AGENDA FOR PEACEFUL ELECTIONS

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Politicians may do well to abide by the letters of the peace accord

Arising from the fear, anxiety and racour that still pervade the political space, the General Abdulsami Abubakar-led National Peace Committee yesterday committed all the political parties to a fresh accord essentially for a peaceful election and to accept the outcome of the presidential election coming up on Saturday. The parties, in the initial accord last December, had promised “to refrain from making or sponsoring public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite or cause violence, before, during, and after the elections”. They reinforced that commitment yesterday in Abuja.

However, signing a peace accord is one thing, obeying the letters and spirit of the accord, another. Indeed, the second accord is perhaps a reminder that the parties have not lived up to spirit of the first. The first adopted the same principles that guided the 2015 election as a template for ensuring that all stakeholders commit themselves to peaceful election in 2019. We share the worries of the National Peace Committee and commend them for their unwavering commitment to peaceful polls and nation-building efforts.

Just days to the Presidential election, the amount of abusive and inciting messages making the rounds by politicians, especially within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is alarming. They make wild allegations against one another while security issues are being politicised. In some instances, members of the international community, invited to observe how well the country is faring in the democratic process, are maligned and intimidated. Even former United States President Bill Clinton declined invitation to attend the signing of the peace accord in the last minutes because his visit had “the potential to be politicised.” And in the words of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Baroness Patricia Scotland, who attended the signing ceremony, the world was “holding their breath” for Nigeria.

The controversial suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, heightened the tension in the polity. This is not helped by the fear of partisanship on the part of some arms of security agencies who mistake regime protection for national security. We hope President Muhammadu Buhari will do everything to ensure that these agencies remain professional in the discharge of their responsibilities during the election.

But more importantly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), assigned the crucial role of conducting a free, fair and transparent election, must do well to disabuse the minds of many Nigerians. For now, its offices do not seem to be secure. The burning of some of its offices in Abia, Anambra and Plateau barely a week to the Presidential election raised lots of suspicion. Besides, the conduct of the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections raised fears about the desperation of people in power and how neutral the body can be in the face of real threat. But INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu has assured Nigerians and the international community of the readiness of his commission to conduct credible polls.

Meanwhile, we hope that the candidates will live up to their words at the signing of the well-attended second agreement which emphasised the place of healthy competition in politics. We are particularly heartened by President Buhari’s commitment to a free and fair election and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s pledge that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigeria. We hope that these two candidates and the other contenders will get this message down to their supporters that violence should not be tolerated before, during and after the polls.

If they do that, there will be no need to worry over the outcome of the elections that should help to advance the cause of democracy in Nigeria.