Polls: Anxiety Grips African Leaders, Others Over Nigeria

AFRICAN leaders are troubled by prospects of violence in Nigeria after the March 28 and April 11 elections,The Nation learnt yesterday.

Specifically, the anxiety in and out of the continent is about:

•whether the elections, which were rescheduled from February 14 and February 28, will hold;

•the likelihood of violence; and

•the acceptability of the results.

Former South Africa President Thabo Mbeki has met with President Goodluck Jonathan and All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Gen. Muhammadu Buhari on the fears of world leaders about the elections, stressing the need for a violence-free exercise.

He also visited former military president Gen. Ibrahim Babangida at his Hilltop Mansion in Minna, Niger State yesterday.

Mbeki extracted a commitment from the duo that the outcome of the polls will be accepted – in line with “legal and democratic norms”, a source told The Nation yesterday.

Mbeki, who met with Jonathan on Sunday, was at Gen. Buhari’s Jabi Road home in Kaduna, also on Sunday.

He was accompanied to the two sessions by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Mbeki and Abdulsalami left for Abuja after a photo session with Gen. buhari without speaking to reporters.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: “Mbeki’s visit had to do with the anxiety in and out of the continent over the general election.

“There are apprehensions on whether or not the poll will hold; the likelihood of violence and the acceptability of the results of the elections.

“So, the ex-South African President came to extract commitment from the key candidates that Nigeria will not be thrown into turmoil.

“He has been on a peace mission to ensure a free and fair poll in the country. He wants any loser to seek redress in court and not on the streets.”

Another source said the “recourse to hate politics was disturbing to African leaders who saddled Mbeki with the responsibility of  intervening.

“You know Mbeki is playing a crucial role in mediation efforts in Darfur and Sudan as Chairperson of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP).

Mbeki reportedly said the March 28 and April 11 dates for the elections should not be tampered with.

He was also said to have asked Nigeria to drop the winner-takes-all approach in managing the aftermath of the poll.

A highly-placed source said: “From the manner Mbeki spoke in Kaduna, he appeared to have come on the mandate of the United Nations. His message was in line with that of the international community.

“He emphasized the need to respect the Constitution and made a strong case for a free and fair poll.

“He said all parties must ensure there is no violence during or after the elections.

“Mbeki said given the level of democracy on the continent, parties must avoid a situation of winner takes all.

“He said if the ruling party loses or wins or if the poll is in favour of the opposition, the system should be accommodating for all. I think the PDP is afraid of losing and it might have been pushing this.

Buhari was reported to have  said: “Given my antecedents, I am not a violent person or politician. It is on record that I have always gone to court every time I lost election.

“I don’t believe in violence, I follow due process of the law. I did not promote or sponsor violence in 2011. Even in 2011, I went to court to challenge the outcome of the poll and I abided by the decision of the court.

“No responsible leader will direct his followers to embark on violence.

“We should make sure that the election is free, transparent and fair. Once the process is fair, Nigerians will accept the outcome and you will be surprised how they will respect the decision of the voters.”

“If you see what happened in Rwanda in 1994, no one will want either pre or post election violence in Nigeria,” the source added.

But a third source, who is a former governor, said the trip might have some personal undertone to save Nigeria’s democracy from collapse.

“He is an elder statesman and he is concerned about the electoral process in the country,” the source added.

Jonathan’s and Buhari’s camps have remained silent on the meetings.

Mbeki served nine years as the second post-apartheid President of South Africa from June 14, 1999 to September 24, 2008.

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