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EDITORIAL

Beyond The Peace Accord

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Last week in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari and over 70 other presidential candidates and chairmen of the respective political parties signed a peace accord.

The objective of the accord signed at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, is to ensure peace before, during and after the polls.

It was organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC) under the chairmanship of former head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).

This pre-election peace accord signing is not the first time it is being witnessed in the nation’s polity.

In the build-up to the last general elections, former President Goodluck Jonathan of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party  (PDP) and his main  challenger, Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, along with other relevant political stakeholders signed similar treaties in January and March 2015.

That accord, like this one, was initiated by the Abdulsalami-led NPC.

The election was eventually held amidst socio-ethnic tension but Jonathan conceded defeat and handed over to Buhari without putting up any fight. That singular act of Jonathan doused the tension and calmed frayed nerves.

Hence, we commend the idea to revisit the peace accord strategy this time around. It suggests that the last peace accord played a significant role in how the nation averted post-election crisis in 2015.

However, just signing a peace document will not do the trick. Going by Jonathan’s simplicity and peaceful nature,  and his popular saying that his re-election was not worth the drop of blood of anyone, we could perhaps say that even without an accord, Jonathan would have accepted a negative outcome of the poll. But whether others would have done same or are willing to conduct themselves in like manner  this time around remains to be seen.

It is also worthy of note that NPC is merely an advisory body; it is not a statutory body backed by the constitution. Therefore, it cannot apply sanctions on those who may renege on the peace deal.

By agreeing to sign the accord, all the political parties and their candidates have agreed to promote and maintain peace over and above their self-interest and accept the outcome of the election for the good of the country and its citizens.

Unfortunately, the real issue, which is systemic, is how to find a way out of the present injustice, money politics and absence of internal democracy within the political parties. The posture of ‘winners-take-all’ political system that makes our elections a do-or-die affair should also be addressed.

It is our opinion that beyond the peace accord, there should be a level-playing ground for all candidates and political stakeholders.

The mere signing of the peace document will not achieve its objectives until issues that prompt electoral violence are addressed and unless all actors accept to work by the provisions of the accord.

There is the need for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, the media, civil society organisations,  religious and traditional leaders as well as other critical stakeholders to live up to their responsibilities in ensuring peaceful conduct of the elections.

Perhaps, these institutional agencies may also have to sign a commitment pact pledging their total dedication to successful 2019 polls. By means of such treaty, INEC, the media, CSOs, security agencies as well as election observers will commit  themselves to maintaining their neutrality in the coming elections.

Already, INEC has pledged to conduct credible elections in 2019 but politicians vying for public offices and their supporters should also be united in the pursuit of issues-based electioneering.

Vote buying and election rigging will defeat the essence of democracy and derail the desire and aspiration of Nigerians for good governance. Party leaders and their candidates will do well to honour the accord that they have entered into.

As a newspaper, we advocate strong support for INEC and for all  Nigerians citizens, public servants and civil society organisations who will work together to facilitate peaceful, credible and transparent elections.

The presidential candidates and political parties have a role to play by saying no to hate speech, thuggery, vote buying and’ intimidation of voters and saying yes to peace and transparent elections.

We advise INEC to guard and assert its independence and to maintain its neutrality while political parties should carry out their campaigns in accordance  with all the democratic norms in the book.

Politicians should know that the peace of our nation is very critical and germane to the growth and development of the nation.

While the initiative of  the NPC is commendable, we wish to remind the security agencies that they have a duty to provide security for the elections and to apprehend and prosecute those who may want to infringe on the electoral laws.

Above all, what is most important is for all stakeholders in the 2019 elections to work towards the conduct of  peaceful, free and fair elections in the overriding national interest.


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