Nigeria is headed towards historic elections on Saturday. Though many observers express concern due to Nigeria’s history of violent elections, I am enthusiastic about what they represent for Nigeria’s political development. Nigerians have a genuine choice between two parties and two very different candidates.
By publicly reaffirming their commitment to the Abuja Accord, to free, fair and credible elections, and calling on their supporters to refrain from violence, President Jonathan and General Buhari have demonstrated leadership qualities befitting the high office to which they aspire.
By signing this pledge, the two leading candidates have reminded their supporters that they are merely rivals, not enemies. Both aspire to serve their country and the nation will have to stand united both during and after the elections.
I congratulate the National Peace Committee, and particularly its chairman, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, for taking this meritorious initiative.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) too has worked hard to prepare the upcoming elections, the most challenging on the continent due to Nigeria’s size and complexity. But the responsibility for free, fair and peaceful elections does not lie with INEC alone. All stakeholders have a role to play in ensuring that the elections come off in the best conditions.
The candidates today have taken an important step in the right direction. They must also acknowledge that defeat is a possibility. Should disputes arise, they must be settled through appropriate and peaceful means.
Second, the security forces must ensure the security and neutrality of the process, in accordance with the constitution. Third, the media must report responsibly on the process and on the statements of the candidates and their supporters. They must respect the Nigerian Media Code of Election Coverage or face credible sanctions.
Finally, I urge all Nigerians to take the necessary steps to ensure that violence and hatred play no part in these elections. As a West African, I am looking to you to show the world what Africa’s biggest nation can accomplish when it sets its mind to it. Let’s make Africa proud.