With the burning of the house of a governorship contestant in the strategic city of Kano; the ambush of a governor on electioneering rounds in insurgency wracked Borno State; the arrest of an opposition politician in Kaduna who made another variant of ‘body-bag’ threat and the general fear of violence in the aftermath of February 16th, 2019, Nigerians are, indeed, in a scramble for peace. Who knows if these are not signs of things to come? How election and violence became one in the context of democratization in Nigeria is still a puzzle but peacemakers have emerged to try to respond to the felt need.
The National Peace Committee, (NPC) is leading, with its powerful normative practice of committing presidential candidates to peace. If, as argued, the normative practice of ‘Nuclear Taboo’ has held everyone else from ever toying with nuclear weapons ever again since 1945, then why would an electoral violence taboo in Nigeria not work? Not with the symbolic presence of three former African presidents – one from West Africa, another one from East Africa and yet another from Southern Africa. Above all, two embodiment of the Nigerian project were there – General Yakubu Gowon and General Abdulsalami Abubakar. One overcame a challenge to the state while the other midwifed civilian rule. The speech of the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland is a collector’s item just as the passion with which she made her remarks.
The Nigerian Working Group on Peacebuilding and Governance is not left out. A statement signed by all its eight members privileged peace as the condition of possibility for any other thing. It, therefore, requests the security agencies, the election management body – INEC; political parties and their supporters, to give peace a chance by being professional, in the case of the security agencies, for instance. Believing that Nigeria has made progress in consolidating democracy, the body said only with peaceful, free and fair elections could the country begin to address serious issues yet to be put behind. The statement had Cadinal John Onaiyekan, General Martin Luther Agwai, Ambassador Fatima Bala, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, Dr. Nguyan Feese, Prof Jibrin Ibrahim, Dr. Chris Kwaja and Mrs Aisha Murtala Mohammed Oyebode.
As shown by the opening pictures of peace campaigners above, similar peace advocacy are going on at several levels and spaces across the country. Certainly, framing the solution to Nigeria’s social stalemate in terms of peace can be productive of peace although the question is whether Nigeria’s Quinqennial staging of peace at the dawn of every presidential election is a mark of national failure or sophistication.