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Electoral Violence: Is The Peace Accord Failing?

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In spite of the much celebrated peace accord, electoral violence and hate campaigns continue to swell, with recorded deaths, ahead of the polls. Chibuzo Ukaibe writes.

As as last week, 58 persons were recorded to have been killed in election-related violence across the country, barely two weeks to the election.

This figure was revealed in a report on pre-election violence as compiled by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which specified that in the past 50 days, 61 incidences of election violence occurred in 22 states.

Presenting the 80-page long report, chairman governing board of NHRC, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, said the incidences of violence were captured from all the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

He added that the signpost of possible election violence are already visible in three states across Nigeria.

The three states are Lagos, with 11 incidents and 22 persons killed; Kaduna with three incidents and nine people killed and Rivers with one incident and at least six deaths.

Putting the situation in perspective, he said the scale of the 2015 pre-election violence is alarming because Nigeria has never experienced such.

He said all electoral officers, security operatives and everyone who would be participating at the elections must be insured.

Similarly, the Rivers State government last Tuesday, through its commissioner of Health, Dr Samson Parker, was quoted as saying that the state has “recorded over 20 deaths in the last couple of months due to violent clashes across the state.”

He disclosed that statistics from Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital and Kelsey Harrison Hospital between January and March 12, 2015 revealed that 41 attacked persons were treated for gunshot injuries while 26 others were treated for machete wounds.

The commissioner said many deaths resulting from clashes between members of different political parties have gone unreported.

But if these figures are anything to go by, a research conducted by CLEEN Foundation revealed that the national aggregation of the STAs revealed that 11 out the 37 states and the FCT (representing 29.7 per cent) are in red, 20 states plus the FCT (56.8 per cent) are in amber and only five states (13.5 per cent) are in green.

CLEEN, in a consolidated analysis of its periodic security threat assessment (STA) reports from January 2013 to January 2015 (an aggregate report which combines nine periodic STAs).

According to the NGO, the summary of the status of the 36 states and the FCT shows Adamawa, Benue, Borno, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Nassarawa, Plateau, Rivers, Taraba and Yobe states as being in the red zone.

In the amber zone are states like Abia, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Katsina, Kogi, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Sokoto and Zamfara.

Other states like Cross River, Jigawa, Kebbi, Kwara and Osun are in the green zone.

The NGO gave the current national security threats based on trends and outlook including insurgency, hate and inciting speech, communal violence and other localised conflicts; militant groups, vigilantes and youth thuggery; proliferation of small arms and light weapons; performance of security institutions; fear of electoral manipulation; internally displaced persons (IDPs); distribution of permanent voter card (PVCs) and postponement of the elections.

 

Failing Peace Accord?

The stakes going into this election were always high just as the political camps talked toug, believing that they deserve to win.

While the All Progressives Congress (APC) rode (and still rides) the wave of what they term the discontent of Nigerians with the status-quo, the emergence of a mega opposition structure accentuates their confidence that their time is now. Also, with the merger and influential defections into their fold, they, as a potent opposition party, are much bigger than before and can go the whole lapse of the elections.

The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on its part believes that it has over the years established grassroot structures across the wards and local governments in the country, unmatched by the APC.

Much more, the party avers that the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration has out performed all of his predecessors and as such, have bragging rights to continue in power.

Similar scenario applied in the states, where the APC frenzy met with the dogged confidence of PDP’s hold to party or in the case where APC already held sway, it intends to fend off the onslaught of the PDP.

However, with the race too close to call and in a bid to ensure that their supporters do not resort to violence, the famous Abuja Peace Accord was signed by the 14 presidential candidates on January 14 this year.

The Abuja Accord, as it is popularly called, which was supervised by former UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan and former Commonwealth secretary-general, Emeka Anyaoku, was targeted at essentially ensuring that candidates and their political parties commit to peaceful electioneering and effective management of the outcome of the elections.

The same was done in some states like Kaduna, Rivers, Oyo, Ogun, among others which were considered volatile.

Clearly, the focus of the presidential peace accord was between President Goodluck Jonathan and his APC rival, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who many pundits believe the elections are centered on.

Still, many analysts believe that the inciting campaigns continue to strangle the life off the peace accord, affirming doubts raised earlier over the willingness of both parties to hold up their sides of the bargain.

In his reaction to the peace accord, Tonnie Iredia, in a piece published asked, “how are we sure that those who signed the accord intended to stand by it in a nation where leaders are hardly honest with what they say? The conduct of no less than two serving governors leaves the question in the air. One of them in his first term told his people to stone him if he ever seeks reelection. He is about to conclude his second term without reference to his erstwhile pledge. The second one averred that he would never seek re-election because he would make the best use of one term. To simplify his position, he used the example of a school system where it is only those who fail that need to repeat. Interestingly he fought and got a second term without ‘repeating’. Why then should anyone be too sure that the peace accord would be honoured?”

But shortly after the signing of the peace accord, incidences of stoning and burning of campaign vehicles emerged in Katsina, Bauchi and Plateau states. Later, gunmen shot at the venue of the APC gubernatorial campaign in Rivers State; the same state where some members of the APC had earlier been attacked.

Not even the constant complaints of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over such actions has slowed doen the tide.

More so, the non-violence campaign by the United States (US) Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, the stern warnings by the International Criminal Court, as well as appeals by the European Union election observation team, led by Santiago Fisas and other national stakeholders for peace before, during and after the elections appear to be heeded in the face of the evolving desperation of both parties, which already see themselves as winners.

Although the 2011 post election violence remains the ready reference point going into the March 28 and April 11 elections, with perceptibly weak punitive measures for those sponsoring and engaging in the act, it is yet to be seen how such attacks can be kept at bay, even with the progress recorded in the fight against insurgency, which was the reason given by the INEC for the election postponement.

While, the use of military in the elections security has been resisted by the opposition (APC) following allegations of military involvement in the rigging in PDP in Ekiti State, the PDP believes the deployment of soldiers would enhance security in these volatile times, citing that soldiers were also used in Osun, Edo, Anambra which were won by the APC.

For INEC, the killing of youth corps members in 2011 remains fresh, hence, it’s chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega’s support for the use of soldiers, adding that the presence of the military will embolden voters to participate in the elections.

Nevertheless, the electoral commission has often clarified that soldiers would not be at polling units, but guard the territorial areas of the states.

Another big concern for INEC is it’s inability to prosecute electoral offenders and has since advocated for the establishment of electoral offences tribunal to deal with electoral criminals as a measure of deterrent.

Decrying the state of affairs in the build up to the polls, Odinkalu lamented “the world believes that Nigeria is going to eat itself up because we are going for an election, we must show we can do things differently. We don’t want our election administrators killed, we don’t want our voters killed, and we don’t want our politicians killed,”

He continued “this election is between brothers and sisters; it is not a war. We want to hear the voice of President Jonathan, we want to hear the voice of General Buhari together and this recording will be launched before the elections in an audio recording preaching peace before,during and after the elections.

“The commission, through its Election Violence Incidence Centre, will monitor and make reports available on politicians who make hate speeches through out the election period” he warned, adding that “I don’t want on my watch as chair of the NHRC for any Nigerian to end up in the Hague.”

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