Candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Edo governorship election, Godwin Obaseki, and Osagie Ize-Iyamu, have signed a peace accord for the September 19 exercise in the state.
The signing of the peace accord by the Edo governorship candidates became imperative following a series of violent reports in the course of electioneering which created tension in the state.
The Oba of Benin, Ewuare II, had on September 2, also called the two top candidates in the election to undertake a peace agreement to douse the rising electoral tension in the state.
Governorship candidates of 12 other political parties and their chairmen also signed the agreement that is expected to guarantee a peaceful atmosphere before, during, and after the exercise.
Moments before the peace accord was signed, Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), said Edo would experience the best-conducted exercise in the country.
Represented by Adeleye Oyebade, the Deputy Inspector-General of Police in charge of Research and Planning, Mr Adamu warned the participating candidates that they must abide by the accord that they were going to sign.
Mr Oyebade said, “The IGP’s message is clear. We are here to ensure a hitch-free, fair, and credible election and I have assured all that the police will remain professional to the core. We will ensure that we have the best of the best in this election.
“When signing this according, you must understand what you are doing. It is accountability and responsibility. Go back to speak with all your people about what you have signed. The electorate should come out to vote because we are prepared to protect them. Edo will have the best of the best elections in Nigeria.”
Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Head of State, said the committee, which has been in existence since 2014, had contributed immensely to the successful conduct of the election.
Mr Abubakar said, “In 2014, the committee commenced efforts to support free, fair, and credible elections, and to ensure a peaceful transition, the intervention of the committee contributed immensely to the success of the 2015 election. The NPC has since 2015 successfully intervened in the general elections to ensure a peaceful outcome right after the just past 2019 general elections.
“The gubernatorial election in Edo state is just a few days away and giving peace during and after the election is a priority and it must be done. We as a people should aspire to see Nigeria where people feel safe to come out of their homes to cast their votes without any fear.
“As you are all aware the election cannot hold in the absence of a peaceful atmosphere more importantly disharmony among political parties in this hall. All contesting parties need to adopt a code of conduct that will remove confrontation among them.
“The NPC is in Edo state today to support this process not just the signing of the peace accord by all candidates. but also to encourage you all to accept the outcome of the election no matter the result. Let me thank His Royal Majesty for the role he played when the tension was at its peak.
“By agreeing to sign this covenant of peace all of you are committing yourselves to ensure an enduring peace in Nigeria and Edo State before, during, and after the election and agreeing to look beyond short term political gains, sectorial interests or narrow party advantage and accepting nothing but for the development of Edo state
“I ask all the stakeholders and key people here present to commit to the spirit of this accord while also remembering that the violators of this accord are putting their integrity on the line because you are signing this like ladies and gentlemen who are to be taken for your words we, therefore, call on everyone to work to ensuring a peaceful election process to ensure that peace reign in Edo state during and after the election
Mathew Kukah, Convener of National Peace Committee, said the signing of the accord was not just a mere ceremony but a spiritual vow among the candidates participating in the election.
He, however, expressed hope that the election would be peacefully conducted.
David Edebiri, a representative of the “Oba of Benin, said elections in the state had never been known to produce bloody outcomes, adding that Saturday’s election will not be an exception.
“I want to tell you that the election in Edo State has never produced such a bloody outcome in the state. The first election I participated in was in Benin in 1952. Since then I have participated in every national, sub-national, local government election that took place in Nigeria.
“I have been an active participant before I excused myself in 2003. We did not go out to kill ourselves because of elections and I hope this will not be an exception.
“We appeal to our sons who are all in the field to know that only one winner will emerge. This election is particularly good because the two main contestants are people from reputable families in Benin. They are from families that have been ruling and have been associated with the good administration of this place,” he said.
Mr Obaseki, shortly after signing the accord, said, “Today is unique, as history is being made in Edo State, where we are having members of the National Peace Committee coming ahead of a major event, the election of September 19, to get all the contestants to sign a peace accord to ensure that there is a violence-free election on that date.
“I want to say on behalf of myself, as a candidate of the party and my party, the PDP, that we are fully committed to ensuring that we have a peaceful election. I have no choice because, in addition to being a candidate, I am also the governor and the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the state. I want to commit publicly, once again, that I will live by the letter and spirit of the accord that has just been signed.
“I want to appeal to the members of the national peace committee not to end their work with the signing of this accord because there are other actors in the political space, who have influence and exercise influence in political space and also elections. If you can reach out to them, if not to sign this accord, but to persuade them about the importance of an accord we have just signed, because the responsibility for peace should rest on everyone and particularly the candidates and also some non-direct political actors. So that we can ensure that this exercise is total.”
Also, Mr Ize-Iyamu, who commended the Benin monarch, for initiating the process, reaffirmed his commitment.
“Let me, on behalf of APC, thank the organisers of this event, for what they have just done and what has just been witnessed. We are particularly grateful to no less a person than Abdulsalami Abubakar, who came personally to supervise this event. We are also appreciative of Mahmoud Yakubu, Chairman of INEC, Mohammed Adamu, IGP, and the other important personalities who have also come.
“Let me also thank the Oba of Benin because what we are witnessing today, he initiated it two weeks ago. He called us to the palace (in Benin City) and he spoke to us about the need for peace. We promised him then, just like we are promising now, that we would ensure that throughout this election, the campaigns and the election itself, there would be peace. We want to thank HRM for that initiative.
“Let me reaffirm our commitment to what has been signed and to assure Nigerians and particularly our people in Edo State that we will talk to all our supporters and we will conduct ourselves peacefully. We will do our best to ensure that the election is peaceful. We support the free, fair, and credible election. We believe that is the only way that we can sustain our democracy.
“We want to assure all our dignitaries that, by the grace of God, the election is going to be very peaceful. We thank you and we are grateful,” Mr Ize-Iyamu said.
They both hugged each other after signing the peace accord.