By Alex O. Akpodiete Atawa”
In the past few weeks, there has been a lot of peace accords along with the attendant media hype. The first of these was the Abuja accord where the leading political parties and their presidential candidates signed an agreement essentially against election violence. They apparently agreed for themselves and on behalf of their supporters that there will be peace before, during and after the elections whether they win or lose. Of course, there has been criticism about the enforceability of these “peace” agreements.
The current Abuja Accord should be distinguished from the 1995 Abuja Agreement meant to secure peace in Liberia. The current Abuja Accord was signed on January 14, 2015 between various Presidential candidates led by President Goodluck Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and is basically an agreement that neither they nor their agents will be involved in post-election violence. The agreement was witnessed by the former Secretary General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and the former Secretary General of the United Nations; Mr. Kofi Annan, and some members of the diplomatic community.
In law, a contract (agreement/Accord) embodies the “meeting of the minds.” There also what is called bargained for exchange along with a requisite offer and acceptance. As one who has taught jurisprudence (law) internationally, I am using these principles for purposes of exposition of the fallacy of these purported peace agreements. Let me explain in lay man’s terms; for you and I to enter into contract, our minds must meet. Someone must make an offer and the other person accept. There are many times in a contract when we have what is known as third-party beneficiaries. In the case of these agreements, the Nigerian people will be considered third-party beneficiaries. This begs the questions what can the Nigerian masses do if the agreement is broken. Can we go to court to enforce our benefits (rights) arising from the peace contracts?
In Nigeria, we like to come up with new documents, which is part of our love for activities. Our laws are replete with penalties for violence, election or otherwise. Further toothless agreements are unnecessary showmanship that are essentially tantamount to playing to the gallery.
It behooves our security forces and courts to enforce these laws, no matter who are the perpetrators. However, the reality on ground is that those who engage in election violence always go unpunished. The culprits responsible for the suleja 2011 bombing that killed Youth Corpers who were just checking their names on the billboards have yet to be apprehended or prosecuted. The sponsors of post-election violence, especially in the North are still walking around free and some are even contesting again.
Those who have made provocative statements that incited the masses to violence in 2011 have not even been arrested. Whether guilty or innocent, the system has not even kicked in to allow it to work. Inflammatory statements about making the country ungovernable or bloods of dogs and baboons are actionable statements. Can you imagine what message we will be sending if we arrest those persons and prosecute them in a court of law? People will clearly understand that no one is above the law. However, the hypocrisy in the system will show itself when people start claiming that the prosecution is a political witch hunt.
The Abuja accord is another example of paper tigers or toothless bulldogs. A facade meant to obfuscate the reality on ground, which is that many politicians see elections as a do-or-die affair because they don’t have any other comparable source of income and are not vying for office to serve the masses but rather for their own personal enrichment.
The Abuja accord reminds me of another accord between another northerner and a South-easterner some years back. Aburi Accord, named after the venue in Accra Ghana, was meant to salvage an impending war in Nigeria. It was held from January 4-5, 1967 with over fifteen (15) delegates including Chairman of the Ghana National Liberation Council -Lt.-General J.A. Ankrah-Chairman; Lt.-Col. Yakubu Gowon- Head of State of Nigeria; late Lt.-Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu – Governor Eastern Region; Major Mobolaji Johnson – Governor Lagos State; Lt.-Col. Hassan Katsina – Governor Northern Region; Lt.-Col. David Ejoor – Governor Mid-Western Region; Commodore Joseph Edet Akinwale Wey – Vice President of Nigeria; and Colonel Robert Adebayo – Governor Western Region.
The Aburi accord was opened with a declaration to renounce the use of force as a means of settling the Nigerian crisis which saw the population of over 56 million (then) at the brink of war.
The Aburi accord had at least three portions: (1) the legislative and executive authority of the Federal Military Government should remain in the Supreme Military Council, to which any decision affecting the whole country shall be referred for determination provided that where it is possible for a meeting to be held the matter requiring determination must be referred to military governors for their comment and concurrence; (2) appointments to senior ranks in the police, diplomatic, and consular services as well as appointment to super scale posts in the federal civil service and the equivalent posts in the statutory corporation must be approved by the Supreme Military Council; and (3) all the decrees passed since January 15, 1966, and which detracted from previous powers and positions of regional governments, should be repealed if mutual confidence is to be restored.
General Gowon enacted Decree No. 8 which essentially codified the Aburi accord. There were disagreements about its interpretation. Ostensibly, the Aburi conference between the Federal Republic of Nigeria delegates led by Gen. Gowon and Eastern Nigerian delegates led by the late Chief Ojukwu, ended up being meaningless as the federal government allegedly violated the agreement. In legal parlance, Nigeria breached it and the Biafrans had no choice but to go to war. We all know what happened in the bloody civil and the resultant physical, emotional and psychological damages. In fact, arguably some of the leadership problems and federalism issues today could have been solved if the Aburi accord was adhered to by Gowon and his co-travellers.
What recourse do we have if politicians violate the Abuja accord and the other peace agreements entered in various states such as Delta and Ekiti? Do we just take the words of politicians? Are we spoiling for war and is there any legal teeth to agreement that will allow us to sue them in civil court or prosecute them in criminal court?