•Gowon, Peace Committee, CSOs task INEC, security agents
•PDP unfolds strategies to checkmate rigging
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
For second time in three months, leading politicians in the country yesterday in Abuja took turns to sign a bond, committing them to peaceful conduct during the general election, starting on Saturday with the presidential and National Assembly polls.
Led by the two main actors, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the politicians agreed not to do anything that would disrupt the peace of the nation during and after the contests.
The accord signing was facilitated by the National Peace Committee, convened by Bishop Matthew Kukah, and chaired by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).
The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, witnessed the signing.
Speaking during the ceremony, Buhari appealed to Nigerians, particularly the youth, not to allow themselves to be used for any kind of violence during the elections.
On his part, Atiku said his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian, appealing once again to every staff and the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the security agencies to be fair arbiters while letting neutrality prevail.
The peace committee, former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), EU and members of the civil society groups also called on INEC and security agencies to ensure strict adherence to their constitutional roles during the elections.
The president advised citizens to cooperate with all relevant agencies at the polls, adding that more than anything else citizens should use the election period to strengthen their beliefs in a united Nigeria.
He said: “To all our citizens, I want to thank you. As we go into the elections in few days, please let us pray for our country. Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our beliefs in a united country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make our country peaceful and prepare us for development.
“I am making a special appeal to our young people: Do not allow yourselves to be used to cause violence. Please eschew all forms of violence and cooperate with all the relevant agencies during these elections.
‘’We will vote according to parties, but in the end, the only real Party is Nigeria, our country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make her strong. Let us do our best and ask God to bless us and our country.”
Buhari who said the election had created anxiety in the atmosphere, added that the polls would be special because they are significant for Nigeria’s democratic growth, and hence, the anxiety it had generated within and outside Nigeria.
While appealing to Nigerians to make contributions towards a viable polity by a more active participation beyond the mere casting of votes, Buhari observed that various campaigns so far had gone well.
He also appealed to his fellow presidential candidates to abide by the accord being signed Wednesday by accepting the final outcome of the polls with a view to guaranteeing peace in the land and the safety of citizens.
The president also said he had ensured that the INEC was given all that it needed to conduct a successful general election as he commended the international community as well as the National Peace Committee for their efforts towards the success of the polls.
‘’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 they have done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections,” Buhari said.
He thanked the peace committee for the hard work it had put into ensuring that the elections are peaceful.
Atiku: My Ambition Not Worth Blood of Any Nigerian
In his own remarks, Atiku said that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian, challenging the INEC and the security agencies to be “fair arbiters” at the polls.
“May I use this opportunity to renew my profound gratitude, firstly to my party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and then to General Abdulsalami Abubakar and members of the Peace Committee for their tireless enthusiasm, dedication, and passion towards ensuring the success of this Peace Accord Process,” he said.
Atiku, who borrowed former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s, words, used before and shortly after losing the 2015 election, assured Nigerians that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigeria, advising the security agencies to ensure that voters are free to cast their votes without molestation.
He said: “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 16th, 2019, approaches: ‘My ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian’.”
He added: “In this context, I appeal once again to every staff and the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the 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.’’
Atiku advised that democracy should emerge stronger from the current 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.
He also appealed to the president to use his good offices to ensure that every eligible person who casts their vote is confident in the process and in the belief that their vote will count.
Atiku stated: “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.
“Once again, despite concerns expressed by my party leaders concerning likely electoral malpractices and the intimidation of voters and observers, I trust that our election officials and security services will do their duty in accordance with their oath and obligations.’’
The presidential hopeful challenged citizens to go out and cast their votes for the candidates of their choice, to be peaceful at all times, and confident in the democracy, its institutions and processes, urging them to vote for their future and the future of the great nation.
Adhere Strictly to Constitutional Roles, Abdulsalami Tells INEC, Security Agencies
Also speaking at the event, the peace committee called on the electoral commission and the security agencies to ensure strict adherence to their constitutional roles during the elections.
Abubakar stressed that the signing of the second peace agreement was the crowning moment for the consolidation of all the peace efforts that have so far being made, while appreciating all the candidates and Nigerians for making it possible.
He said political campaign is almost ended and keeping the peace during and after elections becomes everyone’s overriding objectives.
He explained that electoral peace is a state of harmony characterised by absence of conflict and freedom from fair and the freedom to discharge ultimate responsibilities and obligations essentially the right to vote or be voted for.
Gowon urged the candidates to speak directly to their supporters not to engage in electoral violence so that there would be no need in the future for foreign observers to monitor the country’s election because Nigeria can do it well.
The Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen, said he hoped that the message would resonate in all four corners of Nigeria by clearly expressing to all Nigerians that they could come out and vote peacefully on Saturday.
He stated: “Seeing the youth, many first time voters participating in democratic processes are not being used for wrong purposes; Seeing women participating on equal terms and seeing other groups such as people with disabilities having their voices geared just like everyone else. You as leaders play a vital role to see that happening before, during and after the elections.”
Speaking on behalf of the Nigerian Civil Society situation room, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, said the country has a great need for peace especially at this critical moment.
He added: “We will be observing this election, we will report what we see, we will report for Nigeria that we have seen free, fair and credible election if that is the case , if it is not we will say so as well. “
PDP Unfolds Five Strategies to Checkmate Rigging
Meanwhile, PDP said Wednesday that it had devised five strategies aimed at preventing what it called the manipulation of the electoral process.
Former Aviation Minister and spokesperson/chairman, Strategy Committee of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, Chief Osita Chidoka, said yesterday that a state-of-the-art Parrell Voting Tabulation, PVT system, a national network of fully equipped Situation Rooms and Call Centres, a nation-wide hotline for the public to report malpractice as well as the launch of a hashtag, #DefendYourVote, among others, have been put in place.
Justifying the deployment of the PVT, Chidoka said that the device is a scientifically proven, best practice technique, to hold election authorities accountable, particularly when there is a lack of trust and the result are highly contested.
He added that the PVT would ensure that PDP partisans “accept the results of the election, and that the country remains peaceful and respectful of its differences,” adding that some civil society organisations would also have their PVTs in place.
“Our methodology accounts for several different scenarios to ensure continued collation of the results in the event of any disruptions with collation process.
“Hard copies of the signed voter tally provided to all party agents by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC officers, will be transported to the central command center should future disputes need to be reconciled”, Osita further explained.
And unlike in the past, the former Minister said the party would deploy a huge number of well trained and educated agents to each of the 176, 000 polling units nationwide.
He also noted that the ruling APC may want to re-enact what happened in Osun, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Kaduna, Kano and Rivers States, stressing, however, that PDP was equal to the task.
For those nursing the intent to rig the polls, Chidoka has a word for them“There will be consequences.”
Meanwhile, the party’s spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, has expressed optimism that the election on Saturday is PDP’s to lose.
He said that by all manifest indices from the six geo-political zones, 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Atiku is already coasting to victory and not even the machinations by the Buhari Presidency and APC can change this reality.
According to him, “Given that INEC is under siege by the Presidency and now relies on the resilient spirit of Nigerians to ensure a free, fair and credible election, the PDP is resolute to lead in the fronts in the pursuit of the wishes and aspirations of Nigerians to take the destiny of our nation in their hands.
“The PDP acknowledges the fact that for Nigerians, this election is not about politics but about building our nation; it is not between the PDP and APC but between Nigerian citizens and President Buhari, whose incompetent, vengeful, violent-prone, divisive and inherently corrupt administration has brought so much poverty, anguish and pain to our dear country.
“For Nigerians, this election is a choice between democracy and dictatorship; between justice and injustice, between prosperity and poverty; unity and polarity; peace and bloodletting; freedom and enslavement; progress and stagnation; creation of jobs and job losses, respect for territorial integrity and invasion; a choice between an in-charge President and a President by proxy.”
He said PDP had succeeded in mobilising 40 million of its members nationwide to vote for its candidates on Saturday.