Ahead of the 2023 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), former President Goodluck Jonathan, and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), have urged all candidates contesting in the polls at all levels to respect the choice of voters and accept the results of the elections as announced by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Buhari, who spoke on Wednesday in Abuja at the second signing of the National Peace Accord by political parties and presidential candidates in the 2023 general elections, organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC), also urged any aggrieved candidate to resort to the established judicial processes, saying that all must have the confidence to trust the nation’s legal systems.
The ceremony was witnessed by members of the National Peace Committee led by General Abdusalami Abubakar, President Buhari, former President Goodluck Jonathan, General Yakubu Gowon, and other dignitaries.
The peace accord was signed by Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP), Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), amongst others.
Buhari said, “I implore the candidates contesting in these elections at all levels to respect the choice of voters and accept the result of the elections as announced by INEC, the agency empowered by law to do so.
“Any aggrieved candidate should resort to the established judicial processes, and we must have the confidence to trust our legal systems. I once again ask the candidates to abide by the spirit and letter of the Accord they have signed unto today,” Buhari stated.
The President, who commended the NPC, noted that despite having no financial support from the government, the Peace Committee has remained steadfast, working with relevant agencies to provide a moral compass and serve as an independent agency for alternative dispute resolution in the electoral process.
He said that he was aware of the deep concerns that have been raised about the conduct of the 2023 general elections and the outcomes they may throw up.
He said, “However, since my assumption into office, my government has worked so hard to ensure that we pass on a legacy of free, fair, credible, safe, and peaceful elections.
“We will continue to act with neutrality and allow the rule of law to take precedence over political expediency.
“We have demonstrated that with the off-circle elections in Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun states. We allowed Nigerians to decide who should govern them. We are committed to this legacy till the very last day of my administration,” he added.
President Buhari also assured INEC, security agencies, and all relevant institutions saddled with the responsibility of conducting the elections of his administration’s continuous support, asking them to be firm and courageous and to abide by the laws and constitutional provisions in conducting the elections.
He also cautioned that there should be no riots or acts of violence after the announcement of the election results and that all grievances, personal or institutional, should be channeled to the relevant courts.
On his part, former military head of state, General Gowon urged the candidates to be “civil in their engagements”, stressing that Nigeria was in need of a leader who is capable of “bringing and ensuring dividends of democracy to the doorsteps of the people.”
“I appeal to those who are bent on disrupting the election to reconsider their actions, to give an opportunity for just and fair resolution to the problems at hand. I wish all Nigerians a peaceful election and smooth transition of government as we had last time,” Gowon added.
Also speaking, former President Jonathan said the peace accord was needed to deter candidates and their allies from using instruments of misinformation to influence the election.
On his part, the chairman of the NPC and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, said that the committee on September 29, 2022, organised the 15th signing of the National Peace Accord committing the candidates to engage in issue-based campaigns.
He said that the committee also monitored the compliance of the accord by the politicians and that it recorded some of infractions that were of concern.
He lamented that there was lack of compliance by the major political parties.
He said that 44 per cent of the violations were carried out by the spokespersons of the political parties; 26 per cent by party members; 19 per cent by the presidential candidates themselves; 11 per cent by hardcore supporters and four per cent by chairmen of the parties.
For his part, the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the Commission has commenced the movement of sensitive materials for this Saturday’s election to the various Local Government Areas nationwide.
Yakubu said INEC will activate the Registration Area Centres (RACs) so that at first light on Saturday, Polling Units will open on time.
The INEC chairman said the signing of the peace accord on Wednesday comes at a critical moment in the electoral calendar, adding that campaign for presidential and National Assembly elections ends at midnight on Thursday.
“This is the 3rd Peace Accord to be signed by parties and candidates on the eve of a General Election in Nigeria since 2015 and the 9th overall if we include the Accords signed before the commencement of the electioneering campaign in September last year and ahead of the five off-cycle Governorship elections in Edo and Ondo in 2020, Anambra in 2021 and Ekiti and Osun States in 2022.
“The commission is committed to free, fair, and credible elections in compliance with the electoral legal framework and the letter and spirit of the Peace Accord. All political parties and candidates are hereby reassured of the commission’s neutrality. Above all, Nigerians should feel confident that their votes will count,” Yakubu stated.
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