Flashes of anger appear to be combining with flashes of inspiration to break the mindsets behind disagreements over the results of the February 23rd, 2019 presidential poll from spilling into unacceptable consequences. This is even as contrary voices can still be heard from both sides, particularly from the National Chairmen of the two leading parties. While Adams Oshiomhole of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC) is daring the opposition to go to court, Uche Secondus of the opposition PDP is saying they would do exactly that because to do otherwise would be to “continue to suppress injustice and go sentimental” which he sees to be risky because “the country will continue to pile on gun powder that will explode one day”.
In apparent awareness of the sentiments locked in such standpoint and the associated fear of the unknown, General Abdulsalami Abubakar is recognizing, for instance, that “The Presidential election result has raised a lot of dust and the people feel aggrieved”. He is warning all against any actions capable of disrupting peace and harmony in the country.
He is not all rhetoric and no actions but, in fact, already led the committee to break bread with the key conflict parties – Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari, the two men whose mindsets are most key to resolution of the contentious grounds.
Speaking earlier in the same vein, Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, (rtd) argues Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s obligation to tread cautiously because of the impact his actions and those of other leaders could have on prevailing political and security conditions in the country which he considers to be gravely tense already. “As we are well aware, elections and electioneering campaigns in Nigeria as in much of Africa, have almost always proved to be deadly triggers for strife, apprehension, disputes and other forms of conflict, often leading to violence and bloodshed. The longer and the more protracted the process, the heavier the toll. Sadly, Nigeria has suffered terribly from these calamities in the course of this bitterly contested election exercise”.
Still conveyed largely in coded language about national interest, peace and stability, it is not too clear what are being negotiated when one more set of the elections is impending and no one knows how better or worse they might be seen by the conflict parties in comparison to the presidential poll being contested now. Although a document is circulating with figures of alleged robbery of the PDP by the APC, there is no clear position regarding use of the card reader as a legal minimum upon which so much of the claims can be actionable. That would have been the case if the Amended Electoral Act were signed into law by the president. For some reasons, the president declined assent and, as the National Assembly could not muster the strength to undo the withdrawal of assent, so has the act remained inoperative.
Notwithstanding this or the position of hard liners such as those insisting on the PDP presidential candidate contesting the results in court, what is clearly a peace process is already in the making, with General Abdulsalami Abubakar leading the committee to diffusing reservations over specific aspects of the conduct of that particular election as well as claim to victory by the leading opposition candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Interestingly, the committee has so quickly succeeded in meeting with the opposition leader and the president. While the meeting with the opposition leader was to understand his grievances, that of the one with the president was to avail him of the list of grievances. In other words, the committee is facilitating communication between the key conflict parties without which nothing can be done.
Apparently, the PDP’s grouses stretch from what it calls militarization of the election involving “suppressing voters in PDP strong hold areas in the South” and, in the North, helping to juggle the figures, “particularly in Kano, Yobe, Borno and Zamfara states where numbers refuse to add up”. It is also talking of “non-compliance in the use of Smart card reader as approved by INEC rules”, a position which raises the question as to whether use of card reader is a legal minimum in existing laws.
The APC, on the other hand, has always said it has worked hard and deserves to win the presidential election. Asked on voting day, for example, if he was in the mood to congratulate a winner, the president ruled out any other person winning the election.
Perhaps under the influence of the religious leaders that populate the committee, notably John Cardinal Onaiyekan and Bishop Mathew Kukah, it is arguing a mass-elite divide in all cases of violence and the imperative for peace in Nigeria. This comes out clearly in Gen Abdulsalami’s insistence that whenever there is violence in the country, it is never in elite enclaves such as Ikoyi in Lagos or the Presidential Villa in Abuja or the various government houses across the country but “always the poor people that get to kill themselves and so on”.
Perhaps on ground of such loftiness, the PDP which said it had already decided to go to court agreed to meet with the committee without conditions “because of the personalities involved”. Apparently, the committee also encountered no creases in accessing the president. Being accepted as credible and honest broker positions the committee between breakthrough and breakdown.