Ahead of the February general elections, leaders of Nigeria’s major political parties and their presidential candidates on Wednesday signed an undertaking to avoid actions that could promote violence during and after the polls.
At an event attended by former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Anan, and former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, seven presidential candidates including frontrunners, President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, openly spoke against violence and committed to a peaceful poll.
Other political parties that signed the non-violence pact included the Action Alliance, AA, Alliance for Democracy, AD, United Democratic Party, UDP, United Progressive Party, UPP, African Democratic Congress, ADC, and Hope Democratic Party, HDP.
The event was a rare meeting between Mr. Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Mr. Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC, since public campaign for the crucial elections began with a flurry of attacks between the two sides.
The two men shook hands and embraced after delivering remarks renouncing violence.
Mr. Jonathan urged politicians to avoid actions and utterances capable of inflaming passion among the electorate.
The president said the country must avoid a repeat of the 2011 post-general elections which he said was adjudged the best in the country’s history.
He said the conduct of the election cannot be blamed for the outbreak of violence since he even lost in the states were clashes erupted leading to hundreds of deaths.
Mr. 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,” Mr. Jonathan said.
“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.
Mr. 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 difficult to cheat Nigeria.
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,” he said.