President Goodluck Jonathan and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, and other presidential candidates in the February 14 election, yesterday signed an undertaking committing them to violence-free election. The pact, known as the “Abuja Declaration Accord,” was adopted by acclamation
President Goodluck Jonathan and Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, and other presidential candidates in the February 14 election, yesterday signed an undertaking committing them to violence-free election.
The pact, known as the “Abuja Declaration Accord,” was adopted by acclamation by the candidates at the 2015 general election sensitization workshop on non-violence held at Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, jointly organized by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs.
Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who was Chairman of the occasion, read the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting.
He said the political parties agreed to: “run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels. In this, we pledged to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling both by ourselves and by all agents acting in our names.
“To refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that of our party any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the election.
“To forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence, whether perpetrated by our supporters and or opponents.
“To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence to this accord if necessary by a national peace committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.”
The communiqué added that: “all the institutions of government, including INEC and security agencies, must act and be seen to act with impartiality.”
President Goodluck said the country must avoid a repeat of the 2011 post-general elections violence which he said was adjudged the best in the country’s history. He pointed out that what leads to electoral violence is not necessarily electoral malpractice but could be provocative statements by contestants, threats to opponents, religious leaders who preach hate, inflammatory and provocative pronouncements of ethnic leaders which could have adverse effects.
While stressing that “Government must strengthen security”, President Goodluck urged INEC to do everything to convince Nigerians that whatever method it is employing is safe and will ensure credibility in the process. He said: “INEC must come out and assure Nigerians that they will vote and their votes will count and their mandate is protected.”
He called on all contestants to join hands and support the Commission to make the elections free, fair, and credible and violence free.
The APC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd), called for the strengthening of democratic institutions in Nigeria. He said before every general election, there is usually amendment to the Electoral Act making it difficult to cheat.
On his part, the special guest of honour and former Secretary-General of United Nations, Mr. Kofi Anan said: “Nigeria is the Big Brother of the region.
Whatever happens in Nigeria affects the African Region”. He harped on the fact that “elections are not the sole responsibility of INEC, because INEC has a key technical role to place and have certain difficulties to overcome, notably logistics, and probably public communication but the political parties and their candidates can support in its responsibility of ensuring free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.”
The former United Nations Secretary General also urged the political parties and their candidates to avoid inflammatory language and make their discussions and campaigns issue-based, and cautioned their supporters not to resort to violence if the results do not favour them. He had a few words for the Nigerian voting population, who he urged to ensure they participate in the electoral process, saying, “you cannot abstain and still complain”.