March 1, 2024

2023 election and Conflict Circle

By Abdulrazaq Hamzat

Stage One: Emergence of a Problem: What is the problem here? The election of either Tinubu, Atiku or Obi as president of Nigeria.

Here, the electorates in the country hear the news and are interested in it.

Stage Two: Taking Sides: Nigerians begin to move towards one side or the other. Some are for Tinubu, some for Atiku, while others are for Obi. Here, more people form opinions and feel the need to get together with others with the same views. The conflict expands and each side gets more supporters.

Stage Three: Positions Harden: People talk more with others who hold similar views with them and less with people with different opinions. Here, positions on who should be the president is formed. Nothing good can be said of the opponent’s supporters.

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Stage Four: Communication Breakdown: At this stage, information is exchanged haphazardly between the parties. Communication takes on an increasingly adversarial tone and eventually information no longer flows between the parties. We all remember the caricature of Tinubu and his mockery. We also saw Obi Chinese data and fake news, and so his the Atiku Dubai residence.

Here, the parties feel there is nothing new to talk about and, therefore, no need to talk to the other party about the issues. Example of such situation can be seen when All Progressive Congress (APC) avoided presidential debate. The issues are no longer important to all the parties, so debate and others amounting to waste of time.

Stage Five: Committing Resource to the course of the Issue: At this level, moderates will be given less attention, while militants will become more rigid and individuals now have a sense of personal power in being part of the group and, therefore, are committing their resources to support the issue. Here, each group will use money to ensure that their candidates win the election. Peter Obi was reported to have mobilized CAN with over N2billion as election logistics. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) took militant opposition to Tinubu over Muslim Muslim ticket.

Stage Six: Conflict Goes Outside: Each group will now begin to look outside their party or even country for support and power. Each group will appeal to none party groups such as foreign partners and media, CSO, Government etc.

Here, the frontiers of the conflict will expand and become more complicated. While Tinubu, Atiku, Obi and even Kwankwaso had gone to UK Chatham House in persuit of goodwill, Obi took it further by investing heavily in foreign media and foreign lobbyist to influence his home base.

Stage Seven: Perception of the Conflict Becomes Distorted: At this stage, the cause(s) of conflict becomes distorted. So are the positions and interest of the parties. People with neutral views are seen as part of the enemy. This makes the conflict complex. Example of such situation can be seen dominantly on the social media, where some Nigerians feel that all the presidential candidates are unworthy of leadership and therefore decided to sit on the fence. For sitting on the fence, both camp accuse them of unpatriotism and being part of the enemy. And even if they express views supporting a candidate, the mod attack them in militant manner.

Stage Eight: Sense of Crisis Emerges: The country is now divided into factions. Instead of having just Pro-Tinubu, Pro-Atiku and Pro-Obi, we have pro and anti Tinubu, pro and anti Atiku and pro and anti Obi.

Stage Nine: Outcomes Vary: Here, the outcome of stage eight may vary ranging from either (i) litigation between the parties, (ii) intervention by neutral body (iii) violence.

(i) Litigation: As a result of this conflict of interest in build up to the election, countless of court cases are presently being heard in the various courts across the country. From cases involving Tinubu’s eligibility, Obi’s eligibility, to cases of false distortion and character assassination.

(ii) Intervention by neutral body: Example of such situation can be seen when the African Union delegation led by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki came to Nigeria to get assurances from all candidates about their commitment to accepting the outcome of the election and working within the law to address any grievance. Another example is the peace accord signed by all candidates as their commitment to peace under the Gen Abdulsalam Abubakar Committee.

(iii) Violence: This has been so visible. Party candidates have been attacked, campaign vehicles destroyed,people have been shot dead and many others attacked.

In addressing such conflict, the right to life must be fundamentally protected by all, it is beyond all economic, social, civil and political rights. We must all ensure that no life is wasted on meaningless pursuit for wealth and power.

This must be well communicated to all politicians and their supporters to ensure the negative experience never repeat itself and should anyone be found violating others, they must be made to pay irrespective of their status in the society.

In a place where violent conflict continues, upholding the right to life and ensuring security for all people would be compromised. This must not be allowed to continue.

Abdulrazaq Hamzat

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