Tuesday’s peace accord signed by candidates in Saturday’s Edo State governorship election is a test of integrity for Governor Godwin Obaseki of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar has said.
By Bisi Olaniyi, Benin
Gen. Abdulsalami, who is the Chairman of the National Peace Committee (NPC), warned on the consequences of a violent poll in the Southsouth state.
The former Head of State said the integrity of the governor and that of his major challenger would be on the line, should they or their supporters violate the peace accord.
Noting that tension has engulfed Edo, he thanked Benin monarch Oba Ewuare II for the step he took to calm frayed nerves.
Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, who signed the accord, pledged total commitment to a violence-free election and promised to prevail on their supporters to show decorum.
Apart from Obaseki and Ize-Iyamu, 12 other governorship candidates signed the accord at the Oba Akenzua II Cultural Centre, Benin City, the state capital, along with their party chairmen
In accordance with the accord, the candidates, their parties and supporters are expected to accept the results of a free and fair poll.
Also at the venue were Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Bishop Matthew Hassan-Kukah; Oba Ewuare II, who was represented by Chief David Edebiri, and Deputy Governor Philip Shaibu.
Gen. Abubakar lamented that elections have been characterised by varying degrees of violence since 1999.
He said the tension and anxiety necessitated the setting up of NPC with the mandate to support peaceful election processes and cultivate a culture of peace.
Abubakar stressed: “In 2014, the committee commenced efforts to support free, fair and credible elections and to ensure peaceful transition. The intervention of the committee contributed immensely to the success of the 2015 elections. The NPC has since 2015 successfully intervened in the general elections to ensure a peaceful outcome, right after the just past 2019 general elections.
“The governorship election in Edo State is just a few days away and giving peace during and after the election is a priority and it must be done. We as a people should aspire to see Nigeria where people feel safe to come out of their homes to cast their votes without any fear.
“The election cannot hold in the absence of a peaceful atmosphere, more importantly disharmony among political parties. All contesting parties need to adopt a code of conduct that will remove confrontation among them.
“The NPC is in Edo State today (yesterday) to support this process, not just the signing of the peace accord by al candidates, but to also encourage you all to accept the outcome of the election, no matter the result.
“By agreeing to sign this covenant of peace, all of you are committing yourselves to ensure an enduring peace in Nigeria and Edo State before, during and after the election and agreeing to look beyond short term political gains, sectoral interests or narrow party advantage and accepting nothing, but for the development of Edo State.
“I urge all of us to use the process of election in Edo State as a test of future elections, as reiterated by President Muhammadu Buhari. Let every Nigerian be respected and be given an opportunity cast his or her vote, without intimidation or coercion and once that vote is cast, let us applaud that vote.
“I ask all the stakeholders and key people here present to commit to the spirit of this accord, while also remembering that the violators of this accord are putting their integrity on line, because you are signing this as ladies and gentlemen who are to be taken for your words.”
The former military leader urged the electorate to desist from selling their votes, which he said, would amount to selling their rights, freedom and conscience.
Obaseki said: “Today (yesterday) is unique, as history is being made in Edo State, where we are having members of the NPC coming ahead of a major event, the election of September 19, to get all the contestants to sign a peace accord to ensure that there is violence-free election on that date
“I want to say on behalf of myself, as a candidate of the party and my party, the PDP, that we are fully committed to ensuring that we have peaceful election. I have no choice, because in addition to being a candidate, I am also the governor and the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the state. I want to commit publicly, once again, that I will live by the letter and spirit of the accord that has just been signed.
“I want to appeal to the members of the national peace committee not to end their work with the signing of this accord, because there are other actors in the political space, who have influence and exercise influence in political space and also elections.
“If you can reach out to them, if not to sign this accord, but to persuade them about the importance of an accord we have just signed, because the responsibility for peace should rest on everyone and particularly the candidates and also some non-direct political actors so that we can ensure that this exercise is total.”
Ize-Iyamu said: “Let me, on behalf of the APC, thank the organisers of this event, for what they have just done and what has just been witnessed. We are particularly grateful to no less a person than Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, who came personally to supervise this event.
“We are also appreciative of the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu; the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu and the other important personalities who have also come.”