The National Peace Committee (NPC) co-chair by former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kuka yesterday, met with the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC), Prof Mahmoud Yakubu and assured Nigerians of a free and fair elections in 2019.
Also, the peace committee hinted that it will ensure the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by all political stakeholders in the country before the election, adding that the measures is for them to eschew bitterness.
Other eminent Nigerians who were part of the closed door meeting with the INEC chairman included the Primate, Anglican Communion, Most Rev Nicholas Okoh and Gen Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd).
The committee which played a vital role in the peaceful transition of power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015, last met with the INEC chairman and political party leaders in September.
But after yesterday’s meeting, the committee assured Nigerians that they have commenced work for a peaceful election in 2019.
After a closed-door meeting with the chairman of INEC, the co-chairman of the peace committee, Abdulsalami said the 2019 general election will be free, fair and credible.
The former head of state who said a peaceful election is achievable if stakeholders conducted themselves in peaceful manner, urged Nigerian voters, INEC and the security agencies to put the interest of the country first.
“We are approaching the 2019 general election and already, we are very much aware how the polity is being heated as a result of which we have decided to start our action in ensuring that there is peace in the country,” Abdulsalami said while urging politicians to play the game by its rule.
“Politicians must play by the rule of the game. The security agencies and the INEC must play their role accordingly,” Abdulsalami, who created INEC and has earned himself several accolades in deepening democratic process both within and outside the country, said.
Abdulsalami who announced that the National Peace Committee will also be meeting with leaders of political parties for a second time, added that they will ensure the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by all stakeholders before the election.
According to the former head of state who handed over power to civilian in 1999, the MoU will ensure that politicians eschew bitterness and work for peace.
“This we hope will be signed by all the presidential candidates and the chairmen of the registered parties.”
“If there is no peace in any country, there will be no country at all,” Abdulsalami said.
Abdulsalami said the committee will continue to engage the stakeholders to bring about free, fair and credible election in 2019.
“INEC briefed us on the preparations for elections, the challenges and what it is going to do in order to make sure that there is a peaceful, free and fair election.
“ We are taking note. There are certain flash points where he (INEC Chairman) wants the peace committee to intervene in order to bring peace so that elections will be conducted.
“On our part, we will do the best we can in order to have a sanitised political arena,” he said.
He also tasked the media to educate politicians to minimize the level of their provocation in the campaign for votes from the electorates.
“The media must educate the general public on the issues of election. The media should enlighten Nigerians on the need to collect their PVCs and check whether there are problems,” he added.
“Our people should realise that peace is very paramount in any society. There must be peace before elections; there must be peace before we have country.”
“So, I implore you to know that people have the tendency to believe it in total what they read and what they see,” Abdulsalami said of the media.
Reacting, the INEC chairman, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu said if the electoral process is devoid of cheating, the 2019 general elections will be free and fair.
“I believe that if our elections are devoid of cheating, devoid of manipulation, devoid of intimidation, there will be peace and there will be credibility in our election,” Yakubu said while urging Nigerians to resist the temptation by politicians to buy their votes.
“No matter how poor you might be, don’t sell your vote,” Yakubu said, stressing that such attitude will not enhance the people, neither will it strengthen Nigeria’s democracy.
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