Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Shagari Calls For Peace In Nigeria

Peace; Law; and Order. These are what President Shehu Shagari demands from Nigerians. In his first address to the nation since his re-election to a second and final term as President of the federation and also prior to his formal inauguration on October 1, President Shagari cautioned political leaders not to worsen the situation of normalcy being attained in the country with inciting utterances.

Referring particularly to Ondo and Oyo states where new dates have been announced for three remaining elections the President reminded all those who hold hardline positions which do not advance the cause of peace, law and order that the security forces are up to the task of maintaining law and order.

Snippets of the address follow:

Over the past few months, our nation has witnessed electioneering campaigns by the six registered political parties for various elective posts in the govern- ment and legislative houses of the Federation. All the political parties and their candidates had full opportunities to present their programmes and them- selves to the people of this nation without hindrance. It is a credit to the maturity of the good people of this country that we have been able to conduct the campaigns in an atmosphere of peace. For this we are grateful to Almighty God.

Reports received from all parts of the country, including initial comments by the various political party leaders, indicated that the presidential elections were free, fair and largely devoid of violence. The few aggrieved presidential candidates who subsequently alleged electoral malpractices quite rightly went to the courts to seek redress.

As you know, their petitions have been dismissed and the nation now stands poised to my inauguration as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 1st October 1983. Once again, I thank the Nigerian electorate for their reaffirmation through the ballot box of their faith and their confidence in my person, and in my service to this great nation.

Either just before and soon after the senatorial elections on 13th August there were reports of violence in some areas, particularly in Ondo and Oyo States. As the Federal Electoral Com- mission, Fedeco, started to announce the results of the elections, claims and counterclaims of electoral malpractices were made, mostly by losers

It should be noted that in an exercise involving over 1,000,000 officials and various groups representing different interests, there is bound to be some dis- agreement, especially when a few persons consider their narrow interests to be more important than the national interest.

This situation was further aggravated by some political party leaders who are so narrow and unco-operative as to incite their supporters into acts of violence instead of taking their cases to Fedeco or the courts as prescribed by law.

As you are aware, where there had been known cases of criminal acts in pursuit of narrow selfish interests, the law enforcement agencies have been swift in moving in against such in- dividuals and groups and making them face the penalty of their illegal acts. In this respect, there have been some arrests and a number of cases are pend- ing in the law courts.

It is definitely worrisome that claims and counterclaims of electoral malpractices have resulted in localized violence which has been of serious pro- portions in Ondo and Oyo States. Reports indicate that disorder occurred in some parts of these states even before the beginning of the polling at the gubernatorial election and got to a point where the security forces had to be reinforced in order to quell the disturbances and return the two states to normalcy.

Detailed investigations are still being carried out by the law enforcement agencies on the disturbances which have involved loss of life and property and the postponement of the three remaining elections in Ondo and Oyo States.

At this juncture let me say with a heavy heart that the Federal Government deeply regrets the loss of lives and property of innocent citizens of Nigeria. On behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria. I wish to express our heartfelt sympathies to the families of the victims of this unfortunate incident.

Normal life is being restored in the two states by the security forces and law-abiding citizens (would be) able to engage in their lawful operations. Thus, Fedeco has been able to announce the dates for the remaining three elections in Ondo and Oyo States. Nevertheless, some inciting utterances being made by some political leaders may worsen the situation of normalcy already being attained.

Whereas the security forces are up to the task of maintaining law and order in the states, some people still hold hardline positions which do not advance the cause of peace, law and order. It is, however, gratifying that well-meaning individuals and groups from Oyo and Ondo States have expressed unhappiness about these unfortunate incidents in their states.

President Shehu Shagari: peace and order

They have made proposals on how to bring the contending parties together so as to avoid a fresh outbreak of violence. Many of the proposals are feasible and in line with the measures already being considered by the various agencies of the Federal Government. They include steps to be taken by the security forces to prevent further cases of arson, loot- ing and the murder of opponents, material relief to be provided to those who have been affected by the recent disturbance in the two states, and a peace plan.

I have taken steps to ensure that the security forces in the two states are substantially strengthened to meet any threat to law and order. While the security forces will perform their duties to the best of their ability, the various leaders in the opposing groups have a duty to their followers and in the name of humanity to ensure that all acts that could lead to the breakdown to law and order are avoided.

In terms of the provision of the need to those affected by the wanton acts of destruction of lives and property in Ondo States, the National Emergency Relief Agency, NERA, has been directed to go into action. However, the issue of relief is one that must out of necessity involve not only the Federal Government, but also the state and local governments.

Each of these levels of government should contribute its own quota in ensuring that, as much as possible, those affected by the unfortunate event receive relief. The NERA will therefore liaise with the state governments, the local governments and other well- meaning private individuals and groups to assist all those affected by the un- fortunate events in the two states. I wish to appeal to the state governments concerned to discharge their responsibilities in this regard.

With regard to the bringing of the various groups of opposition together, I have already mentioned in the past few days I have received proposals from well-meaning individuals from Oyo and Ondo States on how best to restore lasting peace in the two states. They have been encouraged to go ahead in collaboration with the security agencies in those states together with the political leaders, religious leaders and traditional rulers to work out and im- plement the modalities for the achievement of lasting peace.

This administration will give full support to all efforts in this direction. I call upon all men and women of good- will to participate in this peace plan. Our religious leaders and traditional rulers must play a fatherly role in reminding competitors for political office that they are all from one family. The nation is grateful to them.

They, however, have a duty to continue that fatherly role. They should not relent in their efforts to maintain a channel of communication with all their children so as to ensure at all times that differences in the pursuit of political offices do not degenerate into the types of events recently experienced in Ondo and Oyo States.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other relevant laws provide for redress in the law courts for any electoral malpractices. Those who have complaints or allegations of malpractices should seek redress in the courts of law rather than resort to violence, and they should note that many aggrieved individuals and organizations have taken that lawful step.

We should as good citizens be pre- pared to abide by the decisions of the law courts and of the electorate. The security forces would, as they have al- ways done, ensure that the will of the electorate and the decision of the courts are enforced in all cases without fear or favour.

On the question of a one party system in Nigeria, the fusing together of very diverse groups in Nigeria into one political party is totally impracticable and in the Nigerian situation can never work. The objective of our federal system of government is to achieve unity in diversity. A thorough study of the history of this country and its political development will confirm that the only avenue to popular leadership is a strongly based democratic system which will allow for free and fair competition for political offices among as many political parties as may make the constitutional provisions.

I commend the performance of Fedeco which, in spite of the doubt expressed by all interested parties before the elections, has done a good job. The security forces too have left no one in doubt as to their capacity to protect life and property. The nation owes them all a debt of gratitude.

Every citizen of this nation should regard every election as a competition among brothers and sisters whereby the electorate has the right to choose the most acceptable among them to serve for a limited period of time as provided in our Constitution. No one should disturb this democratic process; nor should any group or organization incite brother against brother in any reckless bid to subvert the public will in our open society.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me state once again that any Nigerian who, in spite of this admonition, deliberately takes the law into his hands by inciting the public to violence, encouraging the use of libellous and provocative utterances, or engages in subversive acts for that matter, will definitely not escape the wrath of justice.

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