakdown of law and order as well as crisis during and after election of 2015, the peace committee chaired by the former Head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar packed a peace accord for contending political parties and their Presidential candidates. The peace accord was designed to ensure peace during and after the election to ensure all the political gladiators accept the outcome of the general elections of that year. No doubt the peace accord really helped to douse tension and eventual peaceful conduct of the 2015 general elections.
However, when the idea of peace accord was introduced in 2015, it was a welcome and good idea because of the dangerous trend of politicking and fear of impending violence in the country. Everywhere was charged because candidates of the two major political parties were bent on winning the election. It did not only ensure peace during the election, but it also permitted the incumbent that lost the election to concede defeat for the first time in the history of Nigeria. Notwithstanding the very good intention of the accord, after 62 years of political independence, do we need to continue to sign peace accord before acceptable elections are undertaken? Is it that we are not mature enough to be able to organize ourselves for election like what obtained in other more prosperous climes?
Of course, that Nigerians still need to sign a peace accord before elections is a sign that we have not learnt anything and that we cannot manage our affairs. I made it bold to say that signing peace accord indicates there are some things fundamentally wrong with the country. In reality, peace accords are signed in societies that have been ravaged by war. For instance, the Paris Peace Accord was signed in 1973 to establish peace in Vietnam to end the Vietnam War. During elections in Nigeria, are we at a war situation to qualify us to sign peace accord? Even in other smaller and less prosperous African countries, they still conduct their elections without peace accord. Why peace accord in Nigeria? This is not to suggest that those that started it erred, far from that. The exigencies of that period dictated it. They had genuine and infallible reasons to organise it and since that time we should have learnt our lessons and jettisoned it and be able to conduct peaceful elections without signing a peace accord. As indicated earlier, this retrogressive idea persists because of the poor quality of leaders that dominated the political scene in Nigeria. They are the ones responsible for organizing and sponsoring violence so that they can win elections.
The truth is that this unprogressive practice must be discarded for new ideas and processes to conduct our election peacefully without necessarily signing a peace accord. Peace accords are required in war torn areas and since elections are not wars I see no reason why it should become part and parcel of our political arrangement in Nigeria. It was not in place before 2015 and yet elections were conducted. To achieve the situation where a peace accord which is an aberration in the first instance, the security agents must be alive to their responsibilities of protecting lives and properties during election and should not allow thugs to operate. They can easily locate them and render them powerless if they so desire anyway.
There is the need for moral regeneration in the country to let the citizenry realise that elections are not war that must be worn at all cost. A situation where people decide to become thugs to protect and kill for others should be changed and completely wiped out of the Nigerian polity. Also, the political leaders that recruit and fund thugs and violence must change and if they don’t desist the security agents must deal with them appropriately.