As Nigeria holds a historical presidential election on Saturday, all the presidential candidates led by President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and his main rival, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, have signed the final peace accord.
At the event in Abuja, which attracted Nigerian serving and former leaders and their foreign counterparts, Buhari and Atiku pledged to ensure that the polls were peaceful and credible.
They also promised to accept the outcome of the contest in the interest of the country, Africa and the international community.
The event was organised by the National Peace Committee (NPC), chaired by former head of state, Gen. Abulsalami Abubakar.
In his speech, Buhari noted that there is anxiety in the air because of the election, but quickly remarked that it was part of every competition.
The president, who pledged not to interfere in the polls, said that all that INEC needed had been provided for the commission.
Buhari said the election would be significant to the growth of the country and urged Nigerians to be confident of a free and fair process.
He said: "I call on all Nigerians to contribute to the building of a viable polity through active participation well beyond mere casting of votes. Elections by themselves do not constitute democracy. It is the spirit of citizenship engagement that utilises the energy of citizens towards the attainment of good governance.
"We have assembled here to mark the final phase of our campaigns and we are now at the doorstep of our elections. The campaigns so far have gone well and we thank God for that. For the few incidents in which people lost their lives largely through accidents, we pray that God grants them eternal peace. Now campaigns are over and our next assignment is for us all, citizens and contestants alike, to go out and exercise our civic duties.
"We, the presidential candidates are here to sign and commit ourselves to do all that is possible to ensure the success of the elections but most importantly to accept the final outcome. I appeal to my fellow contestants to commit to these ideals so as to keep our country and people safe. INEC, our electoral umpire, has already assured us that they have done everything possible to ensure free and fair elections.
"It was to ensure this that I made sure that INEC received all the resources they needed to perform their job. Our security agencies have been fully briefed and they know that their visible neutrality is key to the conduct, credibility and success of the elections," Buhari said.
The event was witnessed by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, and other prominent Nigerians, representatives of the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the United States (US) and others.
Buhari thanked Scotland for coming to Nigeria to witness the ceremony as he said: " Your presence here and your friendship mean a lot to us as a country. To the members of the Diplomatic Corps, the international team of monitors; again, I say, welcome to Nigeria and thank you very much for standing by us. Your presence helps to validate our process and commitment to growing our democracy.
"I want to thank Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, the chairman of the National Peace Committee and all his members for the hard work they have put into ensuring that our elections are peaceful. Your great work contributed significantly in shaping the 2015 elections and we are sure that the same impact will be felt in these elections.
"To all our citizens, I want to thank you. As we go into the elections in a few days, please let us pray for our country. Let us use this opportunity to strengthen our beliefs in a united country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make our country peaceful and prepare us for development.
"I am making a special appeal to our young people: Do not allow yourselves to be used to cause violence. Please eschew all forms of violence and cooperate with all the relevant agencies during these elections. We will vote according to parties, but in the end, the only real party is Nigeria, our country. Our elections are important only to the extent that they make her strong. Let us do our best and ask God to bless us and our country," Buhari said.
No Blood Worth My Ambition, Says Atiku
For his part, the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has said that the Nigeria's democracy has matured and that his ambition does not worth the blood of any Nigerian in an apparent mimic of former President Goodluck Jonathan before the 2015 general elections.
Atiku said that INEC and the security agencies must be fair and be neutral.
Atiku said: "Security agencies should not embarked on the arrest of opposition members 28 hours before election. I also appeal to President Buhari to use his good offices to ensure that whoever that votes, the vote count. We must abide by the will of the people. Despite concerns expressed by my party, I trust that the umpire and the security officials will conduct themselves without bias. Cast your vote to the one you love. Vote for your future and the future of Nigeria."
The World Watching Nigeria - UN, Others
At the well-attended ceremony, the UN, the Commonwealth, EU and ECOWAS, urged Nigerians to conduct themselves in peaceful manner because "the world is watching the electoral process."
The UN representative for West Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambers, said Anthonio Gutierrez is deeply delighted with the peace accord.
"The eyes of the world are on Nigeria. 2019 cannot be different from what happened in 2015 and it is the right of Nigerians that a conducive environment must be created for this to become a reality."
"Supporters must adhere to the tenets of free and fair election. Accepting the outcome is critical. In any election, there must be a winner and loser. Those who win should show magnanimity. Those who lose should show patriotism," Chambers said.
On her part, Patricia Scotland, who is the 6th secretary-general of the Commonwealth, said that the over 2.4 billion citizens of the Commonwealth deeply love Nigeria and support the homegrown initiative for a peaceful election.
She said that millions are praying for Nigeria for courage, integrity and patriotism in the elections so as to continue as leader in the African continent.
Scotland said: "We must respect human rights particularly when we disagree. The young people must determine who govern Nigeria and we must ensure the ideals of exclusivity."
The Commonwealth scribe who displayed the Commonwealth Charter which seeks government officials and political parties to be accountable to the people, said the presidential candidates must ensure peace in their conduct.
While stating that the signing of the peace accord was in line with the ideals of the Commonwealth, she added that what happens in Nigeria matters to all.
"The peace accord signed today (yesterday) should show in the coming days. Let us applaud and support them and commend them for committing themselves without reservation," Scotland said, adding that political party supporter and the electorates should follow their leaders on the peace deal.
Gowon, Abdulsalami Sue For Peaceful Polls
In their speeches, Gowon and Abdulsalami urged Nigerians to stand together in unity as the citizens go to the polls on Saturday.
Abdulsalami specifically charged the candidates to keep the peace before, during and after the elections.
He said that winning an election is important, but warned that it must not be at the expense of the Nigerian people.
The former head of state, who noted that the "winner takes all syndrome" tend to polarise the country and hinder development, said that Nigerians must ensure that all the three stages of the election do not witness violence.
He said: "Today again, we renew our commitment to a united, democratic and prosperous Nigeria. We want to appeal to all Nigerians to stand together at this critical phase of our nation's history.
"The accord, we agreed to, among other things, was to run an issue-based campaign and pledge that our electoral campaigns will not involve any religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our names."
"Now that the campaigns have come to an end, we meet today to renew our pledge for peaceful elections. We therefore call on all fellow citizens of our dear country, and our party supporters, to refrain from violence or any acts that may in any way jeopardise our collective vision of free, fair and credible election."
"In addition, we call on INEC and all security agencies to ensure strict adherence to their constitutional roles. We also pledge to respect the outcome of free, fair and credible elections," Abdulsalami said.
Earlier, Gowon who spoke before the signing of the peace accord by the presidential candidates, said all the contestants must respect the unity of the country.
He said: "We must respect the observers both domestic and foreign. Let your people, let all Nigerians that are going to vote hear a message of peace from you," stressing that it would help the country not to have foreign observers in subsequent elections since the people would always conduct themselves in peaceful manner.
LEADERSHIP reports that the second signing of the 2019 National Peace Accord was on the prevention of violence and acceptance of election results by presidential candidates and chairmen of political parties contesting the 2019 general elections.
The presidential candidates reaffirmed their commitment to taking proactive measures towards a conductive environment for the conduct of a credible electoral process; anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment before, during, and after the 2019 general elections; and reaffirmed their commitment to fully abide by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to respect the rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria, and to adhere to best international standards.
APC Accuses INEC Of Working For PDP
Meanwhile, the governing APC has alleged an unholy romance between INEC and the opposition PDP.
The party told Nigerians and the global community yesterday that INEC is working to ensure PDP's victory in the general elections, with the presidential poll as the first target.
The allegations came from APC national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, who accused the leadership of INEC of being unfair to the APC.
To buttress his claims, Oshiomhole said that two INEC resident electoral commissioners (RECs) in the South-South geo-political zone were openly campaigning with the PDP, while the electoral umpire had denied the APC the opportunity to field candidates in Zamfara State.
In an interaction with journalists ahead of Saturday's election, the APC chairman dismissed the PDP crowd in Kano, stating that they were only a rented crowd of persons wearing "aso ebi" (Yoruba words for people who wear the same dress in an occasion).
You Won't Regret Re-electing Me, PMB Assures Nigerians
In the last lap of his campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday appealed to Nigerians to give him another four years as he assured them that they would not regret doing so.
He made the appeal yesterday at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) APC presidential rally.
Buhari told the audience that Niger Delta militants were unleashed on his administration at its inception, adding that through dedication and hard work, his government was able to surmount those challenges.
"When we came in, Boko Haram was controlling 17 local government areas and even operating here in Abuja but today that is no longer happening,"
"What Boko Haram is doing now is to indoctrinate some young people. Our government faced so many challenges... militants were unleashed on my administration but we have been able to make progress."
"We have now overcome those difficulties and now building infrastructure. If you give us the next four years, I assure you, you will not regret it," the president stated
He also reiterated that those involved in the spending of over $16 billion on power under the previous administrations would be investigated.
"We are appealing to different States in Europe and America to please help us recover looted government properties, which we are now putting back to building infrastructure."
He also assured citizens that government will continue to use the little resources at its disposal to make life better for them.
He used the opportunity to seek for votes from Nigerians of voting age, as they go to the polls on Saturday.
On his part, Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello boasted that President Buhari and the APC would emerge victorious on Saturday.
Bello said: "On Saturday, we are going to win. On this particular arena, I asked a simple question: There are two banks - President Buhari Bank and AtikuBank, where will you bank? Even people from the PDP will bank with us. Even the thieves know they will put their money in Buhari Bank.
"You are here performing, sacrificing so much for the unity of the country. Even those international friends know that's why you are the leader of Africa. Even America, Britain, the European Union (EU) will invite you to fight corruption in their land.
"You have showed that you are the greatest economist and farmer. We are the ones that need you, you don't need us. By this time on Sunday ,we will be celebrating," Bello told Buhari.
PMB To C'Wealth: Free Polls Build Confidence In Govt
And at a meeting with officials of the Commonwealth yesterday, President Buhari said that people have more confidence in a government they have elected in free and fair polls, than the one that wangles its way into office through subterfuge.
Buhari who met with Commonwealth scribe, Patricia Scotland, at the State House, Abuja, said: "One Nigeria is non-negotiable."
The president, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Femi Adesina, added: "Over two million people died in the civil war we fought, and when people elect their own government through a free and fair process, they have more confidence in such government. We will not spare any effort to organise credible polls, and people should come out and vote for their choices."
Buhari expressed delight that the Commonwealth is showing keen interest in the Nigeria's election and appreciated Scotland for being a part of what would engender free and fair polls.
Scotland described Nigeria as "a treasured member of the Commonwealth family," adding that the signing of the Peace Accord would lead to better voter turnout. "
She commended the Nigerian leader for what she described as President Buhari's "calmness and good humour," even as the polls approach, stressing that "when Nigeria is healthy, vibrant and strong, the whole of Africa is strengthened."
I Won't Sacrifice Nigeria's Future For Personal Gains- PMB
Also yesterday, President Muhammadu Buhari declared that he would not sacrifice the future of Nigerians for any personal or material gains.
He spoke at the inter-faith town hall meeting titled: "Reforming Nigeria - Challenges of delivering good governance," at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Represented by the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, the president said that if reelected, his administration would continue to focus on the expansion of agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
Accord Party Adopts PMB As Presidential Candidate
The Accord Party yesterday adopted Buhari as its candidate for the Saturday's election.
Accord Party which had earlier submitted the names of its presidential and vice presidential candidates to INEC said it has withdrawn them and adopted Buhari.
At a press conference held at its headquarters in Abuja, national chairman of the party, Hon, Muhammad Lawal Nalado, said they were adopting Buhari because of his handling of the fight against corruption, massive infrastructure and improve security.
"We withdraw our candidates for failing to abide by the party constitution and INEC requirements. The structure of the party in the 36 states and FCT did not endorse the presidential and the vice presidential candidates. Again, INEC wrote to us that the vice presidential candidate was underage that is why we have withdrawn our support for them and adopted president Muhammadu Buhari," Nalado said.