Presidential Candidates of the 18 political parties on Wednesday in Abuja signed the final peace accord which commits them their political parties and supporters to maintain peace work towards a smooth conduct of the 2023 presidential election which takes place on Saturday.
It is the second peace pact to be signed by the candidates. The first one was signed before campaigns began last September, although some of the presidential candidates did not attend and sent their deputies then, an action that did not go well with some other candidates who were in attendance and insisted non-candidates should not be allowed to sign as such signing may not be considered binding.
The accord was expected to commit the candidates and their parties to issue-based campaigns and advertising but it does not look like the promises made were followed because many candidates have accused each other of using very poor language, fake information and news to disparage their opponents. There have also been reports of clashes between supporters of political parties and insensitivity by others, especially in States that support particular candidates where ruling governors and government have been hostile to opponents. Some governors have been accused of not approving use of venues for rallies or other State facilities like the public radio and television stations for candidates of opposing parties, while billboards, posters and fliers of opponents have been destroyed in some States.
Therefore, the first peace accord may not be said to have succeeded but the involvement of several top present and past government leaders, representatives of the international community, and observer groups in Wednesday’s event is expected to pressure the parties to rein in their supporters and ensure there is no bloodshed during and after Saturday’s presidential election. All the 18 presidential candidates were present at the International Conference Centre, Abuja and signed the pact towards a peaceful election tomorrow.
President Muhammadu Buhari was there and used the opportunity to appeal to the candidates to accept the outcome of the election, and seek legal redress if they are dissatisfied. Other dignitaries and organisations had goodwill messages and some attended to give weight to the need for peace at this time.
National Peace Accord Committee members General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Bishop Matthew Kukah and Sultan of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar III were joined by Inspector General of Police Usman Alkali Baba, former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, who is leader the Commonwealth Election Observer Group to Nigeria, Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Mahmood Yakubu, European Union ambassador to Nigeria Samuela Isopi, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Officer in Charge of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Giovanie BIHA and others were there and some spoke at the event. Former Nigerian Presidents Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo sent goodwill messages. The messages had only one theme: ‘Let There Be Peace’, with the hope and prayer that after the election, the answer will be: ‘And There Was Peace’.
And so Nigerians and indeed the whole world is expectant that the peace accord will fulfill the promise embedded in the thoughts and actions of all those who planned and were involved in the event.
In accordance with the law, campaigns ended at midnight last night so everyone should today have some time to reflect on tomorrow’s activities.
As part of the plans to ensure there is no infiltration from outside the country, the Federal Government has directed that all land, sea and air borders will be closed from 12 midnight today.
The Nigeria Army and Police have also been showing their might in people and equipment to show their readiness to curb any security breach or infraction in any part of the country.
A major order from Police Inspector-General Alkali Baba is the restriction of movement on Election Day, and reaffirmation of ban on VIP aides, escorts, and state security outfits participation.
All forms of vehicular movement on roads, waterway and other forms of transportation have been restricted from 12 midnight to 6pm tomorrow, with the exception of those on essential services such as INEC Officials, Electoral Observers, Ambulances responding to medical emergencies and firefighters.
The restriction order which is said to be part of measures to ensure a safe, secure, and conducive environment for the conduct of elections, is aimed at ensuring public order management, the safety of the electorate, as well as assisting the security agencies in effective policing, thereby preventing hoodlums and criminally-minded elements from disrupting the electoral process.
Security aides and escorts are also not allowed to accompanying their principals and politicians to polling booths and collation centres. Only security personnel specifically assigned to election duties are to be seen within and around the designated election booths and centres. All State-established and owned security outfits/organizations, quasi-security units, and privately-owned guard and security outfits are also barred from participating in election security management.
And so the die is cast! Prayers are being said by all and sundry, including heads of religious organisations, who are calling on their followers to pray harder than they have ever done for peace during and after the elections. But in deciding who eventually emerges, the buck stops on the desk of the average citizen and their Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC. This time, they hope, their vote will count and be the decider.
As our Yoruba people will say: Eku Election. Our Benin people will say: Obe Election. Add your own election greetings please!