President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have agreed to accept the outcome of free, fair and credible elections.
Buhari, Atiku and other candidates in the February 16 presidential election also pledged to ensure that the polls are conducted peacefully while signing a peace accord at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja yesterday.
The event, organised by the National Peace Committee under the
chairmanship of a former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, was witnessed by foreign observers including the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland; former Liberian President and leader of the ECOWAS observation team, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Others are former president of Tanzania and leader of Commonwealth Observer Group Jakaya Kikwete, as well as former president of Botswana and head of Democratic National Institute and Republic National Institute, Festus Moghai.
Let’s commit ourselves to the accord – Buhari
Speaking after signing the accord, President Buhari said “We, the Presidential candidates are here to sign and commit ourselves to do all that is possible to ensure the success of the elections but most importantly to accept the final outcome.
“I appeal to my fellow contestants to commit to these ideals so as to keep our country and people safe. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), our electoral umpire, has already assured us that they have done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections.
“It was to ensure this that I made sure that INEC received all the resources they needed to perform their job. Our security agencies have been fully briefed and they know that their visible neutrality is key to the conduct, credibility and success of the elections.”
The president, while calling for prayers for the country, urged Nigerians to contribute to the building of a viable polity by more active participation beyond the casting of votes.
“Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our beliefs in a united country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make our country peaceful and prepare us for development. “Elections by themselves do not constitute Democracy. It is the spirit of citizenship engagement that utilizes the energy of citizens towards the attainment of good governance,” he said.
He appealed to youth not to allow themselves to be used to cause violence, noting that “We will vote according to Parties, but in the end, the only real Party is Nigeria, our country.”
We must abide by will of the people – Atiku
Also speaking, Atiku said “every candidate must remember that this election is about the future of Nigeria, therefore, we must abide by the will of the people as freely expressed through elections, under the terms of our constitution.”
Quoting former President Goodluck Jonathan’s statement, “My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian,” Atiku said the statement remains a benchmark for him, taking into account the deep feelings that prevail as the election approaches.
“Hopefully, our democracy should emerge stronger from this process with the 2019 elections proving better managed than the 2015 process, which was adjudged free and fair with the then opposition’s victory unobstructed.
“Consequently, I also appeal to the President, General Buhari, to use his good office to ensure that every eligible person who casts their vote is confident in the process and in the belief that their vote will count.”
He appealed to INEC and the Nigeria Police Force to be fair arbiters in the upcoming elections while letting neutrality prevail.
“Once again, despite concerns expressed by my party leaders concerning likely electoral malpractices and the intimidation of voters and observers, I trust that our election officials and security services will do their duty in accordance with their oath and obligations. In conclusion, I appeal once again, to our citizens, to go out and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice, to be peaceful at all times, and confident in our democracy, its institutions and processes,” he said.
Look beyond electoral gains, Abdulsalami tells candidates
Abdulsalami said “As leaders of political parties with extensive followership, you have the potential to help build peace and keep it, but on the other hand, you also have the potential to create and fuel conflict in the polity. You must not do anything to make a bad situation worse. You must lead by example.”
He added that “First, the election itself will not hold in the absence of a peaceful atmosphere. Second, and equally important, governance after the election would be impossible without a peaceful environment, third the disharmony among political parties hinders all developmental efforts.
“While winning elections may be a matter of competition between political parties, winning the war against development is a matter of cooperation between them. And unless we accept that the electoral competition, no matter how intense, must not be at the expense of cooperation among political parties, we are going nowhere.”
The former head of state defined electoral conflict/violence as “any act of threat that seeks to harm, intimidate, abuse or, otherwise, blackmail any participant through seeking to influence, delay or change, the outcome of that electoral process.”
He urged INEC and the security agencies to abide by their oath of office.
“Today what is coming from our mosques and churches is nothing but unfounded incitement. This must be controlled and curtailed because for us to conduct these elections successfully and in peace, every one of us must be bound by the dictates of truth, decorum and good conduct,” he said.
Gowon: Counsel your supporters against violence
Also speaking, former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon urged the candidates to counsel their supporters against violence and intimidation.
“Speak directly to your supporters, let us have peaceful elections and let us respect the observers,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the country’s traditional rulers, Chairman, Bayelsa State Traditional Rulers Council, Amanayabo of Twon Brass, King Alfred Diete-Spiff, urged the candidates to place the survival of the country above their ambitions.
Emir of Kano Muhammadu Sanusi II was also at the event.
Africa depends on healthy Nigeria – Commonwealth
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Mrs. Patricia Scotland, said the strength of Africa depended on a healthy Nigeria.
According to her, the Commonwealth was elated over the decision of candidates taking part in this year’s general elections to sign a peace accord to guarantee a peaceful and fair contest.
“Nigeria was a treasured member of the Commonwealth family where things must not be allowed to go wrong because of the wider implications for the rest of Africa. When Nigeria is healthy, vibrant and strong, the whole of Africa is strengthened,” Scotland said.
She said millions of people across the world are praying for Nigeria and its people hoping that the forthcoming election will hold peacefully.
She noted that Saturday’s election will be the sixth since 1999 when the country returned to democracy after military rule and expressed hope that the poll will entrench and build on the gains achieved since 1999.
According to her, for those born after 1999, this year’s election will be the first time to exercise their right and determine who rules Nigeria and that all concerned should not fail them by ensuring a credible and transparent election.
“The signing ceremony holding today (yesterday) is fully in line with commonwealth values. The world is holding their breath because Nigeria is the largest economy with the largest population in Africa. It is a burden that Nigerian leaders gathered here today carry. We call on their party, supporters and public to follow their lead. Elections will come and go, but this great Nigeria will remain,” she said.
Also, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Ketil Karlsen, urged INEC to ensure that voters were able to cast their votes without fear or intimidation. He said that what is good for Nigeria is also good for the world.
On his part, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said the eyes of the world are on Nigeria and thus actors in the elections must play by the rules.