By Ndutimi Alaibe
I want to humbly thank the Elders of Ijaw Forum, Lagos and the collaborating partners for the event of today. Our coming together as a people to discuss and take a common position on the leadership of Bayelsa State and building consensus on peaceful conduct of the forth-coming governorship election is a demonstration of wisdom and foresight by our elders. By this act, you have shown leadership. We must not only listen to your words of wisdom, we must demonstrate that wisdom as we campaign and vote for the next Governor of Bayelsa State.
This conference is about two critical issues: the credibility of leadership and credible Governorship election in Bayelsa State. It is my belief that anybody who claims to possess the capacity for leadership, must, in the words of Waller Newell, exhibit that magic quality of personality, character, conviction, and the vision that goes beyond mere policy debates but must forge a new path for our State.
My own definition of credible leadership agrees with the revered opinion of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery who defined it as the capacity and the will to rally men and women under a common purpose, and must possess the character which inspires confidence. In other words, a leader must inspire confidence. A leader must be trustworthy. A leader must have the capacity to persuasively generate support without the use of force or coercion. A leader must be peaceful. A leader must have a history of leadership without violence. A leader must have that charisma that convinces his followers and must be able to use the weapon of love to disarm hatred.
This brings me to the second perspective to this gathering today regarding the forthcoming election in Bayelsa State. There are several factors that make elections credible. One of them is non-violence during the campaigns and the actual voting. It is indisputable that violence will have no place in any election when we find aspiring leaders with the above stated leadership qualities.
The question is: Why should a true Ijaw man murder a fellow Ijaw man just because he wants to win an election? Why should anyone procure arms and train people to kill their fellow human beings so as to pave way for their rise to power? Why would anyone desire to swim in the blood of fellow Ijaw men and women so as to attain exalted political offices? This is not just an abomination but an aberration.
From our recent history, we have witnessed detonation of explosives at political campaign grounds, campaign offices and homes of political leaders and perceived political opponents. You are aware that I was, more than once, a victim of such senseless attack. The bloodshed and killings in the last elections was another example of disgraceful acts of violence. It must never happen again.
We must decide today to be decent in our campaigns, voting and in our reaction to the final election results.
Election to public offices must be based on acceptability by the electorate. That acceptability is a product of popularity of ideas. Election must not be contested and won based on superiority of violence but on superiority of ideas. Ideas speak to the heart of the people. Ideas generate transformation. Violence brings about torture and death. The result of violence is bloodshed and tears.
Election must not be contested and won based on the much-touted federal might. It must be contested and won based on the freewill of the voters. Every politics is local. Voters must not be intimidated by threat of violence. We must resolve today to depart from this path. Every democratic society is tailored after the ideological concept of freedom, welfare, equality, solidarity and progress.
According to Reinhart Koselleck, politics is based on both agreement and disagreement. Without disagreement there is no politics. Without disagreement, there is only administration of consensus. Politics, in a democratic society, is not about consensus but about conflict and the search for compromises, for positions of compatibility of the incompatibles. What this implies is that politics is a platform for exchange of ideas and not exchange of weapons of war.
You will recall that since 2002 when I stepped into the political arena in Bayelsa State, I have had to pull back a few times in the middle of the contest – not out of timidity, weakness or lack of support base to win elections. Far from it! I have always taken such a decision when it became clear that for me to achieve my goal, I will have to swim in the blood of fellow citizens – by matching violence with violence. Instead of this, I have always chosen the path of peace at the risk of my political career. Why should I create orphans and widows just because I want political power? In the words of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan: is my personal ambition worth the blood of a fellow Ijaw man? The answer is no.
My position has always been that politics or election is not worth dying and killing for. It is not war. Seeking election to public office does not mean we should kill anyone who stands in our way. Seeking election to public office means convincing opposing elements with superior arguments. We must not kill the electorate to win election. We can only persuade the electorate to have their votes.
One way to stop election violence is to conceive an appropriate technology to support the human effort. Our lawmakers must come up with required legislations to ensure that voters buy into modern methods of electoral activities devoid of human errors. When this happens, rigging will be eliminated. Undue human involvement in electoral processes will be reduced. Violence will be minimised.
Our people must not be killed because they want to elect leaders of their choice by exercising their constitutional rights. We as politicians must learn from the errors of the past. Enough is enough. I am on the side of free and fair elections in November 2019. I am on the side of election without violence in November 2019. This is my position. Thank you and God bless.
▪ Being text of remarks by Alaibe in Yenagoa on 22nd May, 2019 at a workshop on Credible Governorship Election and Good Governance in Bayelsa State: Building a Consensus Through the Ijaw Charter and Ijaw Nation, Code of Ethics, Leadership and Governance.