Congress (APC) and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), agreed to accept the final outcome of the election if it is “free, fair and credible.”
The Accord signing exercise, initiated by the National Peace Committee chaired by former Head of State General Abdulsalami Abubakar, sought to dispel fears in many quarters that the presidential election could end in hot disputes that could set the country ablaze, if the result does not go the way some candidates expect. The fact that the accord was signed before a cloud of witnesses both local and international including traditional and religious leaders, African and European Union Observer Missions as well as Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, shows the depth of commitment of the presidential candidates to the deal.
President Buhari said at the event, “Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our beliefs in a united country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make our country peaceful and prepare us for development.” PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar also said, “Every candidate must remember that this election is about the future of Nigeria. Therefore, we must abide by the will of the people as freely expressed through elections under the terms of our constitution.”
Noticeably, the candidates said they will accept results that are “free, fair and credible.” This might sound like a giant loophole but it also throws the ball into the court of INEC and its Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu, as the electoral umpire, to do all in their power to deliver an election that is seen by most citizens and election observers as free, fair and credible. Bias, partiality or sloppy logistics could imperil the spirit of the peace accord and allow election losers to repudiate it.
Also key to the success of these elections are the security agencies, especially the Police, Department of State Security, Civil Defence and the military. They must not act in a manner that demonstrates support for any party or candidate or that suppresses any other parties or candidates. At all times their loyalty and commitment should be to the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In past elections, there were allegations that security agents visited opposition candidates with less than even-handedness. This is unacceptable.
Security agencies must be unbiased, non-partisan, non-discriminatory and dispassionate in the elections that commence tomorrow. They should carry out their duties in a manner that fosters the integrity of the polls and forestalls the activities of thugs, miscreants and desperate elements who want the world to be in the shape that pleases them. We, therefore, call on Acting Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu and other security chiefs to write their names in gold by ensuring that their officers and men keep to their codes of professional ethics before, during and after these elections.
Contestants in the elections, their agents and associates from ward to national levels must play by the rules. In the run up to the elections, there were instances of political violence leading to loss of lives and the burning of electoral materials or even INEC offices and political parties’ campaign offices. We, in unreserved terms, condemn these undemocratic acts of cowardice. There can be no democracy in an atmosphere of threats, fear and violence. Politicians must warn their supporters against engaging in desperate measures in their desperation to deliver their wards or zones to their candidates. Such selfish dispositions should not have a place in the 2019 elections.
We implore all actors in this year’s election to desist from engaging in demeaning and criminal acts like vote trading. The outcome of some recent elections was tainted by vote buying, which cheapened the will of the people from being golden to the value of a loaf of bread. Electoral Officers and security personnel should be on the watch out for those who tempt voters with peanuts in order to steal their precious votes. Also, journalists should be protected against the barbaric acts of thugs and security men who consider the presence of journalists at polling stations and collation centres as threats to their evil manipulations. The free and unfettered participation of journalists and election observers, domestic and foreign, is a key to free and fair elections.
We wish all the contestants good luck in tomorrow’s presidential and National Assembly elections but above all, we pray that the exercise strengthens rather than weaken our democracy.