Eighteen political parties participating in Saturday’s Kogi governorship election have signed a peace accord ahead of the poll.
Some of the parties include the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Labour Party (LP), and the Action Alliance (AA).
Others include the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), the Action Democratic Congress (ADC), the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), the National Rescue Movement, and the Action Democratic Party, among others.
Speaking at the ceremony, retired Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, the chairman of the national peace committee, appealed to the conscience of the governorship candidates in the state.
Mr Abubakar, represented by Cardinal John Onaiyekan, urged the parties to abide by the accord during the election.
He expressed doubts about the seriousness and commitment of the candidates involved in such a peace accord, stating, “This is because it has become a ritual of signing with no fruitful results or meeting the expectations of the Nigerian citizens. The players should understand that we can’t be deceived repeatedly.
“I am optimistic that if we do things the right way, the nation will prosper. And this is my hope and prayer.
“If the major players of this accord follow the rules, we shall be better off as a nation.
“Therefore, we expect them to keep this accord and ensure that the election on Saturday, November 11, will be free, fair, and peaceful,” he said.
He noted that INEC, as the electoral body, had prepared well for the election in the three states, Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa, and should be supported to succeed in the challenging task ahead.
“Those contesting the election have a singular agenda: to serve the people, so they shouldn’t force themselves on the people but allow them to make their choice unhindered,” he said.
The cardinal decried a situation in which the courts determine who should lead the people in an election.
“We want the politicians to redeem their image this time around by allowing the people to freely choose their leader.
“We hope this time, without any breach of trust, the electorate will be allowed to exercise their rights and cast their votes for the person they want to lead them.
“It’s unfortunate and a great pity that in Nigeria today, elections have become a do-or-die affair.
“If all the players follow the rules, there will be no need to go to court. Resorting to court means that the process is flawed and unreliable,” he said.
The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, who spoke through the national commissioner supervising Kogi, Kwara, and Niger, Prof. Sani Adam (SAN), said that INEC was well-prepared for the off-cycle governorship election in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa.
Mr Yakubu said that the commission had high hopes that things would change for the better among the politicians for a free, fair, credible, and peaceful election.
“We have done everything possible in the area of non-sensitive and sensitive materials, with our ad hoc staff well-prepared for Saturday’s poll.
“INEC expects the peace committee to make it a priority for the candidates in the upcoming governorship election to commit to this accord for a free, fair, and peaceful poll.
“We don’t want the courts to determine our elections in this country.
“As a giant of Africa, Nigeria must set the pace for others to follow in the area of electing our leaders.”
The Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, represented by DIG A.H. Sani, called on the electorate not to fear performing their civic duty and to come out in large numbers, considering the security personnel in place to protect them.
“The police and other security agencies will be impartial, resolute, and fair to all, and they need the cooperation and support of citizens to succeed in their mission,” he said.
Also speaking, the Attaché of Igala, Matthew Opaluwa, represented by HRH Khalid Ali-Bukar, Onayekun of Mosun, said as custodians of the people at the grassroots, traditional rulers would advocate for peaceful conduct on the day of the poll.
He advised the politicians to allow peace to reign and not go to the polling units to foment any trouble.
Gov. Yahaya Bello, on his part, commended the Mr Abdulsalam-led national peace committee for its commitment to ensuring a peaceful election.
Mr Bello, represented by the state’s commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, Mahmud Ozigi, said that necessary security arrangements had been made for a peaceful, credible, and successful election on Saturday.
Speaking shortly after the peace accord, Usman Ododo, the APC governorship candidate, expressed his satisfaction with the peace pact.
Mr Ododo, who expressed confidence in his chances of winning the poll on Saturday, called on the residents of Kogi to conduct themselves peacefully for the success of the poll.