Jonathan, Buhari meet, renew peace accord
AHEAD of tomorrow’s presidential election, the two leading candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday restated their commitment towards a peaceful and violence-free exercise by signing a fresh accord.
The new non-violence pact followed a similar one they signed on February 14, this year alongside nine presidential standard bearers of other political parties in Abuja, where they committed themselves to free, credible and violence-free elections.
The meeting, which took place at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Abuja was put together by the General Abdulsalami Abubakar- led National Peace Committee on 2015 Elections. Also in attendance were the chairmen of both parties, Dr. Adamu Mu’azu (PDP) and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun (APC).
The signing of the pact came barely 24 hours after Jonathan’s meeting with a coalition of international election observers, which met him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, where he restated his willingness to meet with Buhari and if possible sign another peace accord with him.
On February 14, both men and other presidential candidates had signed what is now famously known as the Abuja Accord, and yesterday they renewed the pact to reassure the world and make Nigerians understand that this country is more important than their own aspirations.
Abubakar said the peace committee was set up after the Abuja Accord.
He added that his committee had been working round the clock to assist the parties and Nigerians to ensure that there was peace and harmony before, during and after the elections this time around.
The committee had met Jonathan on Wednesday to brief him on the work they have so far done, but also to extract a commitment from him as a presidential candidate in the election on the need to ensure a violence free poll. The committee had earlier yesterday met with Buhari.
Also present at the meeting was the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Sultan of Sokoto, Dr. Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar.
According to Abubakar, “the President was kind enough to see us on Wednesday. One he is the President of the country and secondly he is a contestant. And this morning (yesterday) Buhari despite his late arrival last night or early arrival this morning, was kind enough to meet with this committee.
“In essence, all the meetings were held to brief them on the current situation of the country and what we expect of them as stakeholders and as presidential candidates.
“I want to thank both the President and Buhari for finding time to meet with the committee. And I want to thank both party chairmen for the support received in trying to send this message of peace.
“I’m happy for both parties. The contestants are committed to free and fair elections, free of violence. And this morning, a document to reiterate their commitments for this peaceful and for the forthcoming elections” was signed.
The contents of the accord were read out by a member of the committee and Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Dr. Mathew Hassan Kukah who quoted the two candidates as restating their commitments to ensuring that the elections were held in a peaceful and violence-free atmosphere.
Titled: “Renewal of our pledges to peaceful elections,” the statement, which was jointly signed by Jonathan and Buhari with Abubakar as the third signatory, said:
“You may recall that on January 14, 2015, both of us, along with nine other party leaders signed what has now come to be known as the Abuja Accord. The substance of that Accord was our commitment to free, fair and credible elections in our dear country.
“In the Accord, we agreed to, among other things, run an issue-based campaign and pledged that our electoral campaigns will not involve any religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our names.
“Now that the campaigns have come to an end, we meet today to renew our pledge for peaceful elections. We therefore call on all fellow citizens of our dear country, and our party supporters, to refrain from violence or any acts that may in any way jeopardise our collective vision of a free, fair and credible election.
“In addition, we call on INEC and all security agencies to ensure strict adherence to their constitutional roles. We also pledge to respect the outcome of free, fair and credible elections.
“Today, we again renew our commitment to a united, democratic and prosperous Nigeria. We want all Nigerians to stand together at this critical phase of our nation’s history.”
Buhari, in an interview, said all the agencies, including security and INEC should work based on the country’s constitution, and that everybody is aware of their duties based on the constitution of the country.
On if he would accept the outcome of the elections, whichever way, he snapped back: “How can we give such guarantee. I said read the accord we signed, it said under free, fair and credible election, which is the caveat.”
Speaking to reporters after the signing of the accord, the former Head of State expressed his delight that the two candidates have restated their commitments to peaceful and violence-free elections.
Abubakar said: “I’m happy that two candidates have all agreed to abide to ensure that there is free and fair elections, free of violence and the contestants have agreed, they have pledged to accept the results when it is declared.”
He said the significance of the renewed pact, stemmed from the fact that the tension in the country was high.
“Everybody believes there would be hell and fire if their candidates lose, so it is a good thing that the candidates themselves have said they will accept the results whenever they are declared and I hope Nigerians will help them to abide by this pledge,” he added.
Speaking in the same vein, Kukah said it was significant that the candidates have committed themselves to a free, fair and credible election, and expressed the belief that the symbolism of the action was largely for the ordinary Nigerians which he said take the issue of the elections more seriously than the actors themselves.
“We are saying, these gentlemen will finish their business in politics, you saw the two chairmen of the political parties, PDP and APC hugging each and laughing together, Buhari and the President will finish, they will probably sit down and have coffee together. In other words, politics is not as bitter, but we, the ordinary people tend to go well beyond the line of duty and so this symbolic gesture should demonstrate to ordinary people of Nigeria not to cry more than the bereaved.”
He believed that the neither the President, nor Buhari had ordered anyone to do any bad thing or to abuse anybody. In fact, the President had always restated the fact that his ambition was not worth anybody’s blood, but noted that people had gone out of their ways, out of their own unrestrained enthusiasm to do things that the principals have not authorised.
Kukah added: ‘‘So all we did was to simply re-state again that in case anybody thinks that what happened on February 14 was just a gimmick, we thought after the difficulties, ordinary Nigerians believed you can’t bring these two people together, because of the campaign of calumny, the animosity by their various supporters, but we have done this and they have done their part at a great sacrifice because everything you saw here took place in the last 10 hours.”