The leaders of Nigeria’s major political parties and their presidential candidates on Wednesday signed an accord to avoid actions capable of promoting violence in the forth-coming general elections.
At an event organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) held in Abuja, seven presidential candidates including incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan and his close rival, Muhammadu Buhari, signed an undertaking to work for a peaceful election.
The occasion chaired by former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku was attended by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan and Chairman of the electoral umpire Prof. Attahiru Jega.
Other political parties that signed the non-violence pact included the Action Alliance (AA), United Progressive Party (UPP), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Alliance for Democracy (AD), United Democratic Party (UDP), and Hope Democratic Party, HDP.
It was the first time Jonathan and Buhari are meeting since both men emerged as flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) respectively.
The two men shook hands and embraced after delivering remarks renouncing violence.
President Jonathan warned against a repeat of the post election violence of 2011, urging politicians to avoid actions and utterances capable of inflaming passion among the electorate.
“It was not perfect, but it was adjudged fair and the best in the history of our country and l think the opposition should praise me for that.”
He said the conduct of the election could not have been the reason for the outbreak of violence since he even lost in the states were clashes erupted leading to hundreds of deaths.
Specifically, Jonathan drew attention to the murder of 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, in Bauchi State and the killings in Kano State even when the PDP lost the presidential election in the two states.
“You cannot say there were malpractices because in Kano, we got only 15 percent of the votes. In Bauchi, I got 15 percent of the votes. Even in states where we got 80 percent in places considered as opposition, we did not experience any violence,” he said.
Adding: “What leads to violence is not necessarily due to electoral malpractices. There are other causes of violence.
“What leads to electoral violence in Nigeria and other African countries can be categorized into three factors. One of the key things is the provocative statements we make and when we are making these statements the younger ones are listening, followers are listening. We threaten our opponents.
“A particular governor told me that his colleague in another party told him that immediately they took over the government, he will be sent to jail.
Similarly, Buhari called for the strengthening of democratic institutions in Nigeria. He said before every general elections, there is usually amendment to the Electoral Act making it difficult to cheat.
Former UN Secretary General, Mr. Anan, said Nigeria must do all to avoid conflict because of its strategic importance to the West African region.
“Nigeria is also a major actor on the international scene not only does it host the regional governmental body, ECOWAS, but it is also a major troops contributor to the United Nations peace keeping operations and also sits at the United Nations Security Council.
“But now Nigeria faces three critical tests for its future progress and prosperity,” Anan remarked.