Atiku, Ezekwesili, Duke, Sowore absent as presidential candidates commit to peace
•I wasn’t invited, ex-vice president insists
•Forum still open for absentees, says Abdulsalami
Presidential candidates for next year’s polls yesterday signed a peace accord to be law-abiding before, during and after the exercise.
However, the candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, was absent from the ceremony, which held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Others who boycotted the event were Oby Ezekwesili of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Action Alliance’s Omoyele Sowore, Social Democratic Party (SDP) standard-bearer, Donald Duke and his Young Progressives Party (YPP) counterpart, Kingsley Moghalu.
Guests were informed that invitations were sent to all 73 candidates of the 91 registered political parties.
Chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), who harped on a peaceful and credible election come February, decried the prevailing insecurity in the country.
He cautioned leaders against unguarded utterances, reminding them that their disposition could either make or mar the polls.
Abubakar pleaded that peace should override every other consideration, adding that a fair and credible election could not hold in an atmosphere of discord.
He particularly condemned recent remarks credited to some religious leaders, warning that the development would not augur well for the nation.
The erstwhile Nigerian leader appealed to all the contenders to play by the rule, just as he charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to discharge its responsibility creditably.
In his keynote address, another one-time military helmsman, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd), described the move as a positive development in the country’s democratic journey.
Harping on ‘Trust and Democracy,’ he flayed hate speech, sectionalism and ethnicity, which he said had perpetually kept Nigeria divided with mutual suspicion.
Gowon enjoined leaders to judiciously manage the resources of the nation to engender trust, “hope and unity devoid of any bloodshed.”
In their goodwill messages, ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, sued for peaceful elections and development of the country.
Head of EU delegation to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, pledged neutrality, urging Nigeria to repeat the feat of 2015.