The famous German dramatist and critic, Gotthold Ephraim, once made an axiomatic statement still being quoted today for its relevance: “There are good men in every land. The tree of life has many branches and roots. Let not the topmost twig presume to think that it alone has sprung from the mother earth…we did not choose our races by ourselves. Jews, Muslims, Christians alike are MEN. Let me hope I have found in you a MAN”
The forthcoming elections no doubt have two major contenders, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC). The campaign organizations of both political parties have been and will continue making rigorous campaigns across the length and breadth of this country and within the states, trying to “sell” their candidates across religious, ethnic and geographic boundaries. The buildups from the primary elections for some of the political parties have not been so smooth, with utterances that can be described as not too palatable. Despite these ups and downs, the main actors and gladiators in next year’s general election have all shown their commitment and believe in democracy and a free, fair and credible election.
In 1962, Nigeria`s Governor General, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (Who later became Nigeria’s first President), paid a three-day official courtesy visit to the Premier of Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, in Kaduna. He was accompanied by his wife Flora. The host Premier mobilized all the paraphernalia of office in honor of his guest whom he gave an unprecedentedly flamboyant hospitality. The visit enabled their wives to become so familiar with each other that Flora also invited the Bellos to the East on a similar visit. By the end of the visit, Azikiwe had become so much impressed that at the point of departure he held Bello’s hands and gently told him “please, let us forget our differences”
In response to that emotional but infatuating gesture, Bello said in an equally gentle voice “No sir, rather than forgetting our differences, let us understand them. You are a Christian and a southerner and I am a Muslim and a northerner. It is only by identifying and understanding these differences that our friendliness can truly endure” There and then, Azikiwe nodded in approval to his host’s logic and accepted the fact that one could not forget what has not been identified and accepted.
As the general elections approaches, we need to learn from the above. There is need for national peace committee to go a little beyond facilitating the signing of Peace Accords among political parties and their candidates. Meetings should be facilitated between their families, as this would send a signal to their die-hard supporters and electorates that the coming elections is not war but merely a democratic contest between brothers and sisters.
All stakeholders should go into the elections with a high sense of mutual understanding and respect without arrogantly claiming any non-existing superiority. That is the spirit upon which the marriage of political strange fellows who find themselves in the same political party is based in Nigeria.
It is also the spirit upon which the partnership of many Nigeria business men and women is based despite their cultural, religious and ethnic incompatibilities.
We need to go into the forthcoming elections, bearing in mind that whether PDP, APC or any other political party, we are all Nigerians; we are all brothers and sisters. Whoever wins the election is not going to invent his/her own constitution but will be guided ultimately by the Nigeria constitution. This means we shall all emerge winners after all.
After the elections, we should all embrace each other in the spirit of brotherhood, friendship and unity and rally round the elected leaders, as we prepare and wait patiently towards another round of elections in 2023.
Beyond the provocative utterances, political threats and gimmicks from the PDP, APC and the rest of the political parties, all the participants in this forthcoming presidential election have all exhibited a sense of patriotism and their belief in democracy.
The truth is, a winner will eventually emerge at the end of the elections. Whether the APC with the mantra of ‘next level’ or the PDP with the slogan ‘get Nigeria working again’ eventually wins in the forthcoming general election, the most important thing in a competition is in the participation and not who wins or loses. All stakeholders would have in one way or the other strengthened democracy in Nigeria.
Whether you are a supporter of APC, PDP or other political parties, you should bear in mind that the rights of others starts where your own stops. Just as you are free to market and sell your preferred party and candidates publicly, you should also allow others to freely do so without attacking or making an attempt to shut them down.
Campaigns should be based on the real issues that concern the Nigeria and the overall wellbeing of Nigerians, and not trivial, sentimental and divisive issues. Improved infrastructural development, healthcare delivery system, agriculture revolution, advancement in engineering, science and technology, accessible and low-interest loans for SMEs, quality and affordable education, access to clean water and general security should take a front seat and characterize the campaigns by all political parties and their candidates.
After the Nigerian Independence in October 1, 1960, the country has found itself enmeshed in violent clashes and the civil war during which several lives and properties worth billions were destroyed. Peace is achievable by anyone and everyone, all that is needed is the resolve for peace. Our leaders should take concrete steps to ensure peace and stability by recognizing all tribes and religions as equals. There is always a reason for any form of anger; behind every person’s anger is a deep seated pain that makes the angry man lash out at anyone and everyone within reach. Yet all it takes is love, empathy and understanding to calm frayed nerves, cool and douse anger and tension and finally bring about peace and love to troubled waters again.
Let’s say no to pre and post election violence, election is not war. Peacefully campaign for your preferred candidate, without harassing and attacking others with contrary opinion.