By Chuks Okocha
A former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), who is the Chairman of the National Peace Committee, said that his committee is intervening in the Edo State governorship election because of the tension it is generating.
He also said that the political temperature in Edo State has been so high in some areas, stressing that if there is no peace, there cannot be any election.
Gen. Abubakar said that it was based on the need for peace that his committee decided to assist in calming the unwarranted tension.
Abubakar, who stated these at a meeting with the Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said that members of his committee were in Edo State to assist in ensuring that the September 19 governorship election is conducted peacefully.
According to him, “So, your excellency, this is why we are here in Benin together with members of the Peace Committee and Bishop of Sokoto Catholic Diocese, Bishop Matthew Kukah.
“Like I wrote to you in my letter from the Peace Committee, tomorrow the signing of the peace pact will take place at 2:00pm between you, other candidates and their chairmen.
“As you know, the purpose of this committee is to ensure that all those involved in this election get hold of their supporters and party people to ensure that there is peace in the state.”
Responding, Obaseki noted that the good work of Gen. Abubakar across the world where he has been seeking peace across troubled zones, speaks for him.
Obaseki said: “We just finished the stakeholders’ meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, where they informed us about the significance of signing this peace pact.
“I just want to assure you that as a government and as an individual, we totally align with your cause. It is in our best interest as a government to promote peace in our land.
“We are committed to ourselves, our monarch, Oba Ewuare II, and our people to do all within our powers to maintain peace. We’re also going to applaud and support you to ensure that we take responsibility to ensure there is peace in this election.”
Also, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu, reiterated what he said at the meeting of the Edo State governorship stakeholders that the votes will count.
The INEC chairman said: “The votes will count. The people of Edo State will determine who becomes their next governor. Their choice will be upheld. Let me also reassure you and the voters in Edo State of the commission’s neutrality. I call on all political parties and candidates to abide by the letter and spirit of the peace accord. Let it be your covenant to the people of Edo State to maintain the peace before, during and after the elections.
“Today, political parties and candidates contesting in the Edo governorship election holding on Saturday are signing an accord to affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to the principles of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections about which we will hear more from the Peace Committee shortly.
“We welcome this initiative. Our preparations, deployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and above all, the credibility of elections are all negatively affected by violence or malpractices. Even worse, the health of all those involved is jeopardised by any disruption that will make the observance of health protocols in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic impossible. It is, therefore, important for everyone to maintain the peace.”
He expressed INEC’s profound appreciation to the National Peace Committee for convening the meeting, adding that: “It is once again gratifying to note that respected statesmen, including traditional rulers as well as religious and business leaders are working in a voluntary and non-partisan way not only for peaceful elections for the consolidation of our democracy in particular but also for peace in Nigeria in general.”
Mahmoud said that the National Peace Committee has demonstrated that so much can be achieved in nation building by the force of moral rather than statutory authority, adding that INEC is working with civil society organisations and all other stakeholders and will continue to support the good work of the committee.