The resort to the National Peace Committee for the Edo and Ondo governorship elections gives an indication of how low our political elite have gone with regards to ensuring that elections are peaceful. They need to be whipped into line for them to observe simple decorum.
In saying this, we are by no means suggesting that the General Abdulsalami Abubakar- led initiative is not spot on. It is. And the nation owes him and his team more gratitude that can be expressed in one editorial.
The committee came into limelight during the build up to the 2015 general elections when indications began to emerge that the nation was tilting towards a rough end with the way the Presidential election was going especially the rhetoric by political actors
Comprising very eminent Nigerians, including top clerics, the committee expertly doused the tension just before the elections were held by ensuring that the contending forces sign a peace accord that parties would shun violence and self help should the elections not go their way.
The committee also played a critical role in the former President Goodluck Jonathan putting a call across to President Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him on his victory at the polls before the result were officially declared by the electoral umpire – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
With that move, the tension was extinguished, situating the committee on the mind of Nigerians as many would say “the moral compass of the nation.”
The committee however returned in the 2019 general elections. It supervised the signing of the peace accord by the contending political gladiators. Immediately the presidential election result was announced the committee swung into action and met with the major contender former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) and thereafter President Muhammadu Buhari who won.
Although the former Vice President eventually headed to the Tribunal and Supreme Court where he lost, the peace committee was able to serve as the shock absorber of sorts, as it took the complaints by the former Vice President to the incumbent.
It is interesting to note that before then the committee had been restricted to presidential elections, helping to arrest a possible escalation of hitherto precarious situations. However,we are of the opinion that under normal circumtances it should not be involved in governorship elections until the recent election in Edo and Ondo States.
The build up to these elections were characterized by violence instigated by politicians who staked their ego in a matter that, ordinarily, they do not have control over. In the case of Edo State, the two leading candidates in the election, Governor Godwin Obaseki of PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of All Progressives Congress (APC) saw it as war. The level of violence that trailed the polls had heightened with the clash at the palace of the revered Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II.
Similar scenario played out in Ondo State as the two leading candidates, Governor Olurotimi Akeredolu of APC and Eyitayo Jegede of PDP were locked in the fierce political contest which degenerated into spates of violence as well.
The situation was so intense that series of warnings by the police seemed to go unheeded by the political actors. Although the Oba of Benin intervened in the case of Edo, with the scenario so precarious, the intervention of the peace committee became inevitable to institutionalise the commitment to ensure a peaceful process.
And to the admiration of many watchers, the committee delivered highly yet again on the task.
However, with the elections lost and won, it is worrisome that polls at subnational levels have increasingly become so violent to the extent that the peace committee would be required to mediate to ensure that it becomes peaceful.
While the noble role of the committee in ensuring a peaceful electoral process is not in doubt, we are concerned that political actors at the state levels are now beginning to make the committee become involved in the process of ensuring that peaceful elections hold at that level.
This newspaper expects that candidates ought to comport themselves and control their supporters to restrain them from acts that would threaten not just the electoral process but the stability of the state.
We hold that the peace committee ought not to be dragged into subnational elections as patrotic as their intentions are.