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Atiku, Ezekwesili sign peace accord

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Adamu Abuh (Abuja) and David Akinfenwa (Lagos)
13 December 2018   |   4:30 am
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar yesterday signed the 2019 general elections peace accord. Atiku had been conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s main event, which was attended by President Muhammadu Buhari and other candidates.

Director, Kukah Centre, Rev. Fr. Atta Barkindo (left); former Head of State and Chairman, National Peace Committee, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar and National Chairman, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus during the signing of the 2019 Elections Peace Accord at the Kukah Centre in Abuja …yesterday.

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Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar yesterday signed the 2019 general elections peace accord. Atiku had been conspicuously absent from Tuesday’s main event, which was attended by President Muhammadu Buhari and other candidates.

While his media aide, Paul Ibe, claimed the candidate was not invited, one of the conveners of the accord, Matthew Kukah, insisted an invitation was sent, blaming administrative error at the PDP’s secretariat.

Kukah went on to say other candidates could “still come and append their signatures,” provided they remained committed to the pact.Candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) Obiageli Ezekwesili, also absent on Tuesday, signed the agreement.

The ceremony, which took place at the Bishop Kukah Centre in Abuja, attracted international dignitaries like the United States ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, and a delegation of European Union Representatives, led by Richard Young.

In a brief remark after the event, Atiku declared: “I am a democrat ab initio. I was never converted. I have always been a democrat. I fought the military to return this country to democracy. However, the best way to guarantee peace in any election is to ensure manifest justice to all concerned.

“I am delighted that Mr. President has agreed to sign this peace accord. I will want to appeal to him to also sign the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill. Mr. President needs to understand that as long as he refuses to sign the bill, we will have doubts that this government is truly committed to free, fair and credible elections.”

Those who accompanied Atiku to the event included his running mate, Peter Obi; PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus; and former governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel.But the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) expressed skepticism about Atiku’s readiness to ensure peaceful elections. It accused the candidate of initially trying to avoid signing the accord. It said the about-turn was a face-saving measure following the widespread condemnation that greeted his absence.

The party’s spokesman, Lanre Issa-Onilu, in a statement said: “This, again, brings to the fore PDP’s open declaration in August this year that the party will deploy all “means, schemes, shenanigans in all ramifications and magnitude” to manipulate the 2019 election.“The APC reiterates that security and other relevant agencies must be on high alert to check this dangerous threat posed by the PDP’s planned actions for the general elections. In 2019 and beyond, the votes of the electorate must count and the will of the electorate must prevail. We must stand against and resist plans by retrogressive elements that are now nested in the PDP and their agents to disrupt elections through violence and other undemocratic practices.

“For signing the 2019 election national peace accord, the party affirms the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC government to a free and fair electoral process. The APC government has an abiding pledge towards a participatory, peaceful, credible and transparent elections.”While signing the accord, Ezekwesili called on Buhari to assent to the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, saying it was the only way he could assure Nigerians he was ready for credible polls in 2019.

Also, at a media parley hosted by hospitality firm, H21 Apartments, yesterday, Ezekwesili restated her commitment to boosting the private sector if she is elected president.“Through policy, effective regulation and catalytic public investment in the provision of basic services for people and businesses, we will accelerate and expand the sources of growth in the economy,” she said.

She added: “We will be dedicated to improving the productivity and competitiveness of Nigeria and Nigerians in every sector of economic activity by removing barriers and providing a menu of sound policy measures. This will also include a deliberate move in easing the business environment, not just for major businesses in Nigeria, but for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which are the lifeblood of our economy.”

But a fierce critic of the current administration and former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, maintained that Buhari could not guarantee free and fair polls.

“A man who refused to sign the Amended Electoral Bill four times after it was passed by the National Assembly of 469 Nigerians cannot be said to be interested in any peaceful, free and fair election. Therefore, signing of the peace accord won’t change his desperation to remain in office at all costs,” he wrote on his Twitter handle.

According to him, “A man who has turned all Federal Government agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and police, to the attack dogs of the APC cannot be said to be interested in any peaceful election just by mere signing of a peace accord.”