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Published On: Wed, Dec 12th, 2018

2019: Put Nigeria first, Buhari charges INEC, security agencies

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  • As Atiku, Duke, Ezekwesili absent at peace pact
  • PDP blames absence on communication lapse

By Lawrence Olaoye and Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies in the country to place Nigeria’s interest first and above any individual’s.
The President gave the charge in his remarks at a ceremony for the signing of the Peace Accord organised by Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami’s led National Peace Committee at the International Conference Centre, yesterday.
“We are here to commit ourselves as key actors in the political process; party leaders and presidential candidates, to peaceful and credible conduct of the process.
“We, the candidates, pledge to uphold the highest standard of conducts and encourage our teeming supporters to do same.
“I wish to call on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all arms of security agencies to put the nation first in their conduct. The world is watching us and the task of building or institutionalizing trust in our political system and institution is fundamental to the growth and development of our country,” said President Buhari in his remarks.
Seventy-three (73) presidential candidates and national chairmen of the nation’s ninety-one (91) registered political parties were invited to sign the pact but the main opposition People Democratic Party ((PDP)’s National Chairman, Uche Secondus and its Presidential flag-bearer and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar were conspicuously absent as stakeholders gathered to append their signatures to a national peace accord.
Others notable Presidential candidates who failed to show up at the parley were former Governor of Cross River State and Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Donald Duke and the candidate of Allied Congress Party, Obiageli Ezekwesili.
Also absent were Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Omoyele Sowore of Action Alliance, among others.
Head of EU delegation to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, who recalled that Nigeria set an example for Africa and the world in 2015, expressed concerns for “vote buying” warning that such has the capacity to cast credibility questions on Nigeria’s electoral process.
President Buhari said trust remained central to the electioneering process stressing that without trust, the society cannot develop.
He noted that as part of democratic practice, methods of electing leaders have been difficult for people because Nigeria has not had a long tradition of democracy, and because of so many changes in the system that have made it difficult for the people to “imbibe the principles of democracy, such as tolerance, sacrifice and commitment for our country.”
According to him, “The conduct of our elections have been consistently marred by violence caused by the behaviours of most sections of the political class and their supporters; but there are encouraging signs that we are learning to embrace the responsibilities expected of us.”
Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), in his remarks, emphasized the need for all stakeholders to maintain peaceful atmosphere before and after the elections.
He said all the political actors should realize that there can be no credible election in an atmosphere characterized by violence.
According to Abubakar, all the stakeholders must commit to making the best out of the very worst situation, just as it transpired in 2015.
“Politicians must learn to lead by example and temper their utterances and action with responsibility and patriotism. I strongly appeal to all participants to endeavour to stick to the contents of the peace pact they signed, and to INEC to carry out its mandate as expected of it.
“Candidates have the capacity to make or mar the process, so they must watch their utterances and conduct themselves well ahead of the 2019 elections and beyond, it is pertinent to state that mere signing of the document will not achieve anything except all concerns accept to work by the rules,” he noted.
Responding to allegations that invitation was not extended to both the PDP and its candidate, Abdulsalami said, “You have seen the number of parties that have been invited. He will answer for himself; but speaking for the National Peace Committee, everybody was invited.
“What reasons do we have not to invite somebody? This accord was invited for all political parties to sign to be of good will and good behaviour during elections. If there is a breakdown of communications somewhere I don’t know.”
Asked if Atiku’s absence will weaken the accord, he responded saying, “How will it? One candidate? I don’t think it will weaken the accord.”
He, however, said that there were still rooms for whoever could not attend the parley to sign the peace pact at any time.
Meanwhile, former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, who gave a keynote address, said politicians must imbibe peace in their day to day affairs as it was necessary tool to foster development for our country.
Reacting to the proliferation of political parties in the country, he said the more the platform, the more people of all generation find opportunity to participate in the process.
Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais, in his good wil message canvassed for concerted efforts by all stakeholders towards ensuring peaceful elections come 2019.
Head of EU head of delegation to Nigeria, said “We welcome steps taken so far towards 2019 and we continue to support free and fair polls. We urge all to avoid hate speech, violence and vote buying and say yes to peace, inclusiveness, gender equality and access for disabled persons.
“We again stress our impartiality as we do not support any particular party or candidate, but support for institutions responsible for carrying out the appropriate mandate,” he stated.
Notable personalities present at the event were Vice Chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Chief of General Staff, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe; United Nations Secretary-General Special Representative in West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas; Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu; Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah and Chairman Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote among others.
Reacting to its candidate’s absence at the peace accord signing meeting the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) blames Atiku’s absence on communication lapse
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan last night, expressed regrets that it was not represented at the signing of the peace accord in Abuja on Tuesday due to communication lapse between the National Peace Committee (NPC) and the party’s national secretariat.
It stated that it has already begun conducting investigations into the circumstances that could have resulted to “this unfortunate communication lapse”.
According to the PDP, “Nevertheless, it is instructive to state that our Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and the party are fully committed to a peaceful electoral process and elections in 2019.
“Our Presidential candidate is known worldwide as a global ambassador of peace, who will always support processes that will engender peace in our country and the world over.
“In the same vein, our party is also known for peaceful conduct in all activities, electoral processes and all elections conducted at all levels in our country, since its inception in 1998.
“The PDP will therefore visit the office of the National Peace Committee, look into the peace document and fulfill all necessary obligations towards the peace accord ahead of the 2019 general elections,” it said.

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