The presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN, Atiku Abubakar and Obiageli Ezekwesili respectively Wednesday signed the peace accord ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The candidates in separate visits signed the peace pact at the office of the National Peace Committee, NPC, in Abuja. The two candidates and some others were not present when President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, signed the accord in Abuja on Tuesday.
Atiku arrived for the signing on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by the PDP chairman, Uche Secondus, and other party topshots.
He endorsed the accord drafted by the National Peace Committee at 12:08 p.m., before former head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar and some European Union officials led by the Deputy Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, Richard Young.
Atiku, while signing the peace accord said that he is committed to free, fair and credible election. He went on to say, “I commend the President for accepting to sign the peace agreement. But let me also advise him to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill” to demonstrate his willingness to ensure free and fair elections.
On her part, Ezekwesili arrived at the Kukah Center, Wuse 2, Abuja, at 10:05am where the committee office is domiciled.
But the signing was not without a mild drama between her and the Convener of the National Peace Committee and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev’d Matthew Hassan Kukah.
The Secretary of the Secretariat, Rev. Fr. Atthah Bakindo, had read out the terms of the agreement to Ezekwesili which included running issue-based campaigns at national, state and local government levels and a pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious incitement, ethnic or tribal profiling both by the candidates and all agents acting in their name.
Ezekwesili however wanted to make a speech before signing the agreement, but Bishop Kukah objected, insisting on keeping to the format of the accord so that different treatments would not be given to different candidates.
But the presidential candidate asked to know if it was the same procedure was followed by President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, during the signing, adding that she wanted to ensure that all candidates were treated equally.
Speaking after the signing, Ezekwesili called on President Buhari to sign the 2018 Electoral Amendment Bill without delay.
She said the President could not rush to sign the peace accord, but refused to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018, insisting that signing the electoral act amendment bill is the only way to assure Nigerians that Buhari is ready for free and fair elections in 2019.
According to her, “The first thing that the President needs to do in order to build trust amongst all candidates is to sign the Electoral Amendment Bill 2018 into an Act.
“Because he has not done that, I find it very strange that he quickly was at the event yesterday (Tuesday) to sign the peace accord.
“It is contradictory. He needs to be exemplary in all the things that he does. He cannot confuse the system by taking one measure that mills out another measure. That is not the way to go.”
On why she did not sign the agreement, on Tuesday, Ezekwesili said there was no communication to her and could not have been at an event where she had no communication.
Speaking earlier, Kukah apologised for the inability of some candidates to sign the agreement, on Tuesday.
Kukah, however, said the National Peace Committee had at its disposal, documentary evidence of invitation extended to candidates.
“Our doors are open and we are really very sorry for whatever may have happened, but we have documentary evidence that we did send out our communication to the offices of all the 91 political parties and we have evidence that our correspondence s were received,” Kukah said.