…As Gowon says military overtly affected nation’s country democracy
Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Paulinus Aidoghie, Abuja
The Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, Atiku Abubakar, was conspicuously absent at Tuesday’s Peace Accord for the conduct of the 2019 elections.
The committee said invitation was sent to all 73 presidential candidates out of the 91 registered political parties.
Others absent at the occasion were Donald Duke of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Kingsley Moghalu of Young Progressives Party (YPP), Oby Ezekwesili of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Omoyele Sowore of Action Alliance, among others.
In his remarks, Chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) underscored the essence of peace towards ensuring credible polls, and thanked President Buhari for his commitment to ensuring this.
He, however, noted that currently, security should be a source of worry to everyone, especially the leaders, and cautions that their acts of commission or omission could make matters worse.
He therefore urged them to lead by example and temper their utterances and action with responsibility and patriotism.
The former Head of State condemned the subtle incitement coming from some religious houses, saying that they do not portend well for the country.
He appealed 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.
Abubakar, said the candidates have the capacity to make or mar the process, urging that they watch their utterance and conduct ahead of 2019 elections and beyond.
He added that mere signing of the document will not achieve anything except all concerns accept to work by the rules.
Keynote speaker was former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, urged that the peace accord should be seen as development for our country.
According to him, the more the platform, the more people of all generation find opportunity to participate in the process.
Gowon, who spoke on ‘Trust and Democracy’, charged leaders not to betray their role in properly managing the resources of the country.
“The beauty of democracy is that it avails citizens the right to have a say in how they are governed; this right is abridged by the most brutal dictators in the word. Democracy despite persuasion and the use of force.
“Military incursion into our politics has led to misery and underdevelopment of our richly endowed nation and contributed to defective democracy. All hope is not lost for the enthronement of true democracy in the country, which is why we must commend the NPC in sensitising everyone that elections are not do or die contests. We should encourage them to consolidate on the successes of 2015, so that we can have even better polls in 2019.
“There are better issues of development than pursuing agenda of violence and hate speech. Promotion of ethnic and religious or mutual suspicion will not make us see the best in us, and will defeat the essence of democracy.
“There will be no benefit to allow the negatives override the positives in us. All those who aspire to lead the people should be acceptable and be seen to be acceptable to the people. That has worked and continues to work in good societies.
“I commend the political an parties and candidates here for showing commitment and putting the nation above political differences.
Nigeria must win, and the nation will lose if we set aside the gains of this conference.
“I’m hopeful you will honour the pledge of ensuring our elections are free of violence. Your conduct will determine how the game is played and I plead with you to ensure your supporters play by the rules.”
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In his goodwill message, Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Uwais canvassed for concerted efforts by all stakeholders towards ensuring peaceful elections come 2019.
Head of EU delegation to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, recalled that Nigeria set an example for Africa and the world in 2015.
“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.”
Other notable personalities present 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 Yakub; National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole; Interior Minister, Abdulrahman Dambazau; the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi; former Chief Justice of the Federation, Mohammed Uwais; Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, Chairman Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote among others.