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.