Peaceful elections are the bedrock of any democratic dispensation. Any move to poster peaceful elections, devoid of violence, buck-passing and other undemocratic practices, must be embraced with both hands.
Hence, a book to that effect, “Election Conflict Management: Lessons from the 2015 General Elections” published by the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) has officially been unveiled in Abuja, on Tuesday.
The 375-page book was unveiled by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Khadija Bukar Abba-Ibrahim and supported by the Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), High Chief Peter Ameh, and representatives of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), agencies of the United Nations, diplomats and members of the IPCR Governing Council.
In her keynote address, Mrs Abba-Ibrahim commended IPCR for its commitment towards the advancement of the country’s democracy through its research works, publications, policy briefs and interventions in order to entrench the culture of peace.
The minister said the publication of the Book was noble and highly recommended for all right-thinking Nigerians to read and digest so as to encourage positive conduct before, during and after the forthcoming general elections.
She said the ideas contained in the book were expected to reorient Nigerians to positively influence one another in their sociopolitical interactions.
According to her, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was never unaware of the crucial role IPCR played for the success of the 2015 general elections stressing on the need for the institute to recommit itself to ensure a more peaceful election in 2019.
The minister noted that the book published by the institute was to provide insights that could help to discourage violent tendencies thereby curbing violence in the 2019 general elections.
“The Government of Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, I must say, is committed towards fair, free and credible elections, and will, therefore, encourage institutions of Government that are committed towards peaceful democratic processes,” she said adding that the government was taking a necessary step to ensure people’s safety and to provide an inclusive level playing ground for Nigerians to freely participate in the 2019 elections.
The minister further said “the 2019 elections remain sacred to the government; we are determined to make the elections credible.”
She observed that of the elections conducted from 1999, the 2015’s were adjudged fair, free and credible but that election-related violence occurred in nearly 22 states with the loss of innocent lives and destruction of property worth millions of naira. “However, the violence cannot be viewed in isolation of the many factors such as social and economic inequalities, ethnic and religious divisions, structural weaknesses, corruption in particular and weak state capacities, unemployment, inadequate voter education and lack of internal democracy in political parties. These contributed to violence needing urgent intervention by all stakeholders, including IPCR.”
In his address of welcome, the Acting Director General of the institute, Dr. Bakut T. Bakut, disclosed that the book was a collection of peer-reviewed papers by renowned academics carefully selected from universities, policy think-tanks, military and security establishments including the civil society groups.
“Perspectives within the texts cover aspects considered as responsible for the free, fair and credible elections of the 2015 elections. The book is most useful hence it provides useful insights and lessons that will boost efforts for the success of future elections in our country, and in particular, the forthcoming 2019 general elections,” he noted.
Bakut maintained that IPCR was committed to the Nigeria Project and that a careful study of the book would refresh our minds on possible actions we need to take to avoid pitfalls that could impede smooth transition, and helping us at the same time to consolidate on the gains of the 2015 general elections.
As the apex research institute and agency of the Nigerian Government on matters of peace-building and conflict resolution, the IPCR according to the Bakut thought it a worthwhile project to put the book together for Nigerians to utilise the ideas gotten from the book so that they can influence decisions that would enhance our democratic principles for good governance.
He noted that the institute has been collaborating with various stakeholders over the years to organise workshops and advocacy activities and sensitisation for Nigerians to eschew violence during elections as he pointed out that IPCR also conducted voter education for IDPs in the northeast as well as backstopped for the National Peace Committee for the successful hosting of the National Peace Dinner for peaceful 2015 general elections.
He also acknowledged the cooperation of the various political parties and support groups, policymakers, media executives, traditional and spiritual leaders.
Bakut expressed IPCR’s belief in the success of the 2019 general election that it may surpass the 2015’s, but enjoined all and sundry to remain patriotic and obedient to constituted authorities and especially the electoral laws to attain the expected success.
In his goodwill message, the UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the UNDP, Edward Kallon, represented by the UNDP Peace and Development Advisor, Dr. Takwai Zebulon, said Africa looked up to Nigeria for direction and leadership and as such Nigerians cannot afford to risk the 2019 elections.
He reiterated the need “for us to see an election as a moment of celebration of democracy while commending IPCR for publishing the book which would help boost future elections.”
Bin Chen of UNESCO encouraged social inclusion and collaboration for us to achieve the peace that would guarantee the success of the 2019 elections.
The representative of the Acting Secretary of INEC, Mr. Danladi Moses Adayilo, praised IPCR for its commitment to peace and national unity.
He revealed that INEC already has 396 complaints arising from the recently concluded party primaries noting that such a situation is a warning sign.
He expressed the need for mediation and pledged INEC support to IPCR towards peaceful elections.
A member of the IPCR Governing Council, Honourable Alex Ikam, opined that Nigerians must imbibe the culture of taking responsibility as one common people so that together we can begin to put things in the right perspectives.
He urged Nigerians to stop the blame game. He also praised IPCR for the book noting that the confidence of the council members in IPCR’s ability and capability has never been in doubt.
Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), High Chief Peter Ameh, who chaired the ceremony cautioned politicians to be wary of inducing violence for selfish interest; “Politics must not be taken as a matter of life and death.”
He said peace was sacrosanct and we must all work together for peaceful 2019 general elections.
He commended IPCR for the book and announced a donation of N200,000 for 10 copies of the book to enable IPCR to produce more copies of the book for the Nigerian reading public.
Former Commissioner of Police for FCT, Alobi, who appealed for tolerance among Nigerians and the need for everyone to imbibe the ideals of peace also picked 5 copies of the book for N50,000.00 while calling on the public to support the good work of IPCR.
Dr. Muh’d Kabir of the Central Mosque was full of commendation for the publication of the book and offered prayers to the Almighty Creator to make the 2019 elections peaceful and successful. He warned against adverse sentiments and urged for harmonious living.
Reviewer of the book, Dr. Francis Onuh, who made a passionate appeal to the federal government through the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs for the need to adequately fund IPCR for more peace-building activities across the country among other interventions said the 14-chapter book has 375 pages with contributions from various scholars. The picture of the white ballot box on the book cover according to him was urging for the need for all to vote for peace.
He observed that all the contributors highlighted the necessity for peace and its role for the credibility of the 2015 general elections.
Dr. Dele Babalola and Dr. Francesca Essien were the panel discussants during the launch of the Book.