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Buhari, Atiku, others sign Peace Accord

Published by The Nation on Thu, 14 Feb 2019


President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other parties standard bearers yesterday signed a National Peace Accord in AbujaThis is the second time they have signed to ensure peace before, during and after Saturdays presidential poll.The deal was brokered by the Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee (NPC).Buhari, who is seeking re-election on the ticket of the APC and the former vice president, eyeing the seat on the PDP platform, urged for free, fair and non-violent election.Stressing that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies have given their words in readiness to conduct free and fair elections, Buhari urged youths not to allow themselves to be used by self-serving politicians.The President, who acknowledged palpable fear being expressed towards the election just like any other elections, urged Nigerians to pray as they go into the elections beginning from Saturday.Identifying Nigeria as the only real party, the President noted that elections are only important to the extent to which they make the country peaceful to guarantee development.He said: Another election is upon us and not unexpectedly, there is anxiety in the air. This is typical of any form of competition and contest, no matter how well prepared all contestants and regulators are. The forthcoming elections are very special and significant for the growth of our democracy.First, they come immediately after one of the most peaceful elections in the history of our country. I am not saying this because I was blessed to emerge as the winner.I am saying there had been a lot of fears and anxieties from within and outside Nigeria about the future of the country.We are hopeful that this is evidence that we are all maturing in our disposition towards electoral outcomes. We see this as an opportunity to grow our sense of political culture in Nigeria.Secondly, we are witnessing an exciting development in the area of the engagement of our Youth and Women in the democratic process. Hitherto, these groups have often not been in the mainstream of our political competition.It is in appreciation of their contribution that we passed the Not Too Young to Run Bill last year. The success of the act is illustrated by the unprecedented number of young men and women who have stepped forward to participate in this process as candidates at all levels. Significantly, we have witnessed also the emergence of women as candidates across the political space.Thirdly, these elections are taking place against the backdrop of the emergence of an unprecedented number of political parties. As of now, we have 91 political parties, out of which over 70 fielded presidential candidates.Although some candidates have dropped out of the race, there is no doubt in our minds that our country is moving forward and that our democracy is expanding and also deepening.I call on all Nigerians to contribute to the building of a viable polity by more active participation well beyond the mere casting of votes. Elections by themselves do not constitute democracy. It is the spirit of citizenship engagement that utilises the energy of citizens towards the attainment of good governance.We have assembled here to mark the final phase of our campaigns, and we are now at the doorstep of our elections. The campaigns so far have gone well and we thank God for that. For the few incidents in which people lost their lives largely through accidents, we pray that God grants them eternal peace. Now campaigns are over and our next assignment is for us all, citizens and contestants alike, to go out and exercise our civic duties.We, the presidential candidates are here to sign and commit ourselves to do all that is possible to ensure the success of the elections but most importantly to accept the final outcome. I appeal to my fellow contestants to commit to these ideals so as to keep our country and people safe.On the preparedness for the elections, he said: The INEC, our electoral umpire, has already assured us that they have done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections.It was to ensure this that I made sure that INEC received all the resources they needed to perform their job. Our Security Agencies have been fully briefed and they know that their visible neutrality is key to the conduct, credibility and success of the elections.Urging Nigerians to pray, he said: As we go into the elections in few days, please let us pray for our country. Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our beliefs in a united country.Our elections are important only to the extent that they make our country peaceful and prepare us for development.To the youths, the President said: I am making a special appeal to our young people: Do not allow yourselves to be used to cause violence. Please eschew all forms of violence and cooperate with all the relevant agencies during these elections.We will vote according to parties, but in the end, the only real party is Nigeria, our country.Our elections are important only to the extent that they make her strong. Let us do our best and ask God to bless us and our country.The President thanked the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat, Patricia Scotland, members of the diplomatic corps, the international team of observers, for standing with Nigeria and showing commitment to the growth of democracy.He also thanked Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and other NPC members for the hard work they have put to ensure peaceful elections.Atiku appealed to INEC and the security agencies to ensure free and fair elections.He recalled the words of former President Goodluck Jonathan where he said that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian.The former vice president said the Nigerian democracy should emerge stronger than the 2015 general elections that were adjudged the freest and fairest in the country.He said: May I use this opportunity to renew my profound gratitude, firstly to my party, the PDP, and then to Gen. Abubakar and members of the NPC for their tireless enthusiasm, dedication, and passion towards ensuring the success of this peace accord process!Our gathering here today clearly demonstrates the importance of the upcoming elections as well as how our democracy has matured, not only to our people, but also to the international community whose solidarity, Nigerias democracy has benefited from.As we prepare to sign off on this Peace Accord, as representatives of our party and people, may I freely quote the words of former President Goodluck Jonathan, which remains a benchmark, for me, taking into account the deep feelings that prevail as February 16th, 2019, approaches.My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. In this context, I appeal once again to every staff and the leadership of the INEC and the Police, to be fair arbiters in the upcoming elections while letting neutrality prevail.For emphasis and in the spirit of fair play, I also urge our security agencies, not to embark on indiscriminate arrests of members of the opposition, 24 to 48 hours before elections, as has been the case in previous elections.Hopefully, our democracy should emerge stronger from this process with the 2019 elections proving better managed than the 2015 process, which was adjudged free and fair with the then oppositions victory unobstructed.Consequently, I also appeal to the President, Gen. Buhari, to use his good office to ensure that every eligible person who casts his vote is confident in the process and in the belief that the vote will count.Additionally, every candidate must remember that this election is about the future of Nigeria, therefore, we must abide by the will of the people as freely expressed through elections, under the terms of our constitution.Once again, despite concerns expressed by my party leaders concerning likely electoral malpractices and the intimidation of voters and observers, I trust that our election officials and security services will do their duty in accordance with their oath and obligations.In conclusion, I appeal once again, to our citizens, to go out and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice, to be peaceful at all times, and confident in our democracy, its institutions and processes.So, please go out this Saturday to vote for your future and the future of our great nation, he said.Gen. Abubakar explained why his committee decided to organise the peace accord signing in order to ensure a peaceful conduct for all elections in the country.According to him, elections will not hold in the absence of peaceful atmosphere, noting that even governance after election will not be peaceful without a peaceful environment.Dont do anything to make a bad situation worse, he said.He said disharmony among political parties retards Nigerias development, adding: Without cooperation among political parties, we are going nowhere.He reminded the presidential candidates that by signing the peace accord, they had committed themselves to ensuring a peaceful election in Nigeria and that mere signing of the peace accord would not achieve the required objective unless all other actors are forced to work with the same rules.Gen. Yakubu Gowon, urged the candidate to tell their supporters to ensure peaceful conduct during the elections so that in the future, there may be no need for foreign observers because the right conduct would have been assured.May the winner be as dictated from above, the former Head of State said.The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland said that millions of people across the world were praying for Nigeria and its people hoping that the election will hold peacefully.She noted that Saturdays election will be the sixth since 1999 when the country returned to democracy after military rule and expressed optimism that the election will entrench and build on the gains achieved since 1999.She said the world was holding their breath because Nigeria was the largest economy with the largest population and that what happens in Nigeria affects all.It is a burden that Nigerian leaders gathered here today carry. We call on their party, supporters and public to follow their lead. Elections will come and go, but this great Nigeria will remain, Scotland said.Speaking on behalf of the royal fathers, Diete Spiff, urged the politicians to place the interest of the nation above their personal ambitions.We appeal to the people to keep the peace. he stated.Convener of the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo noted that Nigeria at this time has a great need for peace.He said: It is an opportunity for us to advertise ourselves to the world and tell them we can do it and get it right. We will report whatever we see. We urge you to respect the will of the Nigerian people. We will work with INEC towards conducting free and fair elections.The document signed by the candidates reads:Reaffirming our commitment to taking proactive measures towards a conducive environment for the conduct of a credible electoral process.Anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment before, during, and after the 2019 general elections.Reaffirming our commitment to fully abide by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to respect the rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria, and to adhere to best international standards.Desirous of sustaining and promoting the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity.Determined to avoid any conduct or behavior that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria.Mindful of our responsibility towards the Nigerian citizens and their democratic rights, we are determined to place national interest above personal and partisan concerns.At the signing were INEC Chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu, Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah and Ebitu Ukiwe.
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