By Victoria Ojeme
Presidential candidates of several political parties, who attended an event organised by Presidential Summit Centre in collaboration with Forum of Presidential Candidates towards a peaceful conduct of 2019 elections, have listed signing of the amended Electoral Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari and non-interference of military personnel at the polls as recipes for free and fair elections in 2019.
Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, Oby Ezekwesili, at the event warned that the repeat of military intimidation and harassment of voters as captured in Ekiti and Osun States governorship elections would not be accepted by Nigerians at the general elections.
She said: “You know there was a peace accord. In our own case, we signed, not because it was a ceremony but because we believed in it. On the other hand, we want Nigerians to send a strong message to President Buhari that he must exhibit an examplary leadership quality that will ensure our election does not end up taking the country and the people down.
“The way to do that is to listen to the court of public opinion that the country would want to have the soundest electoral act possible, and the way to make sure we have it is for the president to rescind his current stand and sign the electoral amendment bill 2018 into an act.
“If the President cannot be persuaded, then, the National Assembly should ensure the people have those rules that would enable the country to have electoral integrity.”
Ezekwesili added: “We also need to have the rules of the game as far as the military structures are concerned to ensure that they are not in anyway complicit in election malpractice.
“We saw the dress rehearsal in Osun and Ekiti States but the President must not think that he will take that to the national level because it will not work in a country like Nigeria.
“We should therefore come together to agree on the rules of the game as far as the use of military is concerned. We don’t want a situation where the military will carry out a coup from the back door. None of us will accept that.”
Also speaking, Alhaji Muhammed Shittu of the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance, APDA, urged fellow contestants to consider the interest of the nation first.
With the theme, “Violence-free Election,” spokesperson, Presidential Summit Centre, Princess Zara Audu stated that the centre was set up to improve elections in Nigeria by educating both the aspirants and the electorate on the need for a peaceful election.
Also speaking,Dele Babalola of Base University warned that hate speech and fake news were capable of inciting violence.
He therefore, urged politicians to engage in issue-based campaigns, while security agencies should be neutral during elections.