Former military head of state, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar yesterday said there cannot be an election if there is no nation, urging politicians to conduct themselves in a peaceful manner in this year’s general elections starting from next week.
Abdulsalami, who said African countries are usually tension soaked because of the very cut-throat competition involved during elections, warned that electoral tension that affected national security and development in Kenya, Cote d’ Ivoire and the Gambia should not be repeated.
Speaking at a one-day conference on ‘peaceful elections and National Development organised by Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja, Abdulsalami said Nigeria is not a stranger to electoral violence.
“African countries are usually tension soaked because of the very cutthroat competition involved,” Abdulsalami said referring to the election conduct.
“Africa indeed is a hot bed of election controversies. In African countries like Kenya, Cote d’ Ivoire and the Gambia, we have seen the serious implications of electoral tension to national security and development.
“Nigeria is not a stranger to electoral violence. This country has historically had its fair share of election violence. Some of the violence even dates back to pre-independence era and Nigerians have witnessed the destruction that took place and retarded development.
“General elections where the doom sayers 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,” Abdulsalami said.
The former head of state who on behalf of all Nigerians, thanked former President Goodluck Jonathan for saving the country from falling into political crisis, added that his action further strengthen the growth of democracy not only in Nigeria but in Africa and indeed the world.
“All Nigerians and indeed the whole world are praying that the election will be peaceful. As we all know, peace is absolutely necessary for the survival of a nation because without peace their will be no nation, without a nation there wouldn’t be any election,” Abdulsalami said.
The immediate past Nigeria’s president who is also the founder/chairman, GJF, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who spoke extensively on the need for African leaders to be responsive, added that there is a strong nexus between the struggle for power and national development.
“There is a vicious cycle in Africa where the struggle for political power leads to conflicts that bring up poor governance and creates hardship which fuels the struggle for change of leadership, thus creating further conflicts and poor leadership.
“It is my considered view that, as African leaders, we must change our approach and disposition towards stewardship. We must get to the stage where we should be more interested in developing our people, rather than ruling or just governing them,” the former president said.
According to him, a development-minded leader is visionary and selfless adding that he or she does not seek power at all cost and will not wield it for its own sake.
“The ten most developed nations on this earth are those countries that experience the least conflicts while the ten least developed countries, many of them here in Africa, are the ones wallowing in the worst form of conflicts,” Jonathan said while stressing the need for politicians to pursue people oriented interests.
“The lesson in this existential reality is that any leader who is committed to the development of his country will do everything to save it from turmoil and conflicts,” he added.
On his part, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah said peace is absolutely necessary for the survival of the nation.
Kukah who presented a paper entitled: “Electoral Violence In Nigeria; Causes, Consequences and Options for Preventing Them,” suggested that inter-tribal marriages will curb the menace.
He condemned the way and manner politicians treat those they claimed’ to be representing.
“Voters must not leave their fate in the hands of politicians. Leaders should be interrogated. Only common solidarity can save the country from electoral violence,” he said.
Also speaking, a former president of Liberia, Prof Amos Sawyer, noted that faults in the electoral law should be the most reason why the electoral umpire should be more transparent.
“The election processes are new, and there are bound to be glitches, which need to be treated with transparency,” Sowyer said, adding that the importance of peace to national development cannot be overemphasized.
“Nigeria has a track record of conducting peaceful elections from 1999. I have continued to show that there can be life after office, a life that is productive and impacts humanity,” the former president added.
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