Nigeria presidential candidates sign peace accord in Abuja
The AU observer mission led by former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday witnessed the signing of the second peace accord by Nigeria’s 18 presidential candidates ahead of polls on February 25.
The first peace accord was signed by the candidates on September 29, 2022 and was organised by the National Accord for Peace headed by former Nigerian president Abdulsalami Abubakar.
Others who observed the signing of the Wednesday accord included former South African president Thambo Mbeki, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Janet Scotland and former Malawian president Joyce Banda.
Also present was the European Union (EU ambassador to Nigeria Samuela Isopi and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
The pact binds all political parties to accept the outcome of the elections or to seek legitimate means of redress in the event of divergent positions.
The signing ceremony was held at the International Conference Centre in Abuja.
Commit to peace accord
Mr Abubakar stressed the need for all parties to be committed to the second peace accord.
He observed that some of them flouted the first peace accord signed on September 29, 2022.
“There was lack of compliance by the major political parties. Forty-four percent of the violations were carried out by spokespersons of the political parties and 26 percent by party members.
“Nineteen percent of the violations were carried out by the presidential candidates themselves, 11 percent by hard-core supporters and 4 percent by party chairmen.
“Additionally, in January 2023, a lot of violence has occurred with at least 15 abductions (including that of a police officer and at least 30 killings (including those of 11 security personnel,” he said.
He also noted that campaign rallies were also not free of attacks.
“There were at least six attacks at political campaign rallies.”
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC recorded 50 attacks on its offices between 2019 and 2022.
According to data released by INEC, there were 11 attacks on its offices in Imo, seven attacks in Osun and five each in Enugu State and Akwa Ibom.
“In each of Ebonyi, Abia and Cross River, there were four attacks on INEC offices — two attacks each in Anambra and Taraba and one attack each in Kaduna State, Borno, Bayelsa, Ondo State, Lagos State and Ogun,” he observed.
He warned that “we have got to put a stop to all of these. That is why on January 20, 2022, we convened a meeting of all presidential candidates and party chairmen”.
“The meeting discussed existing and emerging issues regarding the ways campaigns were being conducted, and the need for parties to moderate their views,” he said.
Respect electoral body
He urged political parties to respect only INEC as the constitutional authority to announce election results.
“I also encourage the parties to ensure that their supporters refrain from disseminating fake news, misinformation, disinformation and avoid statements that will incite violence after the results of the elections have been announced,” he advised.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan, who was at the occasion, stated that the accord strategy had consolidated efforts of statutory structures such as INEC in conducting peaceful and credible elections.
Jonathan, who was ousted by President Buhari in 2015 and accepted the defeat without rancour, was represented by Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto.
He reiterated the importance of the signing of the second peace accord which committed all presidential candidates, chairmen and members of political parties to peaceful elections.
“In the build-up to the 2015 general elections, myself and my successor, His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, signed a similar accord, committing ourselves to free, fair, credible and peaceful elections.
“We also made it very clear in the second peace accord that we would abide by the outcome of the votes. I believe that is the way to strengthen our democracy, stave off looming violence and bring peace to our nation,” Mr Jonathan stated.
Mr Kukah, the convener of the National Peace Committee, said the growing international interest in Nigeria’s elections is a source of great encouragement, a pointer to how much hope has been reposed in the country.
“We have five former African heads of state here and the secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Baroness Patricia Scotland. We thank your excellences and all members of the international observer missions.
“Our political actors need this pressure to compel them to raise the moral tempo of politics and to improve the quality of the lives of our people,” Mr Kukah said.