Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The National Peace Committee headed by former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to avoid panic measures and should not get distracted by the accusations by politicians ahead of Saturday’s elections.
The committee made the call in a statement jointly signed by Abubakar and Bishop Mathew Kukah Tuesday, where it said that the postponement of the elections by the electoral body had the potential to dampen the confidence of the people in the political process.
The committee added that though the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, had already addressed the nation and the leaders of all the political parties, very little has happened to assuage the deep feeling of embarrassment, pain, and disappointment across the land.
It stated: “The impact of this decision has permeated every stratum of our lives and has the potential to dampen the confidence of our people in the political process. It has further deepened anxieties within the international community about our country.
“There is enough blame to pass around. The real challenge now is for us as a nation, to reach out to the deepest instincts of faith in God and our country. We must put everything aside and see this as a battle that all of us must win. The challenge is not who to sacrifice, but what sacrifice to make.
“After trying to explain your (INEC) situation, it is now important to focus on how best to reclaim your credibility and integrity. Patiently continue to focus on attaining internal cohesion and coordination. Do not give room to external enemies to infiltrate and destroy the confidence and trust that your organisation has earned.”
“Avoid panic measures, continue to communicate effectively with Nigerians and build up your confidence. Listen to the politicians but do not be distracted. Perhaps, just perhaps, your being accused by both sides might be your vindication. You might still be vindicated in the end. Focus on the big picture. “
The committee explained further that while it understands the right of Nigerians to feel betrayed and humiliated by INEC, it pleaded with Nigerians that they should see this as a watershed in the life of the country’s fledging democracy.
According to the committee, “The only way we can ensure a steady democracy is for us to learn the lessons from these sad developments. Therefore, we appeal to you not to count the cost of the setback, but respond to the call to patriotism. Do not relent, go out and fulfill your duty to your family and country on election day. We will soon turn the corner in hope. Rather than despair, rise up to defend our democracy.”
It stressed further that the politicians must own the electoral process by showing their readiness to collaborate with INEC and to inspire the people to new heights.
It said, “The challenge before you goes beyond the narrowness of political opportunities. This is not time to trade blames or to incite your supporters. Be temperate in your language so that we do not inadvertently set up our people for violence.
“Sadly, for us, politics of the last few years have further polarised our people along dangerous religious, regional, ethnic and party lines. We must aim at trying to avert this precipice and try to heal our nation.”