On the 14th of January, 2015, exactly one month ahead of the elections, the two leading political contenders for the Presidency, President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR and General Mohammed Buhari, GCFR at a public forum organised by the Office of the Special Assistant for Interparty Affairs, Senator Ben Obi and chaired by Chief Emeka Anyaoku, and along with the leaders of nine other Political Parties took an unprecedented step when they appended their signatures to a Peace Accord titled, The Abuja Accord on the prevention of Violence and acceptance of election results by the Presidential Candidates and Chairpersons of the Political Parties contesting the 2015 General elections.
The highlights of the Accord include the following;
- To run issue based campaigns at national, state and local government levels. In this we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and by all agents acting in our names;
- To refrain from making or causing to make in our names and that of our party, any public state-ments, pronouncements, declarations or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence, before, during and after the elections.
- To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence to this Accord by a National Peace Committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.
- All institutions of government including INEC and the security agencies must act and be seen to act with impartiality.
- To forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all acts of electoral violence whether perpetuated by our supporters and/or opponents.
Immediately after the signing of the Accord, action was initiated to bring this about. The Terms of Reference of the Committee as spelt out by the Accord include the following;
- To observe and monitor compliance with the Abuja Accord signed by the political parties on January 14th, 2015.
- To provide advice to the government and INEC on resolution of political disputes and conflicts arising from issues of compliance with the Abuja Accord.
- To make the Committee available for national mediation and conciliation in the case of post electoral dispute or crises.
The Committee has had interactions with and received briefings from Security Agencies, Service Chiefs and Office of the National Security Adviser. We believe that a peaceful election is possible. However, there are genuine concerns among Nigerians over some issues that require attention. These include:
- The distribution of Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs). We have received assurances from INEC that they can meet the deadlines with the distribution. However, the real challenge is the collection of the PVCs by members of the Public. We are worried that ordinary Nigerians may unwittingly disenfranchise themselves. We therefore call on faith communities, civil society organisations, traditional and community leaders, the media and everyone to support INEC by encouraging their members to patiently ensure that they collect their cards. We call on INEC to be more creative, to device a strategic plan to reduce the hurdles that might frustrate the efforts of ordinary citizens in getting their PVCs. We believe that resolving this issue is a major part of ensuring that tensions and anxieties are well managed.
- We are worried with the vitriolic language employed by some Nigerians in the name of support for their candidates. We fear that if the politicians concerned do not call these elements to order, their hate speech would have a negative effect on the quality of the elections. We also call on the security agencies to remain alert to those who are stoking the embers of hatred. We appreciate every citizen’s right to free speech, but this freedom must be within the boundaries of decency, decorum and the rights of other citizens to dignity.
- Finally, we are worried by the huge exodus of our people who are in the grip of fear. We appreciate the fact that these fears are genuinely borne out of the tragic history of our country. However, if we all resolve to imbibe the spirit of the Peace Accord, then, we should not be afraid. We appeal to the security agencies to be more forthcoming by spelling out their plans to secure the lives and properties of ordinary citizens as well as their plans for ending impunity
- We therefore again call on families and communities to warn their members of the dangers of taking the laws into their hands in the name of any politician. Indeed, this Peace Accord must be seen as one of the greatest developments in the history of Democracy anywhere in Africa. We commend the candidates and once more call on them to be prepared to put our country first and trust in the will of God and the supremacy of His will. God bless Nigeria.