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Comply with peace accord, Buhari, Abubakar, Jonathan tell candidates

By Azimazi Momoh Jimoh, Leo Sobechi, Terhemba Daka (Abuja) and Rotimi Agboluaje (Ibadan)
30 September 2022   |   4:35 am
As the grueling contest begins for the February 25 polls, presidential candidates of all 18 recognised political parties, yesterday, signed a peace accord committing to a peaceful campaign towards ..

Members of the National Peace Committee, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah (left); Chairman, Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba; Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar; former Head of State and Chairman, National Peace Committee, Abdulsalami Abubakar; INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; Cardinal John Onaiyekan with presidential candidates and party chairmen at the signing of Peace Accord for presidential candidates in Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ATEKO 

• Buhari: Peace accord with Jonathan contributed to 2015 election success 
• Don’t allow fake news derail campaigns, leaders charge stakeholders
• Vote-buying undermining democracy, Kukah warns candidates
• Peace accord signifies war in Nigeria, says Sowore
• We will ensure full compliance with Electoral Act 2022, campaign spendings, INEC tells parties
• Obi: Let’s think Nigeria, not ‘My Turn’

As the grueling contest begins for the February 25 polls, presidential candidates of all 18 recognised political parties, yesterday, signed a peace accord committing to a peaceful campaign towards the 2023 general elections.

All the candidates and national chairmen of their parties signed the accord organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC) at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.

The signing of the peace agreement came a day after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lifted the ban on campaigns for the presidential and National Assembly polls.

Some of the candidates that signed the accord were Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

Others were Omoyele Sowore of African Action Congress (AAC), Hamza Al-Mustapha of Action Alliance (AA), Adewole Adebayo of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Sunday Adenuga of Boot Party and the only female candidate in the race, Chichi Ojei of Allied Peoples Movement (APM).

Christoper Imumolen of Accord Party (AP), Yabagi Sani of Action Democratic Party (ADP), Dumebi Kachikwu of African Democratic Congress (ADC) and Dan Nwanyanwu of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) also signed the pact.

Conspicuously absent was the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He was represented by his running mate, Kashim Shettima and his party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, was in attendance.

In his welcome remarks, Chairman of NPC and former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, said the candidates must ensure civil and decent campaigns.

“I call on politicians to address issues that are fundamental to Nigerians. We want to promote respect and tolerance of differences. We want to ensure that there is civility and decency in public discourse,” he said.

“Therefore, on behalf of Nigerians, I am appealing to all political parties, party chairmen, candidates and their spokespersons, please, a campaign based on issues that are of significant concern to Nigerians is what we expect in the days and weeks ahead. Please, avoid the spread of fake news and personal attacks, which are already creating a toxic environment capable of threatening the peaceful conduct of the 2023 general elections. You must comply with the spirit of the electoral laws.

“In 2015, the committee signed only one peace accord, committing the then candidates to accepting the outcome of the votes as long as they are adjudged to be free, fair and credible. In 2019, the same peace accord was signed twice, both close to the elections, to commit the candidates to a peaceful electoral process. This feat was repeated during the off-season elections in different states.

“The members of the Peace Committee would like to thank the political parties, party chairmen, candidates and indeed all party members for turning up in both 2015 and 2019. Despite all the challenges, our efforts contributed significantly to mitigating the violent conflict in these elections.

“Now that the 2023 general election is around the corner, issues of major concern that have the potential to negatively impact on the integrity are emerging. One of such issues is the spread of fake news. This must be resisted by all actors.

“It is for this reason that the NPC has organised the signing of two peace accords for the 2023 general elections. The first, which holds today, is to commit all political parties, presidential candidates and their spokespersons to peaceful political campaigns and rallies, devoid of violence, incitement, and personal insults. The second will come up shortly before the elections, and it is intended to commit candidates to accepting the outcome of the votes as long as it is adjudged to be free, fair and credible,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Goodluck Jonathan tasked political actors to shun actions that could threaten the peace of the nation as they head to the field for campaigns.

President Buhari, while speaking through a recorded video, thanked members of the NPC, led by its chairman, Abubakar, for their commitment and dedication to supporting peaceful elections in Nigeria and for facilitating peace across the country.

He, however, expressed concern over the rising level of fake news and misinformation in the country, noting that the development portend grave danger to the nation’s democracy.

The President called on contestants, especially their publicity agents and media advisers, to shun personal attacks, avoid insults and incitement, reject the spread of fake news, and commit to issue-based campaigns and political rallies.

He said: “Everything must be done to support the National Peace Committee in their work to ensure peaceful elections. As the President, I have always reiterated my commitment to a peaceful, credible and transparent elections, and what the Peace Committee has been doing over the years, aligns with my belief that Nigeria needs peace to achieve credible elections. However, the rise of fake news and misinformation continue to pose a significant threat to the pattern of democracy in Nigeria,” he said.

Jonathan, who also spoke via recorded video played at the event, commended the resilience and commitment of members of the committee to peace in Nigeria and their efforts towards ensuring peaceful elections in the country.

While extending his greetings to all the presidential candidates, he urged everyone to continue to share in the prayers and enthusiasm of the committee for a peaceful, free and fair elections.

“The task of ensuring peaceful elections in 2023 is our collective responsibility. Although, we are all key stakeholders, I must say that it behooves the candidates and leaders of the various parties to lead the process for peaceful elections in our country.

“Since I left office in 2015, I have been involved in the process of promoting democracy across Africa. My experience as an election observer, having led observation missions to many countries, is that many African countries are working hard to improve their elections and deepen the roots of democracy.

“In 2023, I expect our country to raise the bar for credible and transparent elections by ensuring that our electoral processes are peaceful, free and fair.”

MEANWHILE, President Buhari said the signing of the Peace Accord with Jonathan and other presidential candidates in the build up to the 2015 elections contributed largely to the peaceful outcome of the polls.

Receiving the NPC, led by Abubakar, at State House, after the peace accord ceremony, the President urged all signatories to the 2023 election peace accord and their supporters to abide by its content and spirit.

“The timing of the peace accord is significant considering political party campaigns have already commenced in the country. I look forward to the second phase of the signing coming up in January 2023.

“You may recall that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and I signed the first National Peace Accord before the 2015 elections. It is my conviction that it contributed significantly to the peaceful outcome of the 2015 election. It is my hope that the National Peace Committee continues this important work post-2023,” the President said.

Some NPC members at the event included Bishop of the Sokoto Catholic Church Diocese and convener of the committee, Bishop Hassan Kukah; John Cardinal Onayeikan, John Momoh, Aliko Dangote, as well as the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar.

Others were Prof. Ameze Guobadia, Prince Sam Amuka, Justice Roseline Ukeje (rtd), Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Lt. Gen. Mathew Luther Agwai, Femi Otedola, Alhaji Ahmed Yayale, Ms Idayat Hassan, Sani Suleiman Atsu and Fr. Attah Barkindo, Head of NPC Secretariat.

Kukah decried the use of money to induce electorate during campaign and elections and warned against vote buying.

Giving his final remarks after the candidates and political party chairmen had signed the peace agreement, Kukah warned that vote buying will further destroy the democratic tenets of the nation.

“We are aware of the capacity of these process (vote buying) to undermine the entire project of democracy. Yes, Nigerians are poor, yes, Nigerians are suffering but none of that is a substitute. And politicians must not exploit the weaknesses of our people in a way and manner that has made vote buying part of our culture,” he said.

Kukah expressed hope that the penalties already spelt out in the Electoral Act 2022 will be implemented to the letter by relevant actors. He encouraged INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu and the Nigeria Police Force to make sure that those who compromise the electoral process face the wrath of the law.

INEC Chairman, Yakubu, said the 2023 polls would hold against the background of the 2022 Electoral Act. While urging the signatories to abide by the spirit and letter of the document they endorsed, he stressed that candidates and their spokespersons, media and other critical stakeholders must guard against fake news.

Yakubu stressed that every constituency matters, adding that the Commission will conduct elections in a total of 1,491 constituencies, including one presidential, 28 governorships, 109 senatorial, 360 House of Representatives and 993 State Assembly polls.

“In line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 and in our determination to play our role as a regulator, the Commission will vigorously monitor compliance to ensure that parties shun abusive, intemperate or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a breach of the peace during the electioneering campaigns.

“Similarly, the Commission will also closely monitor compliance with the limits on campaign spending under the Electoral Act. There are sanctions provided by law. Political parties and candidates should study and familiarise themselves with the electoral legal framework to avoid any infraction of the law and the unhappy consequences that will follow any act of misdemeanour.”

In her goodwill message, Ambassador Samuela Isopi, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, reminded stakeholders that Nigeria stands as a role model to the rest of African countries. She said all eyes are on the country to show good examples for others to emulate.

Speaking on behalf of the political parties, Chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Yabagi Sani, who is also the candidate of ADP, said the candidates are committed to peaceful, free, fair and credible elections.

Presidential candidate of LP, Obi, urged fellow contestants to shun divisive statements and focus on issues affecting the country, by showing Nigerians how competent they are to lead.

“First is that we must think about Nigeria because we are all Nigerians and we must ensure that it is an issues-based campaign, not based on ethnicity, religion, my turn, or any form of bias, but based on character, competence, commitment and capacity to build a better Nigeria.”

Presidential candidate of AAC, Sowore, said the idea of signing a peace pact ahead of the election signifies that the country is at war. He, however, added that he was not against the peace accord and decided to sign it to show the people that he subscribes to peace.

“I don’t know why we’re signing this peace accord when we are not at war. This signifies that Nigeria is at war. Elections are a war in this country. For the sake of symbolism of this, I will sign whatever they want so that the people can understand that I subscribe to peace during and after the election,” he said.

MEANWHILE, Obi has described the much-talked-about political structure as the bane that has held Nigeria’s development down, saying it must be removed in next year’s polls. Obi, who said the structure of sharing money is responsible for Nigeria’s woes, pledged to turn Nigeria from being a consuming to producing country if elected in 2023.

The former Anambra State governor stated this in Ibadan, Oyo State, after a closed-door meeting with Governor Seyi Makinde in his office at Agodi Secretariat.

He said despite Nigeria’s poor performance in the last 62 years, the country has survived as a nation, and there was still a need to celebrate, adding that, the next election should be how to start building a new Nigeria everybody would be proud of.