Presidential candidates gathered yesterday in Abuja to pledge their commitment to a peaceful election next year.
But frontline contender and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar was not at the ceremony, an initiative of the Abdulsalami Abubakar National Peace Committee. He said he was not invited.
Also absent at the International Conference Centre were many other contenders, including Oby Ezekwesili (Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN) and Donald Duke (Social Democratic Party, SDP). There are 73 presidential candidates.
The candidates agreed to:
run issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels. “In, this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitements, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and by all agents in our names”;
refrain from making or causing to make in our names and that of our parties, any public statements, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence, before, during and after the elections;
commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence to this Accord by a National Peace Committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders;
support all institutions of government including INEC and the security agencies to act and be seen to act with impartially; and
forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetuated by our supporters and/or opponents.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was there urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to put Nigeria first on its agenda in organising free, fair and credible elections next year.
He also noted that building on trust in any election was the collective responsibility of all citizens.
Buhari spoke during the signing of peace accord for the 2019 elections by Presidential candidate’s and their political parties in Abuja.
The President, who noted that past elections in Nigeria had been marred by violence perpetrated by political leaders and their followers, said that without trust, the country cannot be successful in its quest for growth.
Absent were former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) Donald Duke and that of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) Dr. Oby Ezekwesili.
While Atiku said he stayed away from the event because he was not invited, there was no information from the SDP presidential candidate, Donald Duke, the ACPN candidate, Dr. Ezekwesili and some other presidential candidates on why they were absent.
However, there was a protest by some chairmen of political parties, who claimed the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was given undue advantage at the ceremony.
The aggrieved party chairmen wondered why President Buhari, who is the APC candidate in the 2019 election, should be given preferential treatment and why the APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole should be allowed to have a group photograph with committee members, excluding other chairmen.