Every Nigerian election since the country’s independent on October 1, 1969, has been more tense than the preceding one. The country’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious divide, coupled with the penchant for power by the elite class has made matters worse.
Yesterday, candidates contesting for the country’s presidential seat in the February 16 elections have signed what was said to be the final peace accord.
The event was held at the International Conference Centre (ICC), in the country’s capital of Abuja.
Apart from the presidential candidates, which includes President Muhammadu Buhari, who is running for a second term and his major contender and former vice-president, Atiku Abubakar, the signing ceremony attracted lots of dignitaries within and outside the country?
In a country where the peace and credibility of the upcoming elections are threatened by visible activities of vote buying, hate speech, fake news, etc., are ceremonious multiple Peace Accord signings what the country needs?
It is on record that in the past, presidential aspirants have openly threatened to make the country ungovernable if they don’t win elections. There is also huge evidence of vote buying, hate speech, and fake news prevalent in the country. Rather than pushing for ceremonial peace deals where candidates only appear to play to the gallery, shouldn’t the country take practical steps to protect its elections and democracy?
The event was organized by the National Peace Committee (NPC), chaired by former head of state, Gen. Abulsalami Abubakar.
As expected, the candidates used the occasion to gain cheap publicity by portraying themselves as saints while painting their rivals as wolves.
In his speech, President Buhari said:
"I call on all Nigerians to contribute to the building of a viable polity through active participation well beyond 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. 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.
"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."
For his part, the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar said:
"Security agencies should not embark on the arrest of opposition members 28 hours before election. I also appeal to President Buhari to use his good offices to ensure that whoever that votes, the vote count. We must abide by the will of the people. Despite concerns expressed by my party, I trust that the umpire and the security officials will conduct themselves without bias. Cast your vote to the one you love. Vote for your future and the future of Nigeria."
The event was witnessed by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and other prominent Nigerians, representatives of the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United States (US) and others.
What are your thoughts?
Quotes courtesy: Africa News
Header Image: The Guardian Nigeria