Ahead of Saturday’s elections, political parties and their presidential candidates, yesterday, signed the second national peace accord, with a promise not only to ensure peaceful polls but also to accept the outcome.
The presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Labour Party, LP, Mr Peter Obi, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, and of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Alhaji Musa Kwankwaso, signed the peace pact, at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
The event, which was the second in the series, was organised by the National Peace Committee, headed by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, retd, in conjunction with the Kukah Centre.
In his goodwill message at the well-attended event, President Muhammadu Buhari, charged the contestants and their political parties to respect the choice of voters and accept the result of the elections as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the agency empowered by law to do so.
The president, who reminded Nigerians that they had no other country outside Nigeria, tasked them to do everything to keep it safe, united and peaceful, adding that there should be no riots or acts of violence after the announcement of election results.
According to him, all grievances, personal or institutional, should be channelled to the relevant courts.
The president assured INEC, security agencies and all relevant institutions saddled with the responsibility of conducting the elections of his administration’s continuous support.
He also tasked them to be firm and courageous, and abide by the laws and constitutional provisions in conducting the elections.
We’ll act with neutrality — Buhari
President Buhari’s speech read: ”I would first like to thank the Chairman of the National Peace Committee and all the members; very distinguished Nigerians, for their commitment and sacrifices to support peaceful elections in Nigeria.
“Back in September 2022, the Chairman respectfully asked me to deliver a goodwill message in support of issue-based and peaceful campaigns and political rallies devoid of insults and personal attacks. This is at the very heart of my personal belief and conviction; that we need to dwell more on issues that are fundamental to the heart of Nigerians.
“Despite having no financial support from the government, the Peace Committee has remained steadfast, working with relevant agencies to provide a moral compass and serve as an independent agency for alternative dispute resolution on the electoral process. I commend the Committee’s commitment and loyalty not only to the electoral process but to peace generally in Nigeria.
“ I am aware of the deep concerns that have been raised about the conduct of the 2023 general elections and the outcomes they may throw up. However, since my assumption into office, my government has worked so hard to ensure that we pass on a legacy of free, fair, credible, safe, and peaceful elections. We will continue to act with neutrality and allow the rule of law to take precedence over political expediency. We have demonstrated that with the off-cycle elections in Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states. We allowed Nigerians to decide who should govern them. We are committed to this legacy till the very last day of my administration.
“ I want to assure INEC, the security agencies and all relevant institutions saddled with the responsibility of conducting the elections of my administration’s continuous support. I ask you to be firm and courageous, and to abide by the laws and constitutional provisions in conducting the elections.’’
On his part, the chairman of the National Peace Committee, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, in his welcome address, explained that on September 29, 2022, the National Peace Committee organized the first signing of the National Peace Accord, committing the candidates to engage in issue-based campaigns.
While also explaining that the committee monitored the compliance with the accord by the politicians, General Abubakar noted: “We recorded some of the infractions that were a thing of concern.
Parties flouted accord— Abdulsalami
“There was a lack of compliance by the major political parties. 44% of the violations were carried out by the spokespersons of the political parties; 26% by party members; 19% by the presidential candidates themselves; 11% by hardcore supporters and 4% by chairmen of the parties.
“Additionally, this January alone, a lot of violence has occurred, with at least 15 abductions (including one police officer) and at least 30 killings (including 11 security personnel) and there were at least six attacks at political campaign rallies.
‘’In December 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, says it has recorded 50 incidents of attacks on its offices from 2019 to 2022. According to data released by the commission, Imo State has (11), Osun (7), Enugu (5), Akwa Ibom (5), Ebonyi (4), Cross River (4), and Abia (4), Anambra (2), Taraba (2), Kaduna (1), Borno (1), Bayelsa (1), Ondo (1), Lagos (1), and Ogun (1).
“As a nation, we got to put a stop to all these. That is why on 20th January 2022, we convened a meeting of the presidential candidates and the party chairmen to discuss existing and emerging issues regarding the way the campaigns were conducted, and the need for parties to moderate their views.
“Now that the elections are only a few hours away, we are here to witness the second signing of the National Peace Accord to commit the presidential candidates and their party chairmen to accept the outcome of the elections as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair, and credible, and to seek legitimate and peaceful means of addressing any concern that may arise thereafter.
“In this regard, I want to encourage political parties to respect that only INEC has the constitutional authority to announce the results and to ensure that their supporters refrain from disseminating fake news, misinformation, and disinformation and avoid statements that will incite violence after the results of the elections have been announced.
“Similarly, I urge all political parties, presidential candidates, and, indeed, all Nigerians, to avoid the temptation of the use of polls that are not credible to cause confusion in the polity.’’
Also speaking, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, retd, expressed happiness that the National Peace Committee had played very vital roles in the nation’s electoral processes, noting that the development had positively enhanced Nigeria’s democratic experiment.
He said: “The National Peace Committee positioning itself as a reliable, dependable independent mediation institution that seeks to foster and show peace in Nigeria’s elections since 2015. To this very moment, the committee has agreed, has engaged the government at all levels, federal, state and local government, political actors and the public on the need to maintain case before, during and after the elections.
“I thank the members of the Peace Committee for their faith in Nigeria and the tireless effort in working to keep this country together and viable.”
Noting that in every democracy peace was a critical factor that bred political, social, and economic progress, General Yakubu Gowon said: “I passionately appeal to the political actors to embrace peace and be civil in their engagements before, during and after the elections. “
Accept outcome of polls — Jonathan
On his part, former President, Goodluck Jonathan, whose message at the event was read by his representative and Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Hassan Kukah, commended the National Peace Committee for doing an excellent job in the nation’s electoral processes.
According to him, the committee deserves commendation, especially given that it has the potential of bringing together all the contestants to commit themselves to a peaceful electioneering process.
He tasked the candidates to abide by the spirit of the accord, recalling that he and President Muhammadu Buhari went down a similar road in 2015.
“We also made it very clear in the second accord that we would abide by the outcome of the votes. I believe that was the way to strengthen our democracy.
“There is no better time to make this commitment than now, given the considerable levels of tension and apprehension so far experienced in the build-up to these elections.
“ This is the time for the candidates and party leaders to demonstrate goodwill and impress upon the candidates and followers that election is not a war.
“Our country needs a stable and reliable democracy to be able to adequately address these challenges, and provide a designed leadership that meets the expectations of our teeming populace and the international community.
“They all look up to us to get our democracy right, and become a force to be reckoned with in the leadership recruitment and governance process.
“We need peaceful elections to give democracy a boost on the continent, especially in our sub-region, where civil rule is threatened by a wave of unconstitutional changes of government and therefore call on the presidential candidates, the party chairman and members of all political parties, to please respect the voice of Nigerians and embraced the politics of peace.”
Speaking further, Jonathan said,”We must continue to work tirelessly in our various capacities to ensure that peace reigns supreme during and after the elections.”
“ At this juncture, I take this opportunity to challenge the election management body, to do its very best to ensure that the elections are free, fair and credible.’’