By Olumide Bajulaiye
Worried by growing incidences of pre-election violence, the All Progressives Congress (APC) through it National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed called for a dialogue with the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on how both parties and indeed the electoral process can run smoothly without violence. The party said such a meeting would send a powerful message of zero tolerance to violence to the supporters of both parties as well as other parties and indeed the entire people of Nigeria and serve to douse the tension that is building up ahead of the elections.
In the last few weeks there had been series of political violence across the country. In Rivers, Gombe, Kano, Ondo, Lagos among other state Peoples Democratic Party PDP and All Progressive Congress APC supporters have been attacking each other. APC secretariat was bombed in Rivers, supporters of the party were also attacked during the flagging off its Presidential campaign in River state.
Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido had last weekend directly preached violence ahead of the 2015 general elections. This is as he ordered members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and his loyalists not to “spare” any non-member of the party, who misbehaves in the build-up to the polls, on Election Day and afterwards.
Lamido said the order was limited to former PDP members who defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and had been “making noise” about bringing change to the state and the nation. The Governor said, “This order does not include people like Gen. Mohammadu Buhari and his people, who were in real opposition right from the beginning.”
On Wednesday inside Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotels, Abuja all the Presidential candidates signed a peace pack. But Nigeria are asking questions, will the signing of peace pack bring about violence free election? According to observers, the leadership of all the political parties only came together to sign the agreement just to fulfill all righteousness. These same sects of people will still go back to their supporters to fight tooth and nail in guiding their votes.
The Abuja peace meeting was hosted by the Office of the National Security Adviser and Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs with the support of the European Union, UKaid, UNDP, IRI, the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru.
After about hours of deliberation former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who chaired the occasion, read the accord which read thus:
“We, the undersigned presidential candidates of the under listed political parties contesting the general election of 2015, desirous of taking proactive measures to prevent electoral violence before, during and after the elections; anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment for the 2015 general elections, reaffirming our commitment to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; desirous of promoting the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity; determined to avoid any conduct or behaviour that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria; determined to place national interest above personal and partisan concern; reaffirming our commitment to fully abide by all rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria hereby submit ourselves and our parties to the following:
- To run issue-based campaigns at national states and local government levels. In this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious sentiment, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our name.
- To refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that of our parties any public statement, pronouncement, declaration or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the elections.
- To forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetuated by our supporters and, or opponents.
- To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence of this accord, if necessary, by a national peace committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.
- All the institutions of government, including INEC and security agencies, must act and be seen to act with impartiality. After the reading the presidential candidates signed the agreement.
Speaking earlier, Anyaoku said the objective of the workshop was to give all the contestants an opportunity for constructive criticism on how to ensure violence-free elections. He regretted that the country had history of violence occurring before, during and after elections.
“Already, explosion, burning of buses have been reported in some states, and we are also witnessing increasingly acrimonious pronouncement by candidates and spokes persons of political parties.”
He said the workshop was necessary before it became too late. Nigeria and its 2015 general elections are in the eye of international community.”
A former United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, in his address, urged the aspirants to avoid inflammatory statements as the elections would afford the country the opportunity to “prove itself before the international community”. He said with the strategic position of Nigeria in Africa, it cannot afford to get it wrong.
Annan urged all political parties to take the agreement seriously. His words “We are interested in Nigeria because it is the big brother of our region. What happens in Nigeria affects us all, not just in West Africa but Africa as a whole. I am also pleased that both main parties are participating in this responsible initiative.
“I understand that you would be signing an accord on the prevention of violence, and this is laudable. I know that a Code of Conduct will precipitate peace, even though I am told it is always more in breach than in observance. I urge both parties, all parties, to take the accord serious.
“Signing agreement between political parties will reassure Nigerians and their foreign friends, who are concerned about the tension, election-related violence. As I said, what happens in Nigeria assumes consequences, above all for the Nigerian people but also for the region and indeed for the continent.
*Bajulaiye is on the staff of Western Post