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Vanguard Of A Countering Violent Extremism Advocacy: "Nigerians Unite Against Insecurity, Terrorism and Insurgency".
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The nationwide tension over 2015 poll simmered on Wednesday following the signing of violence-free accord by President Goodluck Jonathan, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and nine other presidential candidates.
They also pledged to stop vicious campaign comments which could becloud the conduct of a free and fair election in February.
The presidential candidates entered into the agreement at a 2015 General Election Sensitization Workshop on Non-Violence in Abuja.
The session was hosted by the Office of the National Security Adviser and Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs.
The two offices were supported by the European Union, UKaid, UNDP, IRI, the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada, and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru.
But what was meant to be a local soul-searching gathering became an international forum following representations from embassies and other diplomatic organizations which had been curious on the February poll.
After about a four-hour discussion amid tight security at Ladi Kwali Hall of Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Abuja, the presidential candidates signed a five-point covenant which was read to the audience by a former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who was also the chairman of the workshop.
The accord reads: “We, the undersigned presidential candidates of the under listed political parties contesting the general election of 2015, desirous of taking proactive measures to prevent electoral violence before, during and after the elections, anxious about the maintenance of a peaceful environment for the 2015 general election,reaffirming our commitment to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, desirous of promoting the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria as an indivisible entity, determined to avoid any conduct or behaviour that will endanger the political stability and national security of Nigeria, determined to place national interest above personal and partisan concern, reaffirming our commitment to fully abide by all rules and regulations as laid down in the legal framework for elections in Nigeria hereby submit ourselves and our parties to the following:
1. To run issue based campaigns at national states and local government levels. In this, we pledge to refrain from campaigns that will involve religious sentiment, ethnic or tribal profiling, both by ourselves and all agents acting in our name.
2. To refrain from making or causing to make in our names or that of our parties any public statement, pronouncement, declaration or speeches that have the capacity to incite any form of violence before, during and after the elections.
3. To forcefully and publicly speak out against provocative utterances and oppose all act of electoral violence whether perpetuated by our supporters and, or opponents.
4. To commit ourselves and political parties to the monitoring of the adherence of this accord if necessary, by a national peace committee made up of respected statesmen and women, traditional and religious leaders.
5. All the institutions of government including INEC and security agencies must act and be seen to act with impartiality.
Earlier in his address, Anyaoku said the objective of the workshop was to give all the contestants in the 2015 elections an opportunity for constructive criticism on how to ensure violence-free elections.
He said: “Regrettably, we cannot deny that in our country we have history of violence occurring before, during and after elections.
“Already, explosion, burning of buses have been reported in some states, and we are also witnessing increasing acrimoniously pronouncement by candidates and spokes persons of political parties.”
He therefore said the workshop was necessary before it becomes too late.
He said: “Nigeria and its 2015 general election are in the eye of international community.”
A former United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, who is used to trouble-shooting shuttles to Nigeria, was the special guest of honour with a Keynote address.
Annan urged the aspirants to avoid inflammatory statements as the elections would afford the country the opportunity to “prove itself before the international community.
He said with the strategic position of Nigeria in Africa, it cannot afford to get it wrong in February.
He urged all political parties to take the agreement seriously.
He said: “We are interested in Nigeria because it is the big brother of our region. What happens in Nigeria affects us all, not just in West Africa but Africa as a whole. I am also pleased that both main parties are participating in this responsible initiative.”