Ahead of the Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has raised the alarm over the tensions threatening the Saturday poll.
However, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Governor Rotimi Akeredolu; candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Eyitayo Jegede; and their Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) counterpart, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, yesterday signed a peace accord superintended by the National Peace Committee (NPC) headed by a former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).
Meanwhile, the United States has urged all stakeholders in the democratic process, including the INEC, political parties, and the security services to take concrete steps to ensure a free, fair, transparent, and peaceful election in Ondo State.
Speaking yesterday in Akure, the Ondo State capital, during the signing of the peace accord, the INEC chairman stated that by their continuous and consistent engagement for peace in Nigeria, members of the NPC have, once again, demonstrated that moral suasion is as important as statutory authority in promoting peaceful co-existence and nation-building.
The event was witnessed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III; His Eminence, John Cardinal Onaiyekan; Bishop Matthew Kukah and other eminent members of the NPC.
Yakubu declared that the charged atmosphere threatening Saturday’s election in the state demands that political parties and candidates should affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to peaceful elections.
“Unfortunately, the Ondo State governorship election holding this Saturday is generating its own tensions,” Yakubu said, explaining: “The charged atmosphere demands that political parties and candidates should affirm, respect, support, promote and commit to peaceful elections which, I understand, are the five cardinal pillars on which the Peace Accord rests.
He added: “Without peace, our deployment plans, new innovations in result management, the safety of personnel, security of materials and, above all, the credibility of elections will be undermined.
“Even worse, public health will be jeopardised as the observance of safety protocols in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic will be impossible to achieve in an atmosphere of disruption, violence and disorder.
“It is, therefore, important for everyone to maintain peace. I wish to assure the Peace Committee of INEC’s commitment to transparent and credible elections.
“The votes will count. I call on all political parties and candidates to abide by the letter and spirit of the Peace Accord by appealing to your supporters to maintain the peace before, during and after the elections.”
In his virtual message, the Chairman of the NPC, Abdulsalami urged the stakeholders to ensure a peaceful and credible election in the state, stressing that there would be no meaningful development without a peaceful and credible election.
“Citizens should know that nothing could be achieved without peace. So, during this election citizens are urged to abide by the COVID-19 regulations and keep the process safe,” he said.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar, urged the candidates to abide by the peace accord.
“I will like to call on you not to see the signing of this Peace Accord as just a mere ceremony formality but as a commitment by all of you, in fact, a covenant by which you will be held responsible for the outcome at the end of the day,” he said, urging: “I want to call on you once more to obey the rules of the game. I call it a game because I see the election as a game where there must be a winner. There must be one winner who has already been ordained by the Almighty God before the casting of the first ballot and we do not know the person.”
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, represented by the Deputy Inspector General in charge of Research, Mr. Adeleye Oyegbade, assured the people that the Police will improve on the achievements they recorded in the Edo State election by protecting the process.
“We are asking that the electorate should come out; we have enough personnel on [the] ground, [and] we have enough facility on [the] ground to ensure a hitch-free election. We are going to improve on what we did in Edo State,” he said.
Speaking after signing the peace accord, the candidate of the ZLP, Ajayi, said: “Let me join everybody to appreciate our leaders; let me use our former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, as a point of contact to appreciate all members of the Peace Accord.
“Having said that, I want to let all of us know that our party, the Zenith Labour Party, has always, and will continue, to conduct ourselves in a most peaceful and democratic manner into this exercise; we have started and the whole world is watching all of us, you have never one day noticed our campaign train attacked and we never attacked anybody.