…Buhari begs Atiku, others to accept result
….As presidential candidates renew peace pact
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA— PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, in Abuja appealed to all Presidential candidates in Saturday’s election to commit to the ideals of the peace accord for a rancour-free contest.
President Buhari made the appeal when he and other presidential candidates, including former Vice President and Presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, signed a second peace pact.
But Atiku Abubakar also told the president to make use of his good office to ensure that every eligible person that cast vote in the forthcoming elections had confidence in the process and in the belief that their votes will count.
In his remarks at the signing ceremony, Buhari said the most important thing about the exercise was for the candidates to accept the final outcome, adding that Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had already assured that it had done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections.
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.
“Second, 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.
“Third, 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, 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, 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.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, our electoral umpire, has already assured us that it had done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections.”
Allow votes to count, Atiku tells President
In his remarks, AtikuAbubakar commended General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd) and members of the Peace Committee for their tireless enthusiasm, dedication, and passion towards ensuring the success of the peace accord process.
He said: “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, which solidarity, Nigeria’s 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 16, 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 INEC and Nigeria Police Force, 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 opposition’s victory unobstructed
“Consequently, I also appeal to President Buhari to use his good office to ensure that every eligible person who casts his/her vote is confident in the process and in the belief that his/her 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.”
President Buhari at exactly 11:55am, signed the peace accord, after Atiku as well as candidates of other parties had signed the peace accord.
Abdulsalami emphasises need for elections
Chairman of National Peace Committee, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (retd), said the committee decided to organise the peace accord signing to ensure a peaceful conduct of all elections in the country.
Abdulsalami in his welcome remarks, said elections will not hold in the absence of peaceful atmosphere, noting that even governance after election will not be peaceful without a peaceful environment.
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.”
Lecture your supporters on peaceful conduct, Gowon tells candidates
Also speaking, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd), urged the candidates to tell their supporters to ensure peaceful conduct during the elections so that in the future, there might be no need for foreign observers because the right conduct would have been assured.
“May the winner be as dictated from above,” he said.
In her remarks, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, said millions of people across the world were praying for Nigeria and its people, hoping that the election will hold peacefully.
Convener of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, Clement Nwankwo, in his goodwill message, said it was an opportunity for the country to get it right and urged security agencies to be neutral.
Among those in attendance at the event were former Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who is head of ECOWAS observer mission; former President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, who heads the Commonwealth Observer Mission and Festus Moghai, former President of Botswana, who heads Democratic National Institute and Republic National Institute.