The need for peace and stability to reign before, during and after the February 16 and March 2 elections was the bone of contention at the 10th general meeting of National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria (NCTRN), South-south, South-east Chapter.
Subsequently, traditional rulers from the North, South, East and West converged recently on the prestigious Sheraton Hotel, Abuja to deliberate carefully on need to ensure peace and stability in their various domains.
The event which had the theme, “Building a Synergy towards Free, Fair, Credible and Violence-free 2019 Elections –
The Role of Traditional Rulers,”, had in attendance royal fathers representing all the tribes and kingdoms that make up the Nigeria nation, who during the meeting also expressed concerns over the need for them to be adequately included in the scheme of things.
Presided over by co-chairman of the council, Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III , the event was declared opened by President Muhammadu Buhari represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo who reiterated the federal government’s commitment to partner with the royal fathers to ensure lasting peace before, during and after the elections.
“How do we build the synergies that are important in ensuring free, fair and peaceful elections? Coming at this time, this annual gathering of the royal heads of our traditional institution, is indeed a blessing and the theme most appropriate”, Osinbajo asked
The vice president who stressed on the role of the traditional rules in nation building and in ensuring a peaceful elections cannot be overemphasised, said, “The role of your royal majesties and our traditional institution are crucial for connecting the people from your kingdoms and domains to the federal and states agencies responsible for the conduct of the elections.”
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar III said that the general assembly of the traditional rulers came at a crucial time in the history of the nation.
“This is coming a couple of days before the start of the general elections in the country and we have the chairman of INEC to give us the keynote address on the preparation the commission has made so far and also to convince us of their readiness”, the Sultan noted.
The Sultan of Sokoto said the traditional rulers were 100 per cent ready to support the works of INEC at all levels as well as the security agents all over the country, adding that focus of discussion during the two-day stakeholders meeting was on fair play, fairness, fair of God in how individuals discharge their responsibilities so as to ensure free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
“We are very much happy about the various comments that the president has been issuing out across the country of his commitment to ensure free, fair and credible election in the country.
“Now, these two major bodies, the electoral empire and the security agency, have to key into Mr. President’s resolve and stand. And if any falters, we would wait to see what Mr. President would do to him/her.”
“We are 100 per cent ready as an institution to give our 100 percent support to these organisations to ensure a free, fair and credible elections in this country”, the Sultan said.
Also speaking was the co-chairman of the council, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi who assured the readiness of the traditional institution to bring lasting peace and stability to the country.
He called for adequate inclusion of traditional rulers in the scheme of things as the roles of the traditional rulers were fundamental in the process of ensuring a free, fair and violence –free elections.
“We are the closest to the people; we know where the good people in our kingdoms are and of course where the bad ones too are. We know how to easily track them down. So as a result, we must have adequate inclusion in governance.
“We must have very key role to play in terms of free and fair elections. What we do basically is to coordinate amongst us stakeholders, be very neutral as traditional rulers because all political parties usually visit our palaces and as a result of our closeness to our people at various kingdoms, and that is very common to each one of us across the length and breadthI of Nigeria.
“So as a result, we play a very pivotal role, probably the most pivotal role in free and fair elections and in the stability of our country”, Oba Ogunnusi said.
In the same vein, the Ebere Emere Okori, Eleme of Eleme Kingdom, Rivers State; HRH (Dr) Appolus Chu, affirmed his stand as a royal father to ensure violence- free elections at his domain.
He thanked INEC for it efforts so far and for elaborating on the voting process which will be taken home to his people.
“We have been informed on the preparation for the elections. We are to go back home to our various domains and educate our people about the process of the elections, mostly to ensure that our environments are calm and peaceful.”
“If the situation at the polling units is not calm and peaceful, it means that we would create room for violence and other election malpractices. So we are to talk to the people about the need for them to corporate with INCE to ensure the elections are conducted in peacefully”, Chu said.
Special guess at the event was INEC Chairman, Prof. Mamood Yakubu who expressed INEC readiness to conduct free, fair, credible and violence-free election.
He called on traditional rulers to be partners in progress with the commission. “We need the support of the royal fathers to speak to their people in their various domains that when people try to copy information on their PVCs, they should politely say no and even more when they try to deprive them of their PVCs. We are doing everything possible to encourage Nigerians to participate in the elections.
“We need the voice of the traditional rulers to add to this calling for the establishment of election offences commission and tribunal. Our belief is that any nation that does not punish violators of its laws is doomed. We really need the support of the traditional rulers in this respect”, he noted.
Questions ranging from failure of card readers on Election Day to intimidation by law enforcement agents and others were raised and tackled.