Dr Titus K. Oyeyemi, JP
Everywhere around the world, keen observers of electioneering processes would hold the notion that most elections never were peaceful and never would be peaceful. A thorough analysis and evaluation, beyond mere inspection, of every electioneering process that has ever taken place historically and contemporarily would expose a series of violations perpetrated against the electorates by the electioneering processes. As pointed out by many commentators and analysts, the lack of a level playing field during the conduct of elections usually constitutes a major problem, thus creating doubts if the election, as a product, was ever truly “transparent, free and fair.”
For the sake of democracy, electioneering processes should be a means to an end. Because of the high stakes involved, however, electioneering processes cease to be a process but, rather, a contest. When electioneering, as a contest, becomes both means and end simultaneously, true democracy is rendered nearly impossible, devoid of any meaningful promise. As practiced around the globe today, democracy may still have a semblance of “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” but it has apparently lost its intrinsic nature—with its foundational political principles vitiated.
Observing the electioneering process as a transaction involving the electorate, the political parties, the electoral commission, and incumbent government, one could not help but think that both the letter of democracy and its spirit have been egregiously violated by the stakeholders. When transparencies are obscured and the stakeholders feel violated, the tendency is to resort to protestations, which often result in unintended political, national, and community consequences. When these protestations are taken to extremes, probably because of ignorance of the public, aggrievement of the political parties, or unbridled privileges and vengefulness of incumbent powers, the ensuing violence, whether precipitous, spontaneous, or retaliatory, does not justify the means for a responsible or a responsive democracy.
It is for this reason that our organisation, African Projects/Foundation for Peace and Love Initiatives (APPLI/AFPLI), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) recognised by the United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI) for the promotion of ethno-religious and ethno-political harmony, has since 2003 been advocating for the rights of the Nigerian populace to peace before, during, and after elections. As a civil society, we call on our counterparts everywhere to intensify their efforts in violence prevention, peace-making, and peacebuilding—before, during, and after the 2019 general elections.
The media industry has a huge task of promoting the virtues of fairness and balance reportage of news and current happening in Nigeria, especially as the 2019 election draws closer. We appreciate the resolution by the Nigeria Media practitioners who dedicated February 14 as Nigeria Media Peace Day with the theme: “Think Peace, Think Media.’’ It is a welcome development as we approach the general election in Nigeria, an election that would decide the fate of our country in the next four years. The media professionals must put the interest of the country at heart.
As the fourth estate, media professionals are encouraged to guide with diligence, the conscience of the society by defending the truth always in their news analysis and commentaries. Practicing journalists and media houses are encouraged to shun hate news and restrain from serving as conduits for hate speeches perpetrated by misguided politicians. Media houses must take responsibilities for educating the masses on the imperatives of peaceful elections.
In the spirit of the ongoing relationship between our organisations and the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) since 2008, we therefore welcome, with open hands, the declaration of Thursday, February 14 as the Nigeria Peace Media Day (NPMD). We also use this occasion to thank the NUJ for supporting our peace media programmes: Students Acquiring Peace Media Skills (SAMS) and Peace Media Parley (PMP) from 2008 to date.
Finally, we call on all stakeholders (the electorate, the political parties, the electoral commission, the various arms of the incumbent government, and the media professionals) to advocate for sustainable peace before, during, and after the 2019 elections.
Dr. Oyeyemi, is the founding President and CEO, African Projects/Foundation for Peace and Love Initiatives (APPLI/AFPLI)