2015 polls: Jonathan, Buhari, others sign non-violence pact
Annan, Anyaoku, Jega preach peace, unity
AHEAD of next month’s general elections in the country, President Goodluck Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his major challenger of All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) Wednesday signed an accord with a commitment to keep the peace during and after the polls starting on February 14, this year.
At the occasion chaired by the former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, nine other presidential candidates of other registered parties also appended their signatures to the five points accord which reads thus: “We the undersigned presidential candidates of the underlisted political parties contesting in the general elections of 2015; desirous of taking proactive measures to prevent electoral violence before, during and after the elections; anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment for the 2015 general elections;
“Reaffirming our commitment to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; desirous of sustaining and promoting the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity; determined to avoid any conduct or behaviour that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria; determined to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns; and reaffirm our commitment to fully abide by all rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria.
“Hereby commit ourselves and our party to the following: To run issue based campaigns at national, state and local governments levels; in this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, both ourselves and agents acting in our names; to refrain from making or causing to make our names or that of our party, any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence, before, during and after the elections;
“To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence to this accord by a national peace committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders; all institutions of government including INEC and security agencies must act and be seen to act with impartiality; and to forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetrated by our supporters and/or opponents.”
The Accord was also signed by the national chairmen of the following political parties. For the Action Alliance, Tunde Anifowoshe-Kelani, presidential candidate and Mohammed Lawal Nalado national chairman; Alliance for Democracy, Dr. Rafiu Salau, presidential candidate and Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, national chairman; Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Alhaji Ganiyu Galadima, presidential candidate and Alhaji Mohammed Sanni national chairman; African Democratic Congress (ADC), Dr. Naming Ibrahim Ahmad, presidential candidate and Chief Ralphs Okey Nwosu, national chairman; Buhari and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, national chairman; Hope Democratic Party, Ambrose Albert Owuru and Ambrose Albert Owuru; Kowa Party (KP), Prof. Comfort Oluremi Sonaiya and Alhaji Umar Mustapha, national chairman; National Conscience Party (NCP), Martin Onovo and Dr. Yunusa Tanko.
Others were President Jonathan and Dr. Adamu Mu’azu, National Chairman, PDP; United Democratic Party (UDP), Godson Okoye, presidential candidate and Godson Okoye, National Chairman; and United Progressive Party ( UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, presidential candidate and also national chairman. Dr. Yunusa Tanko, chairman, Inter-party Advisory Council, Senator Ben Obi, Special Adviser to the President on Inter Party Affairs,
On hand to witness the event were Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd), National Security Adviser.
Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, who delivered a lecture titled: “Tenets of non- violent and peaceful elections; lessons for Nigeria,” expressed optimism that next month’s general election would be much better than previously held ones.
He said party politics is at the heart of electoral violence and it behooves on all to seek solution to electoral violence within the same politics itself.
Dwelling on what he termed ten tenets of peaceful party politics which comprises internal party democracy, effective intra-party conflict resolution, accountability, supremacy of rules and uncertainty of electoral outcomes, trust in institutional redress, promotion of inclusiveness, he said the willingness by politicians to accept election outcomes is at the centre of peaceful elections.
He added: “A must win mindset encourages supporters to challenge outcomes and most likely take the law into their own hands. The essence of ex-ante indeterminacy of outcomes is that results could go in any direction. It is important for candidates and political parties to properly inform their followers on the need to respect outcomes and to follow laid down procedures in contesting disputed outcomes.”
Earlier in his address, special guest of honour at the occasion, Anan admonished a peaceful election, stating that with the strategic position of Nigeria in Africa, it cannot afford to get it wrong come February. He urged all political parties to take the agreement seriously.
“Aside from being the 8th largest importer of oil, Nigeria has become a player in telecoms, agriculture and banking. She is a major contributor to UN peace keeping and is now at the UN Security Council, “he said, highlighting the economic position of Nigeria in Africa and how the continent will be affected if the elections go violent.
Anan called for the end to insurgency in north east Nigeria. He also called for tolerance in the election process; and pointed out the ills of the ‘winner takes it all’ mentality which he said has the potential of inciting violence.
According to him, elections are not the responsibility of INEC alone, but also of the political parties and as well as voters. “You can’t abstain from voting and then complain,” he said. For the candidates, he added: “Focus on party policies and not on individuals. Avoid inflammatory languages and don’t use ethnicity and religion to gain political sympathies.
“Nigeria doesn’t want to repeat the experience of Kenya where violence took them back several years. 2015 will confirm Nigeria’s progress in the eyes of the world. The stakes are high but I know Nigeria can rise to the challenge. Nigeria’s success is Africa’s success. Nigeria has the future of Africa in its hands, make Africa proud”, he urged.
Drawing on the call for all parties to shun violence, Jonathan said that the cost of violence is enormous, explaining that the Federal Government had to recently pay out about N10 billion in post election violence compensation; money which could have been channelled into some useful development work.
According to him, Kaduna State was paid N3 billion in post-election violence compensation because of the level of destruction in the state which almost doubled what happened in some other states. “We had earlier paid out about N5 billion or N7 billion to some other states.” The level of destruction in Kaduna alone almost doubled the rest of the country put together. That is the kind of issues the country faces. That is why this programme is apt and we need it because at the end of the election, we don’t need to kill people. I believe we will get there if we are all sincere to doing what is right in this country,” he said.
Tracing the history of elections in Nigeria from the First Republic, the president said it had always been marred by violence. He therefore, enjoined all parties, candidates and their supporters to shun violence this time around. He urged candidates to shun provocative statements that promote political bitterness, just as he charged ethnic and religious leaders not to instigate their followers towards violence.
He urged candidates to stop abuse of opponents and to shun issuance of threats. He advocated inclusive governance in a win-win situation whereby the winner will not necessarily take it all, thereby provoking violent reactions of opponents.
The president called on INEC to ensure that all Nigerians are issued their permanent voters’ cards in order not to disenfranchise them. “INEC should also assure Nigerians that the technology they are using is safe and that nobody will manipulate the system to his advantage,” he said.
Buhari in his address, recounted his experience at the courts while prosecuting the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. He enjoined the political class to learn from the developed world “rather than make the same mistakes. There is no way the ruling party will lose judgement. Help us to make the 2015 election credible,” he said.
To this, the president replied that he personally did not celebrate the victory of the 2007 election when he was the vice presidential candidate but that the 2011 election was adjudged free and fair by international observers, the verdict which was upheld by the Supreme Court. He noted that he did not even win in the states where violence later erupted. According to him, he only got 16 per cent of the total votes in Kano State and only 15 per cent of the total votes in Bauchi State.
Meanwhile, the Liberian Ambassador to Nigeria, Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh has said that was the need for polls winners to accommodate those who lost elections into their development plan to move the nation forward.
According to him, when people lose elections they feel vulnerable and the only way to calm them down is to be magnanimous to them.
Conteh, who said this in Abuja on Tuesday at the end of a close door meeting between the group of African Ambassadors and Annan, stressed that the country should subscribe to a long-term vision to avoid destroying what has already been done.
He also advised that winners in elections should adopt the three pillar of democracy which includes basically the rule of law, stability and inclusive development.