A PLEA FOR PEACE

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Monday comment1

 After the 2019 polls, the country needs peace to make progress, writes Emeka Nwankpa

National discourse on the outcome of the just-concluded general elections, especially the presidential poll that returned President Muhammadu Buhari, suggests that Nigerians cherish a nation spared of violence, rancour and acrimony.

The clamour for a government of national unity from May 29 is a genuine   quest for peace in the aftermath of the elections. To many Nigerians it also amounts to an endorsement of the election of President Buhari, the need to avoid electoral disputations bordering on acrimony, bad blood and waste of precious time and resources.

To be clear, nothing in the foregoing assertion precludes recourse to the courts or election tribunals by individuals who are aggrieved by the outcome of the elections. Indeed,  the greatest take-away in this democratic dispensation is the fact that the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) has spelt out acceptable legal and legitimate means for redress.

In the process of time, the resort to constitutionalism remains the most sustainable and enduring approach to nation-building through strengthening national institutions geared towards deepening growth, development and democracy in the country.

Respect for values continues to rank high as part of the necessary building blocks of a nation-state where equity, justice, fair play and human dignity reign. Institutions are created, nurtured and strengthened for national sustenance. Nations exist as a commonwealth anchored on privileges for citizens in exchange for responsibilities.

Not too long ago, a research finding revealed that Nigerians were the happiest people on earth. In other words, Nigeria is the happiness capital in a world bedevilled by sundry conflicts and strife. Peace has virtually no substitute in a global era where nations crave for sustainable growth and development. In the language of their votes, Nigerians have again genuinely expressed the desire to live in harmony, peace and prosperity as well as accelerate their living standards.

Immediately after the polls, many have since gone back to their normal lives, tending to their daily chores and pursuing their respective careers. The enthusiasm to return to normalcy and get the country working again spoke volumes for their resilience in the face of years of hope betrayed by elected politicians as well as the hope offered by the continuity of President Buhari in office.

Indeed, Nigerians have kept faith with years of toiling which they appear prepared to continue doing as long as their peace is guaranteed in their belief that things will surely get better in the process of time. It is therefore not difficult to see how they do not require so much to expect their lives bettered by successive leaders and governments.

The outcomes of the recent polls which featured some unexpected upsets in Adamawa, Bauchi, Oyo and Imo governorship contests are valid pointers to the fact that the peoples’ votes are beginning to count more so that the states were lost by the ruling party to the opposition.

Ordinarily, this should earn the Independent National Electoral Commission unreserved praise and credit for conducting elections that allowed the will of the people to prevail. And if these were not sufficient proof of INEC giving vent to the will of the people in those states, imagine the cases of Rivers and Zamfara States where the electoral umpire, complying with court orders, barred the states’ chapters of the ruling party, APC, from the ballot. It is instructive that President Buhari neither interfered with the process nor changed the rules to favour his party!

In the midst of these conversations, Nigeria remains a work in progress with constitutionalism, democracy and the rule of law as fundamental guides. This state of affairs therefore imposes a crucial responsibility more than ever on elected governments at the various tiers and levels to be fully committed to pursuing and implementing people-oriented policies and programmes.

Otherwise the collective sacrifice of the people who fully participated in the recent polls would be in vain. It should be emphasized that the Nigerian people remain the fulcrum of policies and programmes of governments at the various levels.

This is the only way to guarantee the consolidation of the growth and development of a country where democratic governance has flourished for upwards of 20 years now. Nigerians deserve to congratulate themselves for achieving this feat marking 20 long years of unbroken and uninterrupted democracy. It can only get better.

In the intervening period, the nation has recorded 16 years of successful intra—party civilian to civilian transitions and another four years of inter-party transition where, for the first time, an opposition party defeated an incumbent. This was made possible because all Nigerians were united and supportive of INEC to see the will of the people prevail in the 2015 and 2019 elections.

While this piece resists the temptation to pander to partisan interests on current conversations on INEC’s performance or the lack of it, the point needs reiterating that Nigeria deserves a big pat on the back for conducting the 2019 elections that have been acknowledged by local and international observers as free, fair and credible in the face of the shenanigans of aberrant interests.

In a bid to score political returns and cheap popularity, citizens especially the political class should avoid the temptation of running down our national institutions created to perform and add value to our national pride and prestige.

National elections in other climes are not limited to bringing up people to fill public offices. Rather elections are another credible means of evaluating the progress of countries in the comity of nations. This is why foreign observers are allowed to observe elections for peer review purposes.

There is a certain correlation between transparent elections and the attraction of international investments into the country. Investor confidence is a direct fall out of free, fair, credible and transparent elections complemented by an impartial and independent judiciary. So far, all these ingredients are vibrant and unencumbered in Nigeria.

Going forward, national unity, peace and stability are non-negotiable in the circumstances. From the recent elections, winners and losers have emerged and the not-so-lucky reserved the democratic and constitutional rights to seek redress at the various elections petition tribunals across the country. Violence or aberrant conduct as a form of self-help is absolutely strange to our laws. No right thinking person will support such.

There is therefore no better time than now to stand for the peace and stability of the nation. In a world always searching for order, peace has no substitute. The right temperament for democracy in Nigeria should be sustained.