By Henry Umoru, Adulwahab Abdulah,, Dapo Akinrefon, Charles Kumolu, Gbenga Oke & Ebele Okafor
LAGOS— MIXED reactions, yesterday, greeted the peace pact signed by Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, President Goodluck Jonathan and that of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Maj-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
While the leadership of the PDP hailed the signing of the peace accord, a retired Archbishop of Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, and activist lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said the agreements reached by presidential aspirants to prevent violence during and after the forthcoming general elections cannot hold water.
However, notable Nigerians who spoke in support of the pact included former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Professor Tam David-West; one-time Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav; constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN); Afenifere’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Yinka Odumakin and the Labour Party scribe, Mr Kayode Ajulo.
PDP urges APC to rein in members
The national leadership of the PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, explained that the accord was in line with what he described as the irrevocable commitment of the party to peace and progress of the nation at all times.
According to the PDP spokesperson, the PDP has already, in the last one week of campaigns, demonstrated its resolve for peaceful polls by ensuring that its members adhere strictly to its code of conduct on violence free polls, just as it urged the leadership of the APC to inculcate same in their members.
Metuh said: “The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has commended its presidential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, and the presidential candidate of the APC, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari for signing the pact on non-violence ahead of 2015 general elections. This is in line with the irrevocable commitment of the PDP to peace and progress of the nation at all times.
“It is timely, therefore, to urge the leadership of the APC to move beyond signing of the peace pact to genuinely taking practical steps to rein in members, especially, the horde of brigand thugs already on the loose in parts of the country or be held responsible for any failure.
It’s capable of engendering healthy polls —Tsav
Also throwing his weight behind the initiative, a retired Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Tsav, said the pact was capable of bringing about a healthy conduct of the elections.
He, however, warned that the good intentions of the president could be jeopardised by security operatives through overzealousness if not checked.
According to him, “the security agencies must remain impartial and civilised in the discharge of their duties during the elections.”
Jonathan should show us commitment —David-West
On his part, former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Professor David-West, urged Jonathan to show that he is committed in conducting a violence free-election.
He said: “It is a welcome development but it is shameful that after so many years of existing as a nation, Nigerians have not learnt how to live peacefully. It is shameful that they are signing accord on how to remain peaceful. Having non-violence elections should have been part of our political culture. Much as I am happy that they signed the agreement, implementation is where we should focus on. Implementation of what they agreed upon is the issue.
It’s superior to the law—Sagay
Legal luminary, Prof. Sagay, welcomed the development, noting that the peace pact is superior to the law.
Sagay said: “It is morally binding, it is superior to the law because this is a question of not only of conscience but also of integrity and honour. For me, it is superior to any law because any act of violence is a crime already.
It should go beyond photo hugs —LP
Describing the peace accord as a good omen for Nigeria’s democracy, the Labour Party, LP, however, said it should go beyond the photo hugs.
LP’s National Secretary, Mr Kayode Ajulo, said: “It is welcome development. We are happy and we are sure that entire people of Nigeria are happy. This is one of the issues the Labour Party has been canvassing. We need to eschew violence, we need to ask for peace.
Elections should not be a do-or-die affair. One of the things I will urge the participants is that this should go beyond the photo hugs, they should put it into play. It is easy for them to smile and ask their supporters to do something else. This should go down to the ward and unit levels.”
It’s more of a moral issue — Afenifere
Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, in its reaction, described the pact as more of a moral issues.
Afenifere’s spokesman, Mr Yinka Odumakin said: “Like somebody said that it is a shame for us as a country, 54 years after independence, we still have to ask international bodies to come and help us sign treaties. That is the bitter truth of it.
“We believe in Afenifere that the peace pact does not have any legal binding on anybody. It is not a legal document, it is more of a moral issue. If we all decide that we have a non-violence elections, the politicians must be guided in their utterances and Nigerians must not allow themselves to be used for violence.”
A waste of time — Okogie, Falana
The retired cleric, Okogie and activist lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, faulted the initiative, saying it will not work. The duo said this at a programme organised by the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in honour of the late fiery lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, in Lagos.
The 11th series of the annual programme tagged “Fawehinmiism” was with the theme: “Ethnicity, Religion: Promises and illusions of democracy in the struggle to uplift the masses from impoverishment.”
According to Okogie and Falana, nothing in the agreement can prevent voters in Lagos, Borno or any part of the country from going violence if their votes did not count at the forthcoming general elections.
“The peace pact signed by President Jonathan and Buhari will not work. They think we are fools and can deceive us,” Okogie said.
According to them, Jonathan and Buhari cannot sit in Abuja or any part of the country and speak for the masses of Nigerians who are willing to express their minds through the ballot boxes.
Okogie said: “The event was a waste of time as none of those who signed the peace accord could be made to account for any uprising that may happen after the elections. The country should be concern about ensuring that electoral
offenders and those against the progress of Nigeria are prosecuted rather than signing an accord that will never work.” “Out of all these politicians, I don’t see anyone of them worthy to lead the country. Anyone who want to lead the country must be a father to the people in its true words and see Nigerians as his family. Every citizens problem must be his problem,” he said.
It’ll amount to nothing if… — Mohammed
For Second Republic lawmaker, Dr Junaid Mohammed, the peace accord will amount to nothing if the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Police and Presidency fail to conduct a free and fair elections.
According to him, those who are after peace must warn both INEC and the police to conduct themselves during and after elections to avoid mayhem because Nigerians will not stand and watch elections being rigged this time.
Mohammed said “the peace accord between the two gentlemen means absolutely nothing if the government in power tries to use INEC and the Police to rig out the opposition. Some of us still believe strongly that INEC is partisan and General Buhari raised some very pertinent issues which I believe we must all listen to because he has contested elections severally, so he knows where the shoes pinches”.