Nigeria’s main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar signed an election peace pact on Wednesday, saying a ‘communication lapse’ had prevented him from participating in the initial process with other candidates. Atiku, Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross River state, and Oby Ezekwesili, who was education minister under Olusegun Obasanjo and is an ex-World Bank vice-president, also skipped the event. and were some of the opposition candidates, who were notably absent at Tuesday’s ceremony in Abuja, at which President Muhammadu Buhari and dozens of other candidates vowed to ensure non-violence. Asked about Abubakar’s absence, his media advisor said he was “not invited.” “Atiku didn’t get any invitation to the event,” he told AFP.
But Abdulsalami Abubakar, another former military ruler and the current chairman of the National Peace Committee, denied any snub. “Everybody was invited. What reason do we have not to invite somebody?” he said. “This peace accord was for all political parties to sign to be of goodwill and good behavior during the elections.”
Voters in Africa’s most populous nation go to the polls to elect a new president and parliament on February 16th next year. Gubernatorial and state assembly elections follow two weeks later.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) said Abubakar was not at the event “due to (a) communication lapse between the National Peace Committee (NPC) and our party’s national secretariat”. But it added that both the party and Abubakar were “fully committed to a peaceful electoral process and elections in 2019”.
“Earlier today, I appended my signature to the Peace Accord. I also urged the President to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.” (#LetsGetNigeriaWorkingAgain) Ezekwesili, who was education minister under Olusegun Obasanjo and is an ex-World Bank vice-president, also signed the peace accord on Wednesday.Abubakar, a former vice-president under Olusegun Obasanjo from 1999 to 2007, was known as a “global ambassador of peace”, it added in a statement issued on Tuesday night.His spokesman earlier told AFP Abubakar was “not invited” to the event, which was organized by the National Peace Committee. Several other candidates were also absent.But the committee’s chairman, former military ruler Abdulsalami Abubakar, denied any snub and maintained: “Everybody was invited. What reason do we have not to invite somebody?” he said. “This peace accord was for all political parties to sign to be of goodwill and good behavior during the elections.”
Security around polling is a recurrent concern in Nigeria, which has a history of violence stoked by identity politics, ethnicity and religion. In 2011, some 1,000 people were killed after clashes between supporters of Buhari after his defeat to Goodluck Jonathan.
“We, the candidates pledge to uphold the highest standard of conduct and encourage our teeming supporters to do the same,” Buhari said, while attending the event in the capital, Abuja. The 75-year-old former military ruler was joined by representatives of dozens of other parties to commit to what he said should be “peaceful and credible” elections. Peaceful polls are critical. The text of the peace accord is the same as that signed before the 2015 polls, which saw Buhari win. Candidates are required to publicly speak against religious, ethnic and electoral violence.
At the last election, Jonathan, Buhari and other presidential candidates also signed a pledge of non-violence in the presence of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.
Source: AFN, agencies