2023: Tinubu Absent as Atiku, Obi, Kwankwaso, Others Sign Peace Accord
*Buhari: parties should avoid insult, incitement
*EU, Jonathan, Police IG sue for credible poll
*INEC vows to monitor parties against abusive campaigns, spending limits
* Oyalowo: Tinubu is the big masquerade that comes out last
Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Eighteen political parties vying for elective positions in next year’s general election, yesterday, signed an agreement for peaceful conduct before, during, and after the polls, with the presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu, conspicuously absent.
The peace accord was put together by the National Peace Committee (NPC), co-led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar; Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’adu Abubakar III; Cardinal John Onayeikan; Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Matthew Kukah, and other eminent statesmen. It is a non-governmental initiative conceptualised in 2014 with the objective of supporting free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria.
All chairmen and presidential candidates of the 18 registered political parties signed the peace accord under the guidance of officials of the NPC at a ceremony witnessed by a large audience at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Seventeen presidential candidates personally signed the agreement along with the national chairmen of their parties, apart from Tinubu, who was represented by his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
But a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Mr. Ayo Oyalowo yesterday explained that Tinubu did not attend the peace accord signing because he was resting in London.
Oyalowo, who was reacting to insinuations that Tinubu was in a hospital in London, said: Bola Ahmed Tinubu is in London, he is not in any hospital. He is in London because they would not let him rest in Lagos; he comes into Abuja most of the time and they would still not let him rest.
“This man (Tinubu) has been working for an average of 20 hours daily, so some people thought he needed to leave the country because they would not let him rest. As I speak to you, the issue of today (Peace accord signing) that is being made a big deal, the invitation came after he had left the country.
“Even his running mate Senator Shettima was not in town and had to leave what he was doing in Maiduguri to rush down in Lagos.”
He said the presidential candidate was not taking Nigerians for granted and while others are free to be running around the field, that Tinubu was clearly the big masquerade who would come out last. “Tinubu is the big masquerade in the field and he will come out last.”
However, in his goodwill message, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed worry at the recourse to personal attacks, insults, and incitement by politicians in the build up to their campaigns. Buhari enjoined Nigerians, political parties, politicians, security agencies, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and all stakeholders to ensure that the country was placed above all regional and sectional considerations.
The president cautioned against shifting focus from issue-based campaigns to engagement in mudslinging and provocation.
Buhari stated, “As the president, I have always reiterated my commitment to a peaceful, credible and transparent elections, and what the peace committee has been doing over the years aligns with my belief that Nigeria needs peace in order to achieve credible elections.
“However, the rise of fake news and misinformation continue to pose a significant threat to the pattern of democracy in Nigeria. It has shifted focus away from issue-based campaigns to amplifying the potential for personal attacks, insults, and incitement. It has also significantly diminished the civility and decency in public discourse and debate.”
According to Buhari, the plan undertaken by the peace committee to commit all political actors to peaceful conduct is a welcome development.
He said, “The 2023 general election is more than an election; it is an opportunity to serve Nigeria, to defend Nigeria, and to uphold her unity and progress. Therefore, I call on all Nigerians, political parties, politicians, security agencies, the election management body (Independent National Electoral Commission – INEC), and all stakeholders to ensure that Nigeria is placed first above regional and sectional claims.”
Former President Goodluck Jonathan spoke on his experiences in monitoring elections in some African countries, where he said significant improvement in their electoral processes were recorded. Jonathan expressed the hope that Nigerians would use the 2023 general election to prove that, indeed, the country was on the part of sustainable progress and development.
Head of European Union Delegation, Samuels Isopi, said Nigeria should be seen as taking a decisive step towards delivering transparent and credible elections in 2023. She said INEC must be allowed to operate independently as provided by the constitution in respect of the organisation of the election.
Addressing the stakeholders, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, urged the leadership of the political parties and their presidential candidates to abide by the provisions and dictates of the Electoral Act, as amended 2022. Baba listed the prohibitive acts, which politicians and their supporters were to avoid in line with the electoral law.
He said two major provisions of the Electoral Act critical to the election were the aspects that prohibited raising of campaign funds from outside the country and controlled donations and spending limits for parties.
Baba also spoke on Section 225 of the Electoral Act, which highlighted issues relating to the falsification of documents submitted for elections, and warned against raising of thugs or armed security by politicians and non-state actors to execute partisan objectives. He stressed that the police would not tolerate any such acts ahead of the elections.
Meanwhile, INEC, yesterday, said it was determined to vigorously monitor compliance, to ensure that political parties shunned abusive, intemperate, or slanderous language as well as insinuations or innuendoes likely to provoke a breach of peace during the electioneering period. The commission also said it would closely monitor compliance with the limits on campaign spending under the Electoral Act, 2022, stressing that there are sanctions provided by law. INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, stated this at the signing of the peace accord in Abuja.
Yakubu said political parties and their candidates should study and familiarise themselves with the legal framework to avoid any infraction of the law and the consequences that would follow such act.
The INEC chairman said it was not enough to sign the peace accord, as what was more important was to abide by its letter and spirit. He urged political parties and their candidates to pass the message to their members and supporters across the country for compliance.
According to Yakubu, “The 2023 general election will be conducted for 1,491 constituencies nationwide, made up of one Presidential constituency, 28 Governorship elections, 109 Senatorial Districts, 360 Federal constituencies, and 993 State Assembly constituencies. Every constituency is important. Every election is important.
“Therefore, the commitment to peaceful and issue-based electioneering should resonate beyond the 18 party chairmen and presidential candidates present here today.
“It is not enough to simply sign the Peace Accord. What is more important is to abide by its letter and spirit. You should similarly pass the message to all your candidates, members and supporters across the country for compliance. This will be your own way of showing appreciation for the work of the NPC and an affirmation of your contribution to electoral peace in Nigeria.
“Today, the NPC is taking another giant step by inviting parties and candidates to commit to peaceful electioneering. This is important considering the connection between peaceful campaigns, on the one hand, and peaceful and credible elections, on the other. The commission appreciates the positive role of the NPC in the progressive improvement of our elections in Nigeria.
“The Electoral Act 2022 provides for campaign in public by political parties to commence not earlier than 150 days before polling day. Accordingly, campaign by political parties for the 2023 general election officially commenced yesterday, Wednesday, 28th September 2022. This will continue until 24 hours before polling day i.e. 23rd February 2023 for national elections (Presidential and National Assembly) and 9th March 2023 for state elections (governorship and Houses of Assembly).
“The implication is that for the next 148 days, political parties, candidates and their supporters are free to traverse the country, holding meetings, rallies, processions and door-to-door campaigns. They will grant interviews, sponsor indoor and outdoor advertisements, and publish other campaign materials. This is often a delicate period characterised by excitement and anxiety.”