Since the beginning of recorded history, the entire world has been at peace less than eight percent of the time; 268 years of peace in the last 4,000, according to the Society of International Law, London. The truth is, peace is a fragile prospect amidst the intrigues of human existence and interaction. The irony of our proclivity for war is the obvious wanton destruction of lives and property that attends it, and the arduous and sometimes impossible task of rebuilding after the ruins. The First World War claimed over 37 million casualties globally. Over 60 million were killed in the Second World War and over 1 million in the Nigerian Biafra War, to bring it home.
War, on any scale, has often been the result of leaders insisting on having their way, even if it means sacrificing the lives of countless innocents. In other words, the suspension of peace in any given society is often the direct result of a failure in leadership. And leadership in this instance is not limited to holders of public office, but also figures of overwhelming influence. True leaders invest time and effort in sustaining peace as a prerequisite for a prosperous and stable existence, even if it means giving up their own needs or aspirations. It was Benazir Bhutto who said, “Pursing peace means rising above one’s own wants, needs and emotions.”
These are all important factors to keep in mind as Nigeria goes to the polls next year. We can seize this moment in our national history to increase confidence in our democratic evolution and in our ability to govern ourselves effectively or destroy the foundations of everything we have since tried to build as a people.
Already the heated rhetoric on both sides of the divide, and the contentious primaries in some parts of the country, portend trouble. We must halt this in its tracks. Any leader willing to sacrifice the blood of innocent Nigerians in defense of his or her own interest is not deserving of the followership of Nigerians. We must start by toning down the rhetoric. As the Chinese proverb says, “If you talk with a soft voice, you don’t need a stick.” Political leaders everywhere must commit themselves, and by extension their followers, to peaceful and orderly elections. The recent suggestion by one of Nigeria’s elder statesmen that the candidates and their parties be made to sign a binding agreement committing them and their followers to peaceful conduct in the course of the elections is the least that can be demanded looking at what is at stake here.
The truth is, any single drop of blood spilled in the course of the elections will be chalked up to the irresponsibility of political leadership. Not even electoral rigging is excuse enough for violence. The courts provide a democratic channel through which such grievances can be settled. The world is watching. We must rise above the primitive methods of chaos and destruction. We need statesmen, not executioners. Nigerians on their part must be ready to hold the politicians accountable and themselves to higher standards of decorum and peaceful conduct. Let the forthcoming elections be a defining moment not just in the transparency, peace and effectiveness of its conduct, but also in the quality of character of leaders it throws up.
Nigeria Has a Great Future!
Mr. Taiwo Odukoya, petroleum engineer, public speaker and author, is the senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos, Nigeria. He writes a weekly Sunday column for Premium Times. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy: PREMIUM TIMES