Eminent Nigerians including former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhamamadu Sa’ad Abubakar, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Kukah, among others on Tuesday sued for peaceful polls in Ondo state, as candidates in the Saturday’s governorship election, signed a pact to ensure a violent-free election, and to accept the outcome of the exercise.
Those who signed the peace accord were the candidates of All Progressives Congress (APC), incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and those of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Akeredolu’s deputy, Agboola Ajayi and thirteen other candidates.
The signing was witnessed by the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Yakubu Mahmood, the Sultan of Sokoto Abukabar Saa’d, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Kukah, former Bishop of Abuja Diocese, John Onaiyekan, traditional rulers, among others.
Earlier, INEC Chairman, reminded the candidates that “without peace, our deployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and, above all, the credibility of elections will be undermined”.
He observed that the charged atmosphere in the state ahead the election demanded that “political parties and candidates should affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to peaceful elections”. According to him, “It is gratifying to note that respected statesmen, including traditional rulers as well as religious and business leaders, are working in a voluntary and non-partisan way to promote peaceful elections for the consolidation of our democracy in particular and for peace in Nigeria in general. “By your continuous and consistent engagement for peace in Nigeria, you have once again demonstrated that moral suasion is as important as statutory authority in promoting peaceful co-existence and nation-building. Working with civil society organisations and other stakeholders, INEC will continue to support the good work of the Committee for peaceful elections in Nigeria. “Only three weeks ago in Benin City, political parties and candidates for the Edo State Governorship election signed the Peace Accord. The intervention of the NPC no doubt contributed in no small way to the peaceful conduct of the election whose outcome has been adjudged as credible. “Unfortunately, the Ondo state governorship election holding this Saturday is generating its own tensions. The charged atmosphere demands that political parties and candidates should affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to peaceful elections which, I understand, are the five cardinal pillars on which the Peace Accord rests. Without peace, our deployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and, above all, the credibility of elections will be undermined.
“Even worse, public health will be jeopardised as observance of safety protocols in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic will be impossible to achieve in an atmosphere of disruption, violence and disorder. It is, therefore, important for everyone to maintain the peace.” He added further, “I wish to assure the Peace Committee of INEC’s commitment to transparent and credible elections. The votes will count. I call on all political parties and candidates to abide by the letter and spirit of the Peace Accord by appealing to your supporters to maintain the peace before, during and after the elections. This will be your own way of showing commitment to the Peace Accord and appreciation for the work of the Peace Committee. “Before I conclude, I wish to note that some of the candidates contesting in the governorship election holding this Saturday were also candidates in the last election held four years ago on 26th November 2016.
“You will recall that the election was free, fair and credible. You may also recall that it was perhaps the only governorship election in the history of Ondo state since 2003 whose outcome was not challenged at the Election Petition Tribunal.
“This is in spite of the fact that three of the contestants were senior lawyers. With this record and the recent peaceful conduct of the Edo State Governorship election, I implore you all and your supporters to conduct yourselves peacefully and not lower the bar.”
In his virtual message, the Chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, emphasised the need for peaceful election in the country.
According to him, no meaningful development can be achieved without peace.
In his words, “Since 2015, the National Peace Committee has been committed to peaceful elections in the country. Shortly before the 2019 general elections, speculations were rife that the process will be violent and will lead to the country’s ultimate disintegration.
“Once again the NPC was called again for intervention, the Committee not only supported peaceful election at the national level in 2019 but extended it commitment to facilitate peaceful election all over the country. Citizens should know that nothing could be achieved without peace. So during this election citizens are urged to abide by the COVID-19 regulations and keep the process safe”.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, urged the candidates to abide by the peace Accord.
He said, “This morning by the Grace of our creator, we are gathered for the signing of the Peace Accord between contestants of the forthcoming election, as members of the Peace Committee that have come together voluntarily, we have seen many elections across the country, from the main Presidential election in 2015 till date, but the best one so far was the one that took place in Edo state.
“It was so good and so real that the main contestant has said that he will not challenge the outcome, which means that he agreed with what the INEC and the security agencies did to bring peace and stability and transparent election in that state, before then we were aware of the heat generated in Edo State before the elections but it is now history.
“Now we are in Ondo State as members of the Peace Committee to talk to the contestants and their followers as religious leaders who are high stakeholders in general peace across in this country. I will like to make it clear to all of us as citizens of this country and the players who are going to be on the pitch on Saturday to contest for one single seat of the governor of Ondo State for the next four years.
“I will like to call on you not to see the signing of this Peace Accord as not just a mere ceremony formality but as a commitment by all of you, infact a convenant by which you will be held responsible for the outcome at the end of the day. I want to call on you once more to obey the rules of the game. I call it a game because I see election as a game where there must be a winner. There must be one winner who has already been ordained by the Almighty God before the casting of the first ballot and we do not know the person.
“Therefore when you do go out, tell the citizens what you will do for them, tell them your agenda, sway then to your side, talk to them to be peaceful, do not allow thuggery to take place throughout the duration of the election on Saturday. Let me remind all of us that power belongs to God.”
The Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, assured that the Police will improve on the achievements it recorded in the Edo election by protecting the process.
“The police is going to be professional to the core, we are going to protect lives and property, before during and after this election. Police is going to ensure that the fundamental Rights of the citizen is protected. We are asking that the electorate should come out, we have enough personnel on ground we have enough facility on ground to ensure a hitch free election. We are going to improve on what we did in Edo State”, Abubakar stated.
Shortly after signing the Accord, the three major contestants, assured that they will not only support a peaceful election, but will also reign in on their supporters to abide by the rules.
The candidate of the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) Agboola Ajayi, said, “Let me join everybody to appreciate our leaders, let me use our former Head of State, General Abdusalami Abubakar, as a point of contact to appreciate all members of the Peace Accord.
“Having said that, I want to let all of us know that our party, the Zenith Labour Party, has always and will continue to conduct ourselves in a most peaceful and Democratic manner into this exercise, we have started and the whole world is watching all of us, you have never one day noticed our campaign train attacked and we never attacked anybody. We will continue to appeal to those attacking themselves to see election as a democratic programme that is set out with an agenda that is guided by rules and democratic guidelines. Having said that we are praying that on the 10 of September that our votes will count. Once again let me say that noboby’s ambition is worth the blood of any citizen.”
In his remarks, Eyitayo Jegede of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), commended the Committee for the commitment to peaceful elections in the country
He said, “let me start by showing appreciation for your commitment and sacrifice in ensuring that we have a peaceful election not only in Ondo State but in Nigeria, let me give a firm commitment on behalf of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which I have the privilege and the honour to represent in the election coming up on the 10 of September to say that we are convinced on the need for peace not only in Ondo state but in the entire country.
“Let me also say that for me as a person, I am absolutely committed to a peaceful election, before the election and even after the election, when the results have been announced. I say that there is no option for us other than to follow a peaceful process. I implore our security agencies, especially the Police to ensure that they comply with the rules, it is not enough to say that you want to be nuetral, nuetrality may mean staying aloof and not interfering.
“I urge you as security agencies to ensure that you comply with all the provisions of the law, including making arrests of those who have cultivated the habit of destruction of other people’s properties and those who are engineering violence, in the cases we have in Ondo State, it is important to give confidence to our people that where there are cases of violence, the Police should do immediate arrest and prosecute all those who are involved not withstanding the party they belong to”.
The state governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Rotimi Akeredolu, pledged to abide by the provisions of the Peace Accord
In his words, “What we have done this morning is to sign a peace accord, the content that was read out to the hearing of everybody and not only for us, let me again solemnly make my pledge that I will abide by what was signed.
“I want to thank the National Peace Committee, this won’t be our first election, at least for me this will be the third and last time that I will contest election in Ondo State. In the last two occasions, all of us operating as brothers and I cannot recollect any violence in those two elections but if we have one all two issues here and there, it is not to say that Ondo State people are violent.
“Maybe learning from experience have refused to be involved in violence. I can assure you that the Saturday’s election will be peaceful, as long as the Police are there. For me as the governor of the state, I will still address the people on the need for peace”.