Iheanacho Nwosu, Abuja
Former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, former President Goodluck Jonathan and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Kukah, yesterday warned party leaders and contestants to guard their utterances and actions so as not to set the country on fire.
However, Abdulsalami who is also the chairman of National Peace Committee (NPC), specifically recalled that but for the decision of former President Jonathan to concede defeat to t President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria would have been thrown into post election crisis in 2015.
They said politicians should not give impressions that their ambitions were more precious than the peace of the country.
The trio spoke at the peace conference organized by Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, which drew eminent individuals including former President of Liberia, Prof. Amos Sawyer and Special Representatives of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Chambas.
Abdulsalami continued: “African countries are usually tension soaked because of the very cutthroat competition involved. Africa indeed is a hotbed of election controversies.
“Nigeria is not a stranger to political electoral violence. This country has historically had its fair share of election violence.
“General elections where the doomsayers were predicting the balkanisation of Nigeria but thank God through the action of Nigerians and the then President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, they were proved wrong because this gentleman kept his word that his presidency is not worth the blood of any Nigerian and he graciously conceded defeat at that election.
“Allow me to on behalf of all Nigerians once more thank former President Goodluck Jonathan for saving the country from falling into political crisis and in further strengthening the growth of democracy not only in Nigeria but in Africa and indeed the world.
“Peace is absolutely necessary for the survival of a nation because without peace there will be no nation, without a nation there wouldn’t be any election”.
Harping on the need for all contestants, their followers and parties to play by the rule Jonathan advised them to desist from any action that could trigger conflicts before, during or after the polls.
He contended that the slow growth of economies in Africa could be linked to the preponderance of conflicts in the region.
He noted that a leader with a mindset to develop his country must be visionary, selfless without insisting to seek power at all cost or wielding power for his own sake.
The former President said “There is no gainsaying that when politicians resort to desperate measures in the bid to occupy important political positions, they run the risk of plunging their countries into serious crisis that often lead to loss of lives, degradation of values as well as destruction of private and public assets.
“These breed of politicians often ignore the fact that to be patriotic is to love your country and be prepared to live and die for her honour, reputation, freedom, progress and the ascendancy of the common good. You can restore destroyed infrastructure almost to its former state or even better, but you cannot easily repair people’s psyche, reconcile aggrieved persons and restore hope in a nation once they are damaged in destructive leadership struggles.
“In Nigeria we know that the injuries of the civil war which ended since 1970 are still on our memory.”
He continued “We know that good governance is the fertile ground upon which peace and sustainable economic growth are planted. In this regard, it. Is important to point out that in a democracy, periodic, credible and peaceful elections is the necessary gateway to improved governance and people oriented development,” he said.
Kukah in his paper ‘Electoral Violence on Nigeria: Causes, Consequences and Options for Prevention’, decried the high rate of poverty in the country which he identified as the cause of electoral violence: “Electoral violence is a condensation between poverty and opportunity.
“Election violence only occurs in places where lives are still nasty. For the ordinary people participating in electoral violence is an investment. If you succeed you could go back with a Television which you have never had before or a mobile phone which you never had.”
He submitted that Nigerians ride on assumptions and have continually failed to hold political leaders accountable for carrying out antidemocratic activities.
This time around, Kukah said the citizenry must rise up to the occasion to ensure elected officers stick to the principles governing the rule of law.
He called on politicians to take responsibility in ensuring a violence free election becomes a norm during elections in the country.
He said: “There is no perfect democracy anywhere in the world, people have to learn that democracy requires sacrifice.
“Politics is the only thing you do not need a certificate or qualification for and this is why we ordinary voters must not leave our fate in the hands of politicians because we must remain constructively engaged in the process.”