By Isaac Atuluku
The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has in line with its mandate to promote conflict resolution and conflict prevention worldwide conducted a research on the forthcoming general election in Nigeria with a view to identifying flash points and likely areas of conflicts.
But based on its interactions with Nigerians in the course of the research the institute noted that there’s every indication that the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, President Muhammad Buhari is likely to win the 2019 presidential elections.
Anybody going through the report will see that it covered a wide range of its mandate using the basic tools of research to arrive at the conclusion.
Which means that any organization or individual can either rely on the conclusions to garner further evidences on the topic or if there’s a disagreement with the findings follow the logical sequences of the facts evinced to counter such claims.
Since the release of the report by the well respected organization however not a single individual or agency has faulted the document either in its summation or in the methodology used.
Even the major opposition political party in Nigeria, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which ordinarily should have been discomfited by such findings has not said anything by way of disagreeing with the report.
This is because there is actually not much to disagree with.
Surprisingly however, it was Senator Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central senatorial zone who has attempted to sneer at the report albeit not directly.
Since there wasn’t much to say to interrogate the credibility and the surmise of the report, Shehu Sani resorted to casuistry by deviating from the message to casting aspersions on the messenger.
The senator in his twitter handle wrote in response to the report that the US peace institute should help in working for peace instead of predicting likely outcome of elections.
Said he: “US peace institute should help in working for peace in our troubled spots or ‘predicting peace’ in our crisis ridden towns and villages, instead of playing the soothsayer by predicting election results.”
This comment coming from a purported champion of democracy leaves a sour taste in the mouth that one begins to wonder what has become of the pro-democracy credentials of the senator.
No doubt The United States Institute of Peace was established to promote conflict resolution and conflict prevention worldwide.
But it is also saddled with the responsibility of providing research, analysis, and training to individuals in diplomacy, mediation, and other peace-building measures.
As part of its activities in Nigeria, the body has been able to identify flash points and has worked in various communities in Kaduna State and in the Niger Delta regions to achieve peace.
Of particular importance is its intervention in the Ashafa and Wuyeo communities which helped to restore calm & conciliation to the city of Kaduna which experienced serious violence following the 2011 presidential elections.
If senator Sani had bothered to look at the entire report rather than responding to a tiny aspect of the document, he would have seen that the research was never embarked on to predict the outcome of the 2019 elections as he wants to put it, but to feel the pulse of the average Nigerian over an issue considered as most sensitive to his socio-economic pursuits and his likely reaction.
The USIP report for instance noted that there is a greater chance of the occurrence of election violence in 2019, listing Adamawa, Anambra, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Plateau, Rivers as the eight of 36 states with greater risks of election violence.
The report also noted that “Of all the state’s institutions, most respondents felt that peaceful elections in 2019 are contingent on the performance of Nigeria’s electoral commission, INEC.
It said, “Given the relative success of the 2015 elections, they felt that INEC ought to be able to deliver credible elections again in 2019. They feared, however, that any regression from the level of performance achieved in 2015 could lead to violence because some would view the failings not as a result of incompetence but as deliberate attempts to frustrate the will of the voters.
In view of this, USIP recommended that INEC should at least match the standards it set in 2015, as any regression could set the stage for violence.
“Yet, while the potential for election violence exists, there are signs of hope. Some states have developed successful election conflict-mitigation practices. In the short amount of time remaining, INEC and the police should undertake a number of key reforms,” it said.
Not stopping at suggesting internal mechanisms for attaining peace after the elections, the organization recommended that the United States, along with other international supporters of the electoral process, should also intensify their efforts to reinforce the work of these key Nigerian institutions.
How all these could skip the eye of the senator or how they can be interpreted as not bordering on its key mandate of attaining peace beats the imagination.
The institute has done what every lover of peace and democracy should be proud of.
It is therefore mischievous for anybody commenting on the work of USIP to gloss over these high recommendations on peace and focus on just one aspect that seem to hurt his political sensibilities.
The USIP has not abandoned its responsibility of peace building in any way by adding a prediction on the likely outcome of the 2019 presidential elections in its report, it is those that choose to look at the report with partisan eyes that miss the fine points about it.
*Atuluku is a researcher at the University of Edinburgh and wrote from the United Kingdom.